At its peak, Funding Talent claimed to have more than 13,000 traders. Their CEO was listed in the Wall Street Journal as “a financial guru millennials listen to.” In less than two years they were out of business and widely labeled a “scam.”
So in lieu of a Funding Talent review, I’m writing a post-mortem. Hopefully by looking back at their demise, we can avoid other prop trading firms that may be heading in a similar direction. If you’re looking for alternatives to Funding Talent that are still in business, please reference my Best Prop Trading Firms of 2024.
Table of Contents
Is Funding Talent Out of Business?
Yes, Funding Talent is closed. They ceased all operations as of November 2021. In September of 2021, they tried a complete reorganization of their business, canceling all Challenge accounts, slicing profit splits from 80% to 25%, and pushing people to join the new Edge program. Edge was very short-lived, however. By November, everything was closed.
This is the message currently displayed on Funding Talent’s homepage:
Was Funding Talent a Scam?
It is hard to say for sure. Many now believe Funding Talent was an outright scam from the beginning. Traders were cheated out of thousands of dollars of hard-earned profits, after all. But we forget that Funding Talent had nearly a year of tremendous reviews from traders. Even experienced prop traders were initially very content with Funding Talent.
So how did they pivot from such a celebrated beginning to such a bitter end?
I believe that Funding Talent was founded with good intentions, but an unsustainable business model proved their downfall. However, once it became clear that things were going south, Funding Talent did not admit their mistakes, pay out their profitable traders, and cease operations. Instead, they desperately tried to hang on by changing trading rules, canceling accounts, and cheating a lot of hardworking traders out of a small fortune in profits.
What are alternative prop firms to Funding Talent?
Despite the saga of Funding Talent, there are a number of reputable prop firms out there that will make on-time payouts, work closely with traders to build success, stay in business for years to come, and limit public nudity (more on that later.) Here’s a list of my favorite prop firms that are still very much in business.
Where Did Funding Talent Go Wrong?
Prop trading firms have two ways of bringing in revenue. They charge traders one-time sign-up fees or monthly subscription fees, and they split profits with successful traders.
Prop firms that are successful in the long run have to make money via both avenues. If they don’t, they can run out of capital in a hurry. This appears to be exactly what happened to Funding Talent.
In March 2021, Funding Talent, which was based out of Halifax, received a notice from the Nova Scotia Securities Commission that they were being investigated for unregistered trading, among other things. The notice temporarily prohibited Funding Talent from trading or disseminating any information related to securities and derivatives.
The investigation suggests that Funding Talent was actually making live trades, as they had told their traders. However, the temporary order was lifted two weeks later when CEO Jessica Ghaney swore in an affidavit that “members using any type of account are never in the real market.”
The affidavit was in direct contrast to what Funding Talent was telling its traders. Whether Ghaney lied to investigators or lied to traders is anyone’s guess, but it’s pretty safe to say that from March 2021 going forward, Funding Talent was no longer making real trades.
This would have been the opportune time to come clean with their traders, close the prop firm, and move on. Funding Talent went a different way. They continued to recruit new traders in the hopes that they could pay profit splits to successful traders with the money they were generating from the fees of failed traders.
It appears, however, that they underestimated the skill of their traders. It seems that a number of them had outstanding summers. Had Funding Talent actually been making the trades, they would have been thrilled with the success of their trading community, but instead it put them in a bind. They had promised to pay out 80%–90% of the profits on trades that they weren’t actually making.
Funding Talent tried to dig themselves out of the hole with a lot of rule changes specifically designed to make it harder for traders to receive payments or make profits and easier for Funding Talent to cancel accounts. First they cut payments from biweekly to monthly, then they started outlawing different trading strategies and tightening trading parameters.
It all culminated with a disastrous announcement in September. Funding Talent canceled both the Challenge account and the Challenge Elite account. Traders could either request a refund for the account they had purchased or continue with the Edge program. Traders with Elite accounts who had an 80%–90% profit split would now be subject to the Edge rules, which meant a 25% profit split.
This was devastating news to traders who had worked extremely hard to build up their accounts. Traders with families. Traders with mortgages. Traders who had dedicated their professional lives to trading with Funding Talent.
The backlash was immediate and severe. Traders took to TrustPilot, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else to express their rage. The Funding Talent customer support team was completely overwhelmed. With the company’s reputation in tatters, the Edge program didn’t last more than a few weeks.
Incredibly, Funding Talent tried to extract even more cash from its disgruntled traders by attempting to charge them when they transitioned from Edge Beta to Edge 1.0. Few fell for it, and Funding Talent finally succumbed to its mortal wounds.
Warning Signs of a Prop Firm in Distress
Unlike with DT4X, a prop firm that recently failed quite suddenly, there were a lot of warning signs in the months preceding “The Announcement” that things were amiss at Funding Talent. So long as Funding Talent continued to make its payouts, the red flags were easy to ignore, but in retrospect, they were pretty obvious.
Keep these red flags in mind as you assess your own prop trading firm.
