THE coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown has led many people to take new hobbies to stave off boredom.
This is attested to by thousands of uploaded pictures showing various arts and crafts and countless loaves of sourdough bread.
But a Sellafield contractor has used the extra time presented to him by the pandemic in an altogether different way.
Robert Roberts – known to some as Two Bob – used his time at home to spend more time on investment platform eToro.
Founded in 2007, with the vision of “opening up the global markets so that everyone can trade and invest in a simple and transparent way.”
The company say the platform “empowers people to grow their knowledge and wealth as part of a global community of successful investors.”
Bob, who lives in Gosforth, isn’t the only one who has put some time into the company – the Israeli social trading company’s value tripled from $800 million in 2018 to $2.5 billion in 2020 following a surge of new users during the pandemic. It now has over 20 million traders registered
The 59-year-old has been using the platform for the last few years, and was full of praise for the way in which it makes trading everything from stocks to cryptocurrency accessible to all.
He said: “I’ve been using eToro since 2017. I was driving in my car listening to the radio and there was a debate about crypto.
“The eToro representative gave a really robust and solid answer about security, and I thought that allayed any fears. I was quite impressed. I downloaded the app and started.
“I found it easy. Since then I’ve got a couple of other apps that I use and compared to eToro I don’t like them.
“I saw it as an opportunity to make some money – some easy money.
“So far, my experience has been excellent. I get calls from the company, it’s nice to know there’s a human element.
Of course, the pandemic has brought some major changes to the world’s markets – eToro isn’t the only company that has seen wild fluctuations in its value.
The differences in the habits of the public compared to the pre-Covid world have seen some stock prices go up, and others go down – and for investors like Bob, this has meant more opportunities.
He is quick to stress that he is not a professional and his experiences should not be taken as a guaranteed way to make money – but he also explained his reasoning behind his choices.
Bob continued: “I look at what the stock were pre-pandemic and what they are now. There was a huge bounce back and some are struggling.
“I applied my common sense – I’m currently riding the crest of that wave and for the most part it’s been pretty successful. They don’t always go right, but I have stop losses in place. It’s really easy to do.”
A stop loss is a “risk management tool” which aims to protect users’ investments. It instructs the system to automatically close a trade at a specific rate, for example if the price is going against the trader, to prevent further losses.
Bob continued: “My missus actually decided she was going to start up. I’m prepared to roll with ups and downs a bit more, I like taking risks but she’s more nervous so she’s going to invest in a much more cautious way than I do.
“One that I have an awful lot of money in at the moment is oil, particularly the American oil market, which is quite suppressed. I know renewables are being pushed hard but there’s still a big gap. Oil is going to have a little more of a high before it declines.”
Of course, even with stop losses in place, no investment is guaranteed to be risk-free.
EToro go to great lengths to protect their users – but maintain that the platform is not a “get rich quick” scheme.
A spokesman for the company said: “It’s important to note that all investment carries risk, and we urge our users to think long-term and remember the basics tenets of investing; define your risk, understand what you are investing in, and never invest more than you can afford to lose.
“Anyone who registers with eToro must complete a combined appropriateness and suitability test before joining the platform. This assesses an individual’s attitude to risk, understanding of the financial markets and specific instruments.
“An appropriateness pass is not required to invest in stocks or real crypto, however, clients whose results suggest they do not appropriately understand the products or the risks involved will have their access to higher risk instruments — including CFDs, leverage and copy trading — limited.”
However, eToro remains committed to opening up the financial markets to as many people as possible.
Bob added: “I’m amazed more people don’t do it with interest rates as they are now. It’s just rock bottom.
“You put £100 in the bank and you get £1 extra by the end of the year. I’ve been a contractor, I’m cash rich, it’s not just sat in some pension account. What’s the point? I’m letting the banks make the money.
“I do enjoy it. There’s definitely a thrill to seeing things go up because you haven’t had to lift a finger. Some of it is knowing and believing it wil come good.”
There are many options for traders on eToro – some, like Bob, stick mainly to stocks. While there is the option to trade cryptocurrencies like the much-publicised Bitcoin, Bob revealed he prefers to stay clear.
“Everyone wants to make massive money,” he said. “Some people can, a lot of people made a huge amount of money at the last crypto boom. I was quite happy for them to make that money and take those risks.I think it’s completely out of your control.
“I bought some early on and it had a bit of a boom then, but I lost patience in the end. I’m quite happy to stick with trading stocks.
“I learnt the hard way – it’s completely wild. When I apply some reasoning, it might be flawed but it’s mine. I live and die by the sword, but crypto is completely wild. Nobody can move the market, unless you’re someone like Elon Musk.”
While the pandemic has been tough for most, Bob has enjoyed some success thanks to his eToro career – something he admits has made him feel guilty.
He added: “Most of the money I’ve made has been in the last year. I feel terrible because I’ve had a cracking year.
“I feel guilty, I really do, because I know people have been ill and suffered, but we haven’t and I’ve done well.”
eToro – a quick how-to
Trading platforms like eToro might look daunting initially, but the company’s desire to bring trading and financial markets to the masses means it is one of the easiest to use.
To start, new users will need to sign up with an email address. Once they’ve followed the link in the confirmation email, they’re ready to start trading.
In order to begin trading, you’ll need some cash in your account – which can be done by using the deposit funds button – and you’re good to go!
The ‘trade markets’ button allows you to choose the different trading markets available on the platform, where you can “open a position” on a particular stock or cryptocurrency.
It is also wise to take advantage of eToro’s stop loss system, which will automatically remove you from a particular position if you lose too much money.
Investors can either chose to shoot out on their own, or “follow” the portfolios of top traders and investors and copy their positions. These traders have a risk score, so you know what you’re getting into!