Dedicated Support, Superior Products Are the Basis of AIQ’s Success
AIQ’s first stock trading system was introduced 20 years ago. In this interview, AIQ president Steve Hill looks at the history and goals of the company and how it has grown to become one of today’s leading investment software companies.
Editor: Twenty years is a long time in the investment software industry. What is the key to AIQ’s success?
Hill: Much of the success of AIQ is due to the dedication and experience of our staff; they are key to providing outstanding support to our clients and to building better products. The average tenure of AIQ staff members of over 10 years is a reflection of the commitment of the AIQ staff to the company. AIQ has always been more than just a software “vendor.” We strive to provide the best service possible to our clients by listening to their needs and acting on those needs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
We don’t bake cakes or build cars; we provide powerful trading tools and trading systems and support these tools with educational newsletters, seminars, tutorials and webinars (online seminars). Our goal is to help our clients become better traders and investors.
Editor: Can you please tell us how AIQ was started?
Hill: In 1985, Dr. J.D. Smith, a pioneer in expert system technology, looked at the stock market trading products available for the individual investor but could not find one that would relieve him of the time-consuming task of sifting through a data base of stocks, chart by chart, looking for an attractive investment. Using his experience in expert system methodology, Dr. Smith developed a personal computer system that would quickly perform this task and help him make intelligent, unemotional trading decisions. The stock trading system he developed was introduced in 1987 and was immediately hailed as a breakthrough in investing technology. AIQ Systems was founded.
The company when founded was named Criterion Software Inc., and the name was changed to AIQ Systems Inc. in September 1988. Dr. Smith designed the AIQ expert systems and his wife, Diana Kincade, put them into programming language. Ms. Kincade’s objective was to make the systems easy to use and, with her strong background in programming and concern for user interface, she was able to achieve this objective. This commitment to user friendly products continues today—AIQ products are known for their ease of use.
In 1994, Dr. Smith and Ms. Kincade sold AIQ to Track Data Corporation of New York. Track Data also owned Dial/Data, one of the main data suppliers to AIQ clients. Under the new corporate host, AIQ migrated in 1998 to the monthly subscriber service bundled with the myTrack software and also gained access to real-time data for the TradingExpert Pro and OptionExpert products that continues to this day.
Editor: How have AIQ products evolved over the years?
Hill: AIQ’s first product, StockExpert, was introduced in 1987 and provided basic charts, Expert Ratings, and some technical indicators. MarketExpert, a market timing system, quickly followed. Each of these packages included one of AIQ’s signature features, the Barometer Control Panel that gives a quick visual assessment of each of the technical indicators. OptionExpert and IndexExpert were added to the product line solely for options analysis. All of these products were very successful and provided the impetus for the development of TradingExpert.
With the advent of TradingExpert, AIQ combined the strengths of MarketExpert and StockExpert into one powerful package and added group and sector analysis, a revolutionary concept at the time. Finally, a Portfolio Tracker was included and AIQ had one of the first really comprehensive trading packages on the market.
Add-on modules were next created: Matchmaker, a correlation tool that restructures your group/ sector data for more effective group and sector analysis, and a Fundamentals module, as the name suggests a tool for analyzing fundamental factors.
Over the years, more and more powerful features were added to TradingExpert, including the Expert Design Studio, AIQ’s trading system writing and testing tool. This tool allowed our users to create their own trading systems and their own custom indicators. With the acquisition of AIQ by Track Data Corporation, access to real-time data was added and AIQ provided all the charting and technical indicators for Track Data’s professional platforms.
In the late 1990s, AIQ merged all the add-on products into the TradingExpert software to create a power package that became known as TradingExpert Pro. While TradingExpert continued as a basic analysis tool, most of AIQ’s clients moved to the new combined system—TradingExpert Pro. Today, some 10 years since TradingExpert Pro was first introduced, it remains our premier package.
Editor: How has the industry changed over the years?
Hill: Times change, and few investment software companies have succeeded as long as we have. Product is shipped on CDs now rather than 5 ¼ inch floppies. Data is delivered over the internet rather than using computer modems. Today’s computers are lightning fast, allowing retail investors to employ tools that were only available to elite institutional investors.
There is no doubt that charting is now a de facto commodity provided by almost every investing or trading software service. Many of the free charting tools available on the internet provide basic price bars, including even Candlesticks and moving averages. However while these tools provide good looking charts, they lack the power tools that the informed investor and trader needs.
Most brokerage companies also provide some technical analysis tools for their clients. However, very few offer high-end analysis tools like those incorporated in AIQ TradingExpert Pro.
The industry has also experienced big changes in software and data prices. AIQ’s four stand-alone DOS products originally sold at about $1500 each. And to use the software you had to subscribe to a data vendor. In the early 1990s, data cost anywhere from $60 to $100 a month but fell in price steadily over time.
The biggest change in pricing for AIQ came about in the late 1990s when AIQ first offered TradingExpert Pro bundled with myTrack as a monthly subscription service. The software no longer had to be purchased with data paid for separately. Instead, you paid one monthly fee for the data and software combined. And the other bonus was never having to pay for an upgrade again.
Editor: What do you consider the strengths of AIQ?
Hill: The depth of knowledge and experience of the AIQ staff is our most invaluable strength. Our experience and knowledge has led to the development of many of the unique and powerful features in TradingExpert Pro.
Our industry group and sector rotation features were revolutionary when TradingExpert was released, and they remain unmatched today. We have powerful breadth management tools that are useful in identifying market tops and bottoms. Market Breath Builder and Breadth Analyzer allow users to create breadth and volume statistics on any set of stocks or any set of indicators.
Other software packages now have back testing capabilities but none are as easy as AIQ’s. We realized most people don’t like to program code, even if the language is supposedly easy. To that extent we’ve created over 250 pre-built rules that users can cut and paste as they create and test trading systems.
Portfolio Simulation was another pioneering breakthrough that has given AIQ an edge. As many traders and investors have discovered, back testing only goes part of the way when you’re developing a trading strategy. Something more realistic was needed, so our programmers developed a new tool called Portfolio Simulator.
Portfolio Simulation does real life walk forward testing under real trading conditions. Only through this kind of testing can you prove that a strategy works for your trading style.
What sets us apart is our desire for our users to become successful traders. We don’t just give you the tools, we provide educational support and most of the support is free of charge. The Opening Bell Monthly newsletter is now in its 24th year and continues to provide timely articles from our technical analysis experts as well as successful traders and industry gurus. This publication is posted on AIQ’s web page (www.aiqsystems.com) under Training and Education.
We also offer a variety of web based seminars every month covering a wide range of technical topics. Some of these “webinars” are free and are archived for viewing at your convenience. They are found at www.aiqsystems.com.
Editor: Where do you see AIQ going in the future?
Hill: Regarding analysis tools, AIQ is currently focused on two directions. First, we rolled out an automatic Chart Pattern Recognition system. For each pattern found, the system generates supporting information such as strength of confirming volume, direction, and trend. Patterns are also stored historically for back testing as part of a trading strategy. Chart Pattern Recognition will be an add-on service for TradingExpert Pro users.
Second, we are incorporating many of our primary analysis tools into a browser environment so that it will be possible to access your AIQ analysis tools wherever a browser is available.
As our technical analysis tools have matured and advanced over the years, so have the features requested by AIQ clients. Every request is recorded and analyzed for suitability and desirability as a feature in a future release.
We value all feedback. It is this feedback from our clients in conjunction with our own ideas that leads to the development of new power features.