Self-publicist and self-proclaimed FX genius Alex Hope is hitting the headlines. But is he all he says he is?
Update, 12 January 2015: Alex Hope has been found guilty of a £5m fraud.
Update, 30 April 2013: Alex Hope and his business partner Raj Von Badlo have been accused of 10 offences in relation to a scheme which traded foreign exchange on behalf of others. Both are expected to deny the charges.
This is our profile of Alex from last year, when we couldn’t shake the feeling that something didn’t quite add up in his story – other than, of course, THAT whopping great bar bill...
You must have heard about the City trader who blew £125,000 on a huge bottle of Armand de Brignac bubbly in a Liverpool nightclub.
The bottle was carried through the night-club to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Our anonymous plutocrat also splashed £60,408 on other drinks, including 40 bottles of Spades Brut champagne plus a £24,000 Methuselah, two bottles of Grey Goose vodka at £2,000 each and 42 cans of Pussy energy drink. The tip was £18,540. Total bill: £203,948.
Now the Daily Express has revealed the spendthrift to be Alex Hope, self-taught FX trading whizz-kid.
Aged just 23, Hope claims to be a trading natural. He teaches other wannabe traders in his spare time. And he’s funding a new networking club for London high-fliers called the Fast Growth Entrepreneurs Club, sponsored by the London Stock Exchange.
Well, that’s what he says.
I interviewed Mr Hope a couple of weeks ago and found his shtick so unbelievable that I spiked the interview. Either he is one of the greatest talents ever seen in the City or a fantasist.
Hope claims to be a City trader. So who does he trade for? JP Morgan? No, er, he pays for a desk at Zone Trading, a rentadesk outfit for day traders. Nothing wrong with that – the City is dotted with similar enterprises, which play home to respectable traders who want to play the markets in a pleasant environment. But not exactly Goldman Sachs.
And what capital does he trade? Well, he started off aged 19 with £500. He says he turned this into £1,100 on his first day, and then supplemented it with income from providing FX tuition to friends and interested parties, shedding light on the secrets of FX trading. He told me: “Most people I don’t charge for the lessons, others £200. There are a lot of FX courses for £3,000 to £10,000, but I do it because I enjoy it.”
He says his courses last a weekend.
And what is his education?
Hope spent one term at Brunel University studying sports science. He then wanted to switch to economics, but wasn’t allowed to, so dropped out. “I was obsessed with economics,” he told me. “I learned what would normally take three years in two months.”
Hope doesn’t even have an A Level in maths. Yet he mastered economics to degree level in two months? His PR company emailed me to tell me Hope is “an expert in the UK economy”. This is a big claim. Persons widely recognised as experts, such as Jonathan Portes and Simon Wren-Lewis, usually have decades of academic research under their belt.
After this sudden mastery he then got a part time job in HR for two years, trading part time. As he worked he added his wages into his trading capital.
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How much has he made in the short time he’s been trading FX with his meagre pool of funds? “I have been making millions.” Millions! To put that into context the international FX company World First had a turnover of £1.8bn last year and made a profit of £3.6m.
It is a hell of a claim.
He added: “My goal is by my 24th birthday in January to start my own hedge fund.” But of course.
Other details during our interview seemed odd. Alex Hope employs a PR company, Full Portion PR, to promote himself.
A blog post on his personal website – complete with his personal “brand logo”- confused the government debt with the deficit. Human error?
Hope was totally vague about his networking event, the Fast Growth Entrepreneurs Club. He claimed it would host “heads of investment banks” and “people of influence” but couldn’t name any. There’s no fee – he is personally paying for 60 attendees to drink champagne and dine at his expense. An extraordinary gesture. The London Stock Exchange confirmed to me that it is it adding its name to the event, but is not putting any money in.
He said he has a PR company because he wants to be on Bloomberg and CNBC. He reckons a PR company will raise his profile high enough for him to get noticed by the press and his peers. Mission accomplished.
I heard Hope’s story and I simply lacked the evidence to call it either way. My journalistic instinct told me he could well be a dreamer with a talent for exaggerating his accomplishments. On the other hand, there might be a missing angle to the story, such as an inheritance, a sequence of fluke bets, or maybe he is exactly what he says he is: a brilliant FX trader with the ability to turn a few grand into millions. He’s obviously got the cash to pay a PR firm and to host an event. And to buy that booze, if he did shell out for it. His Twitter feed suggests he’s got a genuine passion for FX.
But why does he employ a PR firm? And why does he claim to have mastered economics in such a short amount of time? And why is he cavorting in a Liverpool nightclub, engaged in the sort of behaviour the City declared verboten since the Flaming Ferraris got burned?
At the time I worried about the libel law. If Hope is prone to exaggeration then he may react badly at being scrutinised by the press. And if he’s telling the truth then he may still call on M’Learned Friends to smite me for calling him into question. British journalists live in fear of libel suits – and I had no evidence that his story was anything other than legit, so I canned the story.
Now Hope is getting major coverage, cavorting with the “stars” of Desperate Scousewives and Katie Price. If he has struck a deal with a new Liverpool night-club to create a PR event to publicise himself and the venue then it would scarcely be a new tactic. The media reports this sort of stunt everyday of the week – usually with full complicity. And whatever the motive, the club and Hope got publicity worth tens of thousands of pounds. Max Clifford couldn’t have topped it.
But is Hope an FX trader who makes “millions” or a normal bloke who does a bit of trading and loves seeing his name in print? He’s clearly ambitious, and has got the London Stock Exchange
to endorse his event. Either way, there is no suggestion he is doing anything illegal. And he seems to be having a lot of fun.
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