Copy of 2023-05-05T022152Z_1657918202_RC21S0A553G3_RTRMADP_3_PHILIPPINES-ECONOMY-INFLATION-1683282954162
Online trading accounts have grown in recent years as traders seek more flexibility and control over their investments during the Covid era. Image Credit: REUTERS

Manila: The Philippine billionaires behind Jollibee Foods and chicken BBQ chain Mang Inasal are betting that their next big thing could be in stock broking.

The duo, Tony Tan Caktiong and Edgar Sia, invested in DragonFi Securities to develop an online trading system as they sought to tap the explosion of retail investors that went online during the pandemic. With about 90 per cent of their investments spent on technology and software-related manpower, they are hoping the platform can rival some of the biggest local online stock brokers.

Currently, about a third of the 125 brokers in the country offer online trading facilities. However, most of them do not provide customizable layouts. Existing dominant players are also mostly running on outdated technology, according to DragonFi CEO and co-owner Jon Carlo Lim.

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“There is demand for a modern platform with advanced features and analytics” which can handle a spike in transaction volumes, Lim said in an interview. Its cloud-based system can also trade other assets and foreign markets, once allowed by regulators.

Online trading accounts have grown in recent years as traders seek more flexibility and control over their investments during the Covid era. Based on latest exchange data, they made up more than 70 per cent of the 1.62 million stock trading accounts in 2021, compared to just 39 per cent of the 773,187 accounts in 2016.

Gaining traction won’t be a done deal, though. Online stock brokers are dealing with regulatory and infrastructure challenges in making their trading platforms easily accessible to investors, according to John Gatmaytan, founder of online stockbroker Luna Securities. “The challenge is for infrastructure and structure to catch up at the soonest with the changing preference of investors,” he added.

Tan Caktiong is the founder of Jollibee, the Philippines’ top restaurant operator which outsells McDonald’s in the Southeast Asian country. Sia, who was born a year before Jollibee began in 1978, started Mang Inasal in 2003, which was acquired by Jollibee seven years later. The duo has since gone on to form another successful venture in DoubleDragon, which built 1.2 million square meters of leasing portfolio in 10 years.

Given Philippines’ low stock value traded to market capitalization ratio of 12 per cent compared to the world average of 37 per cent, the pair expects plenty of upside for the stock broking firm. DragonFi will launch its platform on Monday and targets to handle 100 billion pesos ($1.8 billion) in cumulative trading transactions in 24 months.