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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 10:26 GMT
Playing the bureau de change
FX Player's trading screen

Ever got a better exchange rate after your holidays than before you went away, leaving you marginally better off? A new online game is offering the chance to hone those skills, and perhaps even end up working in the City.

The idea is simple and based on a module used to train junior currency traders before letting them loose on the real thing.

FX Player takes real-time data from the foreign exchange (Forex) markets; players start with a notional 50m and buy or sell currencies against each other.

There's "virtual" millions to be won or lost, and even a cash prize for the winner. But for those who find they have an outstanding aptitude for the game the potential rewards are even greater - the chance of a job with a big City employer, though organisers will not yet reveal the identities of the interested firms.

The man behind FX Player, David White, knows exactly what he's dealing with - he worked in the City of London for 28 years, including time as a Forex trader.

Foreign exchange is the biggest financial market in the world and every day some $1.5 trillion are traded on it. Its principles are straightforward. The value of currencies such as Sterling, the Dollar, the Euro and the Yen, are constantly changing, reflecting the ebb and flow of economies around the world.

Just as British holidaymakers can find themselves a few quid better or worse off when they cash in their excess Euros after a break, thanks to a slight strengthening or weakening of the currencies, so traders seek to exploit these marginal differentials.

Training tool

But when each trade involves millions of pounds even a slight variation in a currency's value means many thousands of pounds profit or loss. Such trades can happen almost within the blink of an eye.

There's a lot of money to be made - you could be looking at a six-figure salary
David White
All the big banks are involved in the foreign exchange markets, and for traders there are personal fortunes to be earned.

The game was developed as a training tool for new recruits going into the Forex markets, but Mr White thinks that by letting everyone loose on it, it can help as recruiting tool.

Trading of this sort, he says, is half-learned, half natural talent. The banks are constantly struggling to attract the best candidates.

"One of the things that banks are crying out for is quality graduates, and it is only graduates now. Most banks go to great lengths to find the right people but the one thing you can't determine is can they put all the theory into practice."

The game, however, which has a 5 registration fee (3 for students), has the potential to reach a vast audience and, by ranking all players it automatically sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Currency boards
Feel the excitement brewing...
So how hard is it?

"I don't think it's that difficult to be a good foreign exchange trader. It's relatively easy to make a couple of hundred thousand in a few weeks," says Mr White, of the game's fictional "Monopoly money".

"When it becomes real money it's more of a skill. That's when you have to show nerve as well."

Most of us are "nave" about the foreign exchange markets, says Mr White. The game, he thinks, will encourage ordinary folk to ask questions and find out the sort of factors that strengthen and weaken currencies. If nothing else, it could earn them a few extra pounds of real money before they go on holiday.

For the top ranking graduate players however, the rewards promise to be far richer.

"There's a lot of money to be made in this business. You could be looking at a six-figure salary."

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