Category Archives: Software-as-a-service

Why now is the time for a fresh approach towards FX technology at banks

In an era where pundits like to predict doom and gloom for banks FX businesses, Integral’s Chief Revenue Officer Vikas Srivastava offers a different perspective that shows how a change in the approach towards technology can allow heads of FX desks to significantly increase their profits – even during the periods of low volatility.

We’re all aware that the size of the FX pie hasn’t been growing. The latest triennial survey by the BIS supports this sentiment, having flagged a decline in FX volumes for the first time in 15 years. After the slow-down in market activity amidst the spate of regulations that the FX market had to contend with it is quite likely that the worst may be behind us. Continue reading Why now is the time for a fresh approach towards FX technology at banks

Why uncleared IM rules will spur innovation among asset managers

Just as asset managers recover from the herculean effort of preparing for MiFID II, along comes another rule to adhere to. As of this September, uncleared initial margin rules will hit hundreds of asset managers. The objective is ultimately to make over-the-counter (OTC trades) costlier so that more firms turn towards trading on regulated venues.

The overall impact of these rules is likely to be significant – with numerous asset managers set to manage margin with a large number of counterparties at the same time. One emerging trend is for asset managers to turn towards their prime brokers for clearing services. While this is not exactly new, the rules mean those asset managers with portfolios above €750bn in notional, who have never previously had to post margin, will suddenly have to do so. The year after that (September 2020), the notional threshold drops dramatically to $8bn! Continue reading Why uncleared IM rules will spur innovation among asset managers

Firms Continue to Turn to Cloud-Based Solutions to Comply with MiFID II Rules

For many firms, the RTS-28 requirement and the upcoming RTS-27 reports are proving to be a headache. Collecting complex data on this large of a scale and on a detailed level is a complicated effort that requires integrated data science services with a depth of trade data and robust analytics that allow customers to address these regulatory and reporting challenges. Given these exacting standards, cloud-based platforms are ideal in offering the most sophisticated and flexible MiFID II-compliant solutions.

MiFID II continues to present challenging obligations for financial institutions nearly six months since the rule first went into effect. RTS-28, the most recent regulatory hurdle under MiFID II, is meant to ensure transparency and keep firms accountable to best execution policies when transacting on behalf of clients. The reporting standards under RTS-28 require investment firms to disclose their top five execution venues, publish granular details on the execution data obtained at each of these venues, and provide a qualitative review of their best execution policies accompanied by an analysis of how execution is performed. Continue reading Firms Continue to Turn to Cloud-Based Solutions to Comply with MiFID II Rules

Currency Trading That Everyone Can ‘LIKE’

Social media changed the way people interact with each other. Now it’s time for FX trading to catch up.

This past May marked the five-year anniversary of Facebook going public, a seminal event that cemented the influence of social media on our lives.

At the risk of heaping too many additional encomiums on the bright people that brought us these networks, it’s not hyperbole to note that the advent of social media has changed the way we interact. People can now very easily reconnect with grade-school friends, quickly share photos of loved ones, and be introduced to new people through mutual friends or shared interests. At the same time, everyone has the option to control their levels of privacy. You can view and share only those things that suit your needs.

The future of trading technology is going in the same direction. Each trader will sit at the center of his or her own universe, controlling what trades to make available to whom. And the best market to demonstrate this new paradigm is the currency market. Continue reading Currency Trading That Everyone Can ‘LIKE’

A Tale of Two Kinds of Companies

Recently, two complex event processing (CEP) technology vendors changed hands. Progress Software sold its Apama CEP platform to Swiss vendor Software AG, and Tibco acquired StreamBase — the last remaining independent CEP vendor.

Both companies were tackling very complex issues in financial services and enjoyed initial success. The founders of Apama sold their firm to Progress Software for $25.4 million in 2005, the year StreamBase launched its first product. What sealed both vendors’ demise was not bad software, but rather a paradigm shift in the software industry.

When you search for the term “cloud computing” on Streambase.com, Google can find only two instances and they are both located in boilerplates of a business partner that is a part of a customer case study.  Run the same test on Apama.com and Google responds that the search “did not match any documents”. These are bad signs. Continue reading A Tale of Two Kinds of Companies

Margin FX Brokers Flock to Integral for Flexibility, Control, Time to Market and No-Money-Down Solutions To Run Their Own FX Business

This week’s news about Alpari partnering with Integral highlights a larger trend: Margin FX brokers are choosing Integral as their business solutions provider. The combination of access to liquidity, rapid time to market, no upfront costs, the flexibility to pursue the business model of their choice and the assurance to have all key elements under their control is hard to beat.

