Lessons on how to play it safe and be successful in the forex market
After raking in millions of rand, a self-taught trader is sharing his knowledge
It is 9.42am on Saturday. A young man from Tzaneen gets out of a taxi on William Nicol Drive in Sandton and skitters towards Montecasino with his tattered backpack swaying vigorously.
He left home at the crack of dawn to come to the city of gold with hopes of improving his lot. He walks briskly past dazzling gaming machines and stops at the end of a corridor where the walls are lined with lists of the people registered to attend Billion Forex Group’s foreign-exchange (forex) seminar. In the conference room, attendees stare at laptop screens flashing with colourful candlestick charts and zigzagging lines.
Billion Forex Group founder Blaine Josephs announces a slight delay in the seminar.
"Some students called to say they were still on their way."
There is sudden silence. The expectant audience of about 300 mostly young black men, some women and a few older people is made up of engineers, artists, bankers, health caregivers and students who have come to learn about trading in a market with a reported daily turnover of up to $5.3-trillion.
Josephs’ attire — a navy blue Polo shirt, khaki chinos and brown lace-up shoes — falls short of the glamour of popular social media forex traders. He addresses his audience in conservative tones, thanking them for attending the seminar, especially those who travelled long and far. He extends his gratitude to God for Billion Forex Group’s growth and team of mentors.
"We went from trying to raise petrol money with some of the mentors here, to racing Ferraris and Lamborghinis on the streets of Sandton. There is money in forex, guys. You just have to learn how to trade," he says.
Josephs, 32, founded the forex-training company in December 2016, with his first class comprising eight students who each paid R7,500 for a five-day session.
"I couldn’t believe we had people paying us to teach them how to trade, and we had no plans to carry on but had bookings for another class before the end of that week," he says.
The company now has as many as 1,800 students, with about 650 in the US, England, Dubai and parts of Asia.
The cost and the length of the trading course have come down to R3,500 for a two-day intensive training session. Students are split afterwards into WhatsApp groups in which they discuss trading strategies and receive continuing mentorship.
"Most of our students are not new to forex trading. They have either been somewhere before and got burned or gave money to the wrong people to trade on their behalf," says Josephs.
Trading forex has boomed in SA because many desperate people want quick money.
We are swing traders and wait for certain price levels [to be reached]. So we actually want Jacob Zuma to stay on as president because the more cabinet reshuffles he makes, the more money we make
"I often bring the students down to earth, telling them that while there is money in trading forex, it comes with persistent practice of skill, risk management and trusting the learning process. We don’t spoon-feed them or trade on their behalf because we want them to gain independence."
Unlike most South Africans, Josephs is not depressed by the political climate. The volatility of SA’s politics plays in his favour, he believes.
"We are swing traders and wait for certain price levels [to be reached]. So we actually want Jacob Zuma to stay on as president because the more cabinet reshuffles he makes, the more money we make."
Nine years ago, Josephs was earning R612 a week as a temporary yarn spinner at a carpet factory in Pietermaritzburg. After seeing forex trader Jabulani Ngcobo on television hosting a R1m two-day birthday party aboard a yacht, he reconsidered his prospects, he recalls.
Josephs had left school after Grade 10 and considered being hired permanently at the carpet factory a good move to secure his future, but Ngcobo’s lifestyle convinced him to give forex trading a shot.
Ngcobo, who goes under the name "Cashflow" on social media, is the epitome of an Instagram forex trader. They portray their lifestyles in galleries of glitz and glam.
Cashflow poses next to his collection of extravagant cars, wearing tailor-made suits and top-of-the-range watches. At times he is pictured holding or lying next to stacks of money.
"Cashflow said he would teach me if I gave him R12,000 and I looked at him like he had two heads because there was no way I could afford it.
"I went home disappointed and decided to start teaching myself," Josephs says.
"I really didn’t know what I was doing then. I was blowing accounts and losing money week in, week out. This carried on for about a year-and-a-half."
But giving up was not an option. "It was either that or poverty, so I learnt from my mistakes and got better. I increased my capital when I moved to Joburg, where I worked two jobs. I only withdrew profits for emergencies.
"When I made my first million at 24, it felt so emancipating and I realised that forex would sort me out for life. I have never looked back."
It was either that or poverty, so I learnt from my mistakes and got better. I increased my capital when I moved to Joburg, where I worked two jobs. I only withdrew profits for emergencies
Sipho Mpangase*, an artist from Bloemfontein, drove to Sandton for his second seminar with Billion Forex Group.
He had been scammed by another forex-training company but wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
"I paid R9,000 to be taught how to trade forex, and the company seemed legit. But when the time came, they were nowhere to be found," he says.
Josephs says he hears horror stories from students who have lost money to glitzy scammers.
"Really successful traders keep to themselves and only post pictures of their cats or walks on mountains on social media," he says.
By the time he turned 31, he had driven every car he liked, lived in luxurious houses and had reached the point where he wanted to help others learn how to get rich.
"The market is so big. Why must I keep it to myself if it doesn’t belong to my father? I was making a minimum of $300,000 a week and questioned why I should live such a lifestyle while people were suffering out there," he says.
"The aim is to now get rid of the payment for classes, increase the number of mentors and get as many people trading [as possible]."
It is six hours later. The attendees have been taught how to conduct technical and fundamental analyses of the market and sit attentively during a question-and-answer period.
As the mentors conclude the session, the youngster from Tzaneen bows his head, hurries to the door and sneaks out. Home is 400km away.
* Not his real name.