October 24, 2012

From Wirehouse Brokers to Mom, ChartLabPro Brings Stock-Picking Online

‘A lot of these old school brokers, they still pick stocks,’ says ChartLabPro co-founder Brett Golden

As new investment ideas proliferate on the Web, a couple of Wall Street entrepreneurs have introduced a stock-picking platform so simple their mothers can use it yet sophisticated enough to have gained Wall Street wirehouse brokers as subscribers.

They do it by offering security selection, risk management and portfolio diagnostics via a proprietary algorithm to anybody who’s willing to shell out a mere $9.95 a month.

ChartLabPro.comThe mission of ChartLabPro.com, founded by former SouthPort Harbor Associates principal Brett Golden, who raised capital for hedge funds, and Greg Troccoli, a former chief technical analyst for Prudential Securities, is to provide an easy-to-use platform that won’t intimidate investors, no matter what their level of experience.

‘All of the Advisors on the Platform Are Wirehouse Brokers’

“Eighty percent of our subscribers are retail investors, and we have financial advisors, but all of the advisors on the platform are wirehouse brokers with large books,” said Golden in a recent phone interview. “Morgan Stanley, UBS and Merrill are the only financial advisors using it. We don’t have any financial advisors from small shops. I have a group at Merrill Lynch that runs $600 million, but $150 million of that is discretionary. They love it, and I’ll tell you why. A lot of these old-school brokers, they still pick stocks. Even though you think from what you read that 90% of the business is fee-based, that is not true.”

At the same time, Golden added, his own mom has signed on to the site, which was launched seven months ago and has cost its founders a personal investment of about $150,000. The site currently numbers approximately 1,000 users, many of them retirees.

“My mother, who uses it and has been trading on her own a long time, used to have her money with a professional money manager, and she’s like, ‘Why am I paying him 1.5% when he lost me 40% in 2008?’” Golden said. “So now she has all her money at the online brokerage firms. She looks at her portfolio [on ChartLabPro], and it will tell her in the action column what she should be doing with certain names. Three weeks ago she bought Eli Lilly because it went to a strong buy, and it’s up 8.25% since then.”

Other retail users in addition to Golden’s mom value the site. In one instance of the trend toward increased investment sophistication among retail investors, Neetu Vyas, a former accountant with the World Health Organization and American Express, stated a preference for ChartLabPro’s trend indicators, trade alerts, market commentary and earnings previews.

“As a person from a financial background and also an investor for many years, I needed guidance and a truthful service whose indicators worked for me. I’m happy ChartLabPro offers all that,” Vyas wrote in an email.

Simplifying Institutional Strategies

Billing itself as an “institutional quality” web-based service, ChartLabPro offers a dashboard of S&P 500 stocks with daily alerts on whether a stock is a buy or a sell and whether it is following a bullish or bearish trend, along with predefined support and resistance levels and pattern recognition alerts. The system design is partly the brainchild of Louis Lukac, former director of futures research for Prudential Securities, who in 1990 co-founded Wizard Trading, which employs computer assisted trading strategies based principally on technical analysis.

In an article titled “Technical Yes, but Complicated No,” Barron’s Electronic Investor columnist Mike Hogan writes that the site “provides some highly graphical ways  for traders to keep up with the market’s twists and turns,” but that it doesn’t have the extensive content and tools found on more generalized technical analysis sites like StockCharts.com.

“StockCharts.com, in contrast, is a technical charting site whose tools and intraday commentary are far broader and deeper, but it doesn't offer trading recommendations or a portfolio,” Hogan writes. “Instead, for $25 a month, StockCharts.com users can build up to 200 collections of 500 highly customizable candlestick or line charts each. It's a different metaphor delivered through a more traditional menu of technical screening and pattern recognition tools that technicians often use.”

Hogan concludes that ChartLabPro may not be all things to all technicians, “but its imaginative graphical approach does simplify concepts that usually make your head hurt.”

As for the site’s founders, they’ve concluded that the second phase of ChartLabPro’s launch, which will involve the sale of four model portfolios in late November, is likely to be more profitable than the first. And after that, they hope to create a fund.

“Once you get into the platform, for an additional $14 a month, you can buy a dividend portfolio, a long-short portfolio, a market-neutral, or a sector rotation portfolio,” Golden said. “Then the third goal within 12 to 16 months, since my partner runs a fund and is a fiduciary now, we would like to take the most popular model and create an open end liquid fund where anybody can just take the ticker and buy it at any online brokerage firm and charge a very low fee.”

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