How to defeat a clone attack, and other lessons from a rapidly growing brokerage

'If you're a new and growing brand, you're vulnerable,' says EBC UK CEO David Barrett

July 8, 2024

EBC Financial Group is a globally regulated broker, founded in 2020 and growing rapidly in the APAC region. But after a few years of building a strong and trusted reputation, its brand was hijacked: stolen by scammers who tried to use it as part of a crypto scheme. David Barrett, CEO of EBC Financial Group (UK) Ltd, explains how the company overcame this clone attack, as well as the other challenges presented by growing a disparate workforce across the globe.

Watch more with David Barrett, including why EBC has joined the UN’s campaign to beat Malaria, and the future of brokerage as regulators tighten restrictions in mature jurisdictions.

World Finance: David, as a relatively new player in the brokerage space, I’m interested in the challenges that you faced since starting up. Let’s begin with, how it was to grow and scale the company.

David Barrett: Yeah, I think it’s difficult. Once you’ve elevated the brand, you have to capitalise on that. There’s a lot of effort involved in elevating the brand and pushing the brand out there, so you get the demand in. I think you have to be careful about where you go, how quickly you expand, because there’s dangers in expanding too quickly as well.

So the company generally has expanded organically, as the brand and client intake has grown up. We’ve tended to go to good, solid, recognisable destinations, and we try and capitalise on the quality of people that you can employ there as well.

The other thing I would say is that it matures. So you have to grow the infrastructure of the business: HR, accounting, all of that stuff comes with a growing business as well. And that presents its own unique problems.

I mean, the group has a few hundred employees now. It started off very, very small. That growth has to be tempered and managed as well. It’s quite a logistic operation.

World Finance: A particular challenge you faced last year was your brand being hijacked, essentially – stolen by scammers who tried to use it as part of their operation. In an industry where reputation is so incredibly important, how did you overcome that?

David Barrett: If you’re in our space, and particularly if you’re a new and growing brand, you’re vulnerable. And you’re vulnerable because people want to leverage off of your hard work.

So as the brand became more recognisable, there was a crypto token that was very similarly named to ourselves. It started to gather money, people were funding and seeding the token. The website had my name, my bio, and a different picture next to it. It had the UBO’s name, bio, and a different picture next to it.

We contacted them direct, didn’t get very far. We engaged with a globally well renowned cyber security company. And I have to say it was pretty impressive: within two days they were off everything.

And it’s a world that I didn’t really know too much about, but you have to know about it, and you have to be aware. So now we have world wide web and darkweb monitoring 24/7. For a group like us it’s an unfortunate distraction. But it’s not uncommon. If you go on the FCA website, you’ll see it’s everywhere.

And I think what you need to do is you need to educate internally, which we’ve done a lot of. And you need to join forces with a good global brand in cyber security that you know can really help you, as opposed to just tick the boxes.

World Finance: Going back to your rapid expansion, how do you keep a global and presumably quite disparate workforce all pulling in the same direction? What’s the EBC ethos?

David Barrett: Yeah it’s very difficult right, because you have a mix of cultures, you have a mix of timezones, and you have different identities within all of that.

I would say the UBO has been the driver of that. He has quite extensive experience in fintech as well as the brokerage market globally. So when he set up the company, he did all the key hires, he still does okay all of the key hires. He’s very good at delegating to the people below him. And I think everybody that he’s hired is in his shadow, in terms of the way that they think about things.

So it becomes an organic push down to everybody that comes in to the company.

He has this ethos where, you don’t grow for growth’s sake. You grow for good, because you’re doing good things and you’re doing things well. And I think that permeates through the company.

World Finance: And how does that come through for your customers, what does that look like?

David Barrett: You have to deliver, and you have to deliver in a consistent way. You have to deliver best in class, you have to deliver what they want, how they want it, in a way that’s practical, and in a way that’s sustainable. So that trust between us and the client needs to be something that’s strong. And the reason that they’re dealing with you is because they do trust you, and they do appreciate the quality of the service you’re giving, them, and they do understand that you’re trying to do things at all times, in the best way possible.