Talent acquisition and retention: we produce our content in-house but work with freelance translators to make it available in different languages. Remote work has made it somewhat easier to find talent internationally, but keeping good people is always top of mind. This has prompted me to be more flexible with deadlines, even making an early payment to help a translator cover unforeseen medical expenses.
When it comes to business leadership, challenges are omnipresent. From rapidly changing market dynamics to technological disruptions, executives today grapple with multifaceted issues that directly impact their decision-making and strategic orientations. What really keeps the leaders of today’s corporate world awake at night? How do they navigate through these turbulent times to ensure the growth and stability of their organizations? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Stéphane Bottine.
Stéphane Bottine is the founder of TrustedBrokers.com, a comparison service for traders, now available in over 40 countries. Stéphane started his career as an investment banker in London, before pivoting towards digital marketing. He’s passionate about personal finance, investing and macroeconomics.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about communication, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was always passionate about achieving financial freedom and building a path of my own, away from the corporate world. From early on, it was clear to me that the Internet provided one such avenue. That’s why I set out to learn web development in my own time, as I was studying towards a B.Sc. in Economics at the LSE. I launched a dating website in my first year of university, well before Tinder was a thing, and iterated through several online businesses before finding success with TrustedBrokers.com.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Vision: for me, vision is a guiding light. It’s the ability to see the bigger picture and set a long-term direction. When I launched TrustedBrokers.com over 10 years ago, no other comparison service reviewed brokers and trading platforms at the account-level. That’s why I set about creating a service that allows traders to find the best brokerage account for them. This was, and remains, an important point of difference, as most brokers offer accounts tailored to different types of users.
2. Adaptability: in the world of Internet marketing, the last decade has seen the rise of mobile, social media, financial influencers, and more recently, generative AI. To stay abreast and deliver the best user experience, I redesigned TrustedBrokers.com to be mobile-first, with a design that adjusts to different screen sizes. This was the right decision, as close to 60% of our traffic comes from mobile devices. And at present, I’m looking into how we can use generative AI to up our game.
3. Empathy: empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, to try to see the world from their perspective. For me, this means putting customers first, with a view to write content that answers the questions they may have. This prompted me to author a chart patterns book with interactive patterns, because the best way to learn is through practical examples. I initially considered selling the book, but ultimately made it available for free, because happy users reward you in other ways, through word of mouth and referrals. This has worked well, with our ebook attracting tens of thousands of downloads.
Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.
TrustedBrokers.com started off as a side-hustle, and was a personal project I worked on for many years in my own time. This was the right thing to do at the time, as our traffic and revenue weren’t high enough to justify giving up a full-time job. In that time, I pursued lucrative work opportunities first as a data scientist, and ultimately as a data engineer, for financial institutions. However, in the last year, I gave up a well paid job with a crypto start-up to devote the entirety of my time to TrustedBrokers.com. This led to an immediate fall in income, but has allowed me to focus my full attention on a growing business where I see untapped potential.
What do you believe are the top five concerns currently preoccupying the minds of C-suite executives, and why? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Generative AI: Bard and ChatGPT have taken the business world by storm, and prompted me to evaluate how we can use generative AI to our advantage. I’m currently using ChatGPT-4 to proofread our content and score it against our style guide. In other words, I’m using AI as a second pair of eyes, and have been impressed so far by its recommendations.
2 . Search engine algorithms: the rise of AI generated content has prompted Google to release several updates to its search algorithm this year, with a view to weed out low quality content. Google also places more emphasis than ever before on a source’s trust, expertise and experience. As Google drives the majority of our traffic, it’s critical that we stay on top of these developments. For example, this has prompted us to write more case studies, to uniquely convey our experience. We’re also making a more systematic use of screenshots when they support our reviews, and will consider video content too.
3 . Cybersecurity: is an ongoing concern, as our website has been and still is subject to denial of service attacks (DDos) from competitors. A DDoS attack entails overwhelming a website with so many requests that it goes offline. These attacks interrupt our traffic but can negatively impact our service in other ways, by encouraging Google to remove our content from its search results. I cannot reveal exactly how we fend off these attacks, but I have built automated systems to detect when they occur, filter traffic and lower the threat level as soon as the attack is over.
