- REUTERS/Darren Staples
When Cristiano Ronaldo attacks defenders on the soccer field, he does so with a quickness that leaves their heads spinning. Before they know it, they’ve lost.
A controversial investment brokerage Ronaldo has been advertising on Twitter can sometimes have a similar effect on investors, according to a report from Donal Griffin of Bloomberg News.
Offering products called contracts for difference, Exness Group allows investors to make highly leveraged trades that can provide outsized gains on the way up – but also can result in deep, swift losses in the event of a downturn.
The firm, based in Cyprus, allows clients to borrow funds totaling up to 500 times their original deposits. Critics of the practice say investors often don’t understand the potential downside associated with such bets, leaving them vulnerable to huge losses.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) August 2, 2017
For an example of how such a trade can work, imagine you wager $100 on a bullish S&P 500 exchange-traded-fund contract. If you take a CFD up on the 500-times leverage it offers, the notional value of your investment increases to $50,000.
If the ETF gains 0.5%, you make $250. But if it declines 0.5%, you lose the same amount and find yourself owing $150.
To provide an idea of the dismal rate of success, Bloomberg cited a study that found that CFD users in Spain lost money 82% of the time.
But Ronaldo is not alone in his endorsement of Exness. Real Madrid, the club team he plays for, has also partnered with the firm. Additionally, Exness has been a sponsor of Red Bull Racing for multiple years.
According to Griffin’s report, an Irish judge in 2014 called CFDs “a volatile form of gambling.” Retail investors in the US are mostly barred from using them, but in Europe, they represent the final frontier of highly risky, lightly overseen financial speculation, Bloomberg says. And that has drawn the ire of regulators.
There are, however, other ways for retail investors in the US to place highly leveraged wagers. There’s an entire sub-industry of leveraged ETFs available – the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year approved the first funds offering quadruple-size stock returns.
In another area of the market, investors have increasingly used leveraged products to bet on volatility. Betting against price swings has even become one of the market’s most crowded trades. It’s a trend that has some market experts worried – even going as far as to compare the current situation to conditions leading up to the 1987 stock-market crash.