Already in March 2021, when things still seemed to be going swimmingly for Funding Talent, the company and its founders were subject to a temporary cease and desist order from the Nova Scotia Securities Commission.
All prop trading firms exist in a gray area between operating as financial service companies and education companies. Prop firms don’t want to be regulated, so they do all they can to stay in the gray. This is why a number of prop firms only use demo accounts. Since there’s never any real capital involved, they are an education company. When they copy the trades with their own live account, they use their own funds to do so, often under a different business entity. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, but a lot of firms have successfully remained unregulated for a long time.
Therefore, the original temporary order by the Nova Scotia Securities Commission that limited Funding Talent’s ability to trade or provide trading information could have easily been explained away as an overzealous regulator who didn’t understand the gray area.
The company’s response, however, should have been alarming enough to make any trader cash out immediately. The Ghaney Affidavit made it very clear that Funding Talent was not copying successful trading strategies with live capital. They had no way to make payouts if there were too many successful traders, and they had no skin in the game. Ghaney even referred to their capital as “Monopoly money.”
If the CEO of a prop trading firm likens their capital to “Monopoly money,” it is time to find a firm that takes trading more seriously.
Any company can fall victim to server issues. This is especially true of prop trading firms that show the kind of exponential growth that was exhibited by Funding Talent. It happens.
That being said, it seems to happen much more often to firms on the verge of going belly up. It happened to DT4X preceding their demise, and it happened to Funding Talent. A lot. Problems with the website prevented traders from accessing their accounts, making trades in timely fashions, and monitoring their accounts.
More than one trader alleged that these server errors were intentional and always corresponded to high volume trading days, such as when important economic data was being released. That could point just as much to an overwhelmed system than to any intentional blackouts, but regardless, if this happens frequently, you should consider moving your business elsewhere.
Changes in tradable assets
In midsummer 2021, Funding Talent started to change which assets their traders could trade. In early July traders were no longer allowed to trade gold and indices. Crypto was soon thrown out as well.
Traders should remember that this was right after dramatic drops and volatility in bitcoin, and alert traders were banking massive profits. If a prop firm suddenly drops an extremely profitable asset, that’s another sign that they are not acting in the traders’ best interests.
Funding Talent eventually allowed crypto trading to resume, but with enormous spreads that prohibited most traders from reentering the market.
Change in trading parameters
This, to me, is one of the best indicators that your prop firm is in trouble. Yes, even established prop firms tweak their rules occasionally to respond to their competition or to changing market circumstances. Firms in real trouble, however, don’t stop tweaking.
This was an enormous gripe with Funding Talent traders. In the Flex account, as well as other accounts, drawdowns and other key objectives were constantly changed. How do you abide by the rules when the rules are constantly changing?
In particular, Funding Talent began to limit a lot of different trading strategies. Traders who had been with the company for months were suddenly no longer able to trade in their style. In many cases, traders received notices that their accounts had been canceled due to a violation, even though their style had not changed since they started.
The sudden account cancellations were just one of many different strategies employed by Funding Talent to limit the number of payouts they had to make.
By early summer, it already seemed Funding Talent was having cash flow troubles. They tried to buy themselves some time by changing their biweekly payout policy to monthly payouts. They also began canceling accounts that had significant balances in accordance to brand new rules that were implemented the day they were announced.
Of course, the ultimate payout avoidance came when they pushed everyone from the Challenge model to the Edge program. Traders with profits still in their accounts suddenly found they were owed 25% rather than 80%–90%.
By the time this last change was made, it was too late to get out. Traders lost tens of thousands of dollars.
Any change in your prop firm’s payout policy should be viewed with a lot of suspicion.
CEO partial nudity
Times are changing, and everyone has their pasts, so I guess if you happen across a somewhat compromising photo of your prop firm’s CEO, that’s no longer necessarily a dealbreaker. However, if that photo is a part of your firm’s customer service . . .
CEO Jessica Ghaney largely built Funding Talent through her ForexTips101 Instagram account. Retail traders in the forex community flocked to her Instagram for trading tips and general forex education. Ghaney had well more than 200,000 followers and many opened accounts with Funding Talent.
When things took a turn for the worst, Ghaney reportedly responded to trader criticism via an Instagram story with a picture of her behind and an invitation to kiss it. It’s her company and her trading community and her behind, so well within her rights, but not the type of mature response you’re looking for from someone to whom you’ve entrusted large amounts of your money and time.
CEO’s favorite quote
I hesitate to spill too much ink on Ghaney, but she built Funding Talent largely on the success of her Instagram, which was as much about her personality as it was her trading tips. For better or worse, she was Funding Talent.
In April of 2021, just a few months before Funding Talent started making its sweeping changes, Ghaney was interviewed by IdeaMensch. The final question was a simple one: “What is your favorite quote?” Ghaney responded with a one-liner from Winston Churchill: “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Perhaps she already knew something the rest of us didn’t. If she did, I wish she would have informed everyone then. It would have saved a lot of people a lot of time, money, and effort.
I think most traders will take a pass on tagging along with Ghaney on her next enthusiastic failure.