4 . Security of funds: the collapse of FTX in 2022, and the run on US regional banks in 2023 are a reminder that security of funds isn’t a given. I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to FTX, and now store any crypto I have left off-exchange. From a business perspective, I keep our accounts receivable low (around 30 days) and bank with a reputable institution with state backing.
5 . Talent acquisition and retention: we produce our content in-house but work with freelance translators to make it available in different languages. Remote work has made it somewhat easier to find talent internationally, but keeping good people is always top of mind. This has prompted me to be more flexible with deadlines, even making an early payment to help a translator cover unforeseen medical expenses.
In the face of rapid technological advancements and market shifts, do you find that you need to constantly recalibrate your strategies to ensure sustained growth?
Absolutely, change is the only constant in the world we live in. This is clichéd, but true. Our “north star” is unchanged, but our ways of work have to change if we are to grow. For example, the rise of well-written AI generated content has prompted Google to raise the bar when it comes to content quality. As a result, we’re placing increased emphasis on conveying our personal experience and credentials in our articles and reviews, as these cannot easily be replicated.
With the emergence of AI, blockchain, and other transformative technologies, how do you determine which tech trends are worth investing in?
The trends worth investing in are the ones that impact our bottom line. In the case of an online business like ours, that relies on search engine traffic to drive user acquisition, we see the impact of Google’s algorithm changes first hand. We also pay attention to our competition in search results, and try to learn, or at the very least infer, what works well for others.
With increasing digital threats, how are you prioritizing cybersecurity, and what measures are you taking to protect your organization’s assets?
Cybersecurity is one of our priorities because our website has been, and still is, subject to denial of service attacks from competitors. We use Cloudflare to fend off attacks, and have created automated systems to raise the threat level when an attack occurs. We host our service on the cloud to ensure it’s both scalable and resilient to disruptions. And also keep back-ups of our codebase and data across different locations.
As a top executive, how do you manage stress and maintain mental well-being? Do you have any personal practices or routines that help you stay centered?
Sport helps clear my mind and release stress. It also helps me sleep better at night. I love bodybuilding and hit the gym 5 to 6 times a week. For me, a typical session on the gym floor lasts between 1 and 2 hours, and always involves heavy weights.
What habits or practices have been most instrumental in your personal and professional growth?
On a professional level, I like to keep abreast of new technologies and try them out first hand. In my current capacity as a business leader, I am taking time to explore generative AI to understand where and how it can add value. And on a personal level, I’ve started learning Arabic as I now live in Dubai.
The business world is evolving faster than ever. How do you ensure you’re constantly updating your knowledge and staying ahead of the curve?
I follow trade publications like SearchEngineLand to stay on top of Internet marketing news. I also pay close attention to information that Google shares with webmasters through its Search Console, as these recommendations are tailored to our website. For example, we know that Google places increased emphasis on page loading times, and will incorporate a new metric called “interaction to next paint” (INP) into its search rankings from 2024 onwards.
The importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been emphasized more than ever. Do you have any initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion in your organization?
I value diversity and inclusion, that’s why I make a point of working with translators who are native to the country whose language we’re working on. This is about more than translating words in a phase: it’s about creating content that’s uniquely tailored to our diverse audience. For example, the launch of our Arabic-language website has prompted me to increase our coverage of Sharia-compliant trading accounts.
Can you share a piece of feedback or advice you received that significantly altered your leadership approach or philosophy?
Over the years, I’ve witnessed first hand the importance of listening to customers. This is one of the reasons why I encourage user feedback through comments, reviews and other channels. Listening and engaging with customers has also helped unearth unmet needs and spark new content ideas.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
As the founder of a personal finance website, I would encourage the teaching of basic financial literacy. All too often, people leave school with poor basic math skills, and no financial planning or budgeting skills. To me, it’s alarming that 61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Low wages and inflation are to blame of course, but I’m convinced we could do better by teaching people how to save and build wealth.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way to stay in touch is to visit TrustedBrokers.com if you’re looking to start trading or switch brokers. We fact check our reviews and update our guides on a regular basis.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.