As a neutral technology provider that offers a fully managed end-to-end solution, Integral offers a unique value proposition that resonates with our customers.

It’s a technology arms race

Global foreign exchange markets have become a very competitive business and in it managing a margin FX brokerage is no exception. Therefore, having the right partner at your side is extremely important.

We invested in technology solutions complete with a network of liquidity providing banks, ready today and available for margin FX brokers to build their own private FX exchange, and to deliver branded trading services to their retail customers.

The power of cloud computing

All our services are delivered in the cloud, offering the advantages of this business model such as dramatic cost savings through a shared technology platform, on demand services that scale elastically in line with our customers’ business needs, and a pay-as-you-go business model.

Since we don’t charge any up-front costs, we only get paid a small token every time one of our customers executes a trade. This is very different from the traditional purchase-and-install software model and ensures that the interest of both Integral and its customers are aligned.

We work with margin FX brokers to assist them in assembling their own liquidity from multiple banks. If those banks are already on Integral’s FX Grid® – and many are, then established connections are in place. Connecting once to Integral is all that it takes to be ready for connecting to other participants. In the rare event that a connection doesn’t exist yet, Integral will research the particulars of that situation and even build it on behalf of our customers.

As importantly, we will ensure that these connections continue to stay up and working. We’ll track the many changes that the liquidity providing banks make on their end and ensure that service to our customers is not interrupted. It all contributes to the high availability of our trading network.

You are in control

Our various cloud services add up to an end-to-end solution that includes everything FX brokers require to run their own business. Since it is delivered a la carte and not as a fixed bundle, brokers can pick and choose. They end up with everything they need and nothing they don’t. That includes the option to take advantage of FX Inside Professional™, our execution management system (EMS) for the broker’s professional customers.

Since nobody knows their business better than they themselves, we offer our broker customers real-time analysis and administrative tools so that they are in full control of their FX business. That way, they can customize solutions that specifically fit the needs of their various customers.

A new reality

The time of one-size-fits-all solutions in FX is over. FX market participants demand a technology solution that fits their business, not the other way around. They further require the tools that put them in control of their FX business. Integral understands and supports this trend. Our rapid customer growth is testament to the fact that what we offer resonates with the market.

Ten Questions

1. What is the biggest change you have seen in recent years in FX markets?

The biggest change must be how technology has lowered the barriers to entry for many new market participants to enter and thrive in the global foreign exchange market. What was previously an extremely fragmented, disconnected, opaque market is transforming into a more diverse, integrated, and transparent market.

2. People are talking about a technology arms race in FX. With that said, does anyone other than the largest and best capitalized players stand a chance to compete at all?

Yes, it is true that in order to compete and win in this competitive FX market, one must make use of very capital-intensive technology infrastructure. It does not mean, however, that one needs to build and own that infrastructure themself. The Integral shared platform and the cloud services are on par with or better than any other technology solution out there, at a fraction of the price and with far less risk. The game has changed and as in other industries, the introduction of a shared technology platform has dramatically leveled the playing field.

3. What is your advice for market participants with large off-line or telephone-based businesses who are considering going on-line?

The good news is that today’s technology can deliver discrete functionality similar to what human traders or salespeople can do. Integral has a track record of helping banks and brokers launch their own FX platform, basically for free and with very little risk. It can happen with no capital expenditures on their part and can be deployed in a matter of weeks, because they benefit from the pre-existing connections with all major sources of liquidity and prime brokers that we have aggregated over many years. And, given that they have no ongoing fixed expenditures, they have no running costs to worry about. So why wouldn’t they go electronic now?

4. How is Integral different from other technology solutions?

We are a neutral service provider. We are not and will never be a bank or a broker, nor do we transfer the risk of a successful implementation to the customer. While this seems like an obvious distinction, it carries many ramifications that may not be as evident. The biggest difference to the traditional license-and-install software vendors is that we enter into true partnerships with our customers. The basic reason lies in the way we are compensated: Integral charges a small service fee on any trade our customers execute on our platform. If customers are not trading, we are not getting paid. If customers are not happy with the system, we are not getting paid. Therefore, our interests are fundamentally aligned for the short and long term. We want them to be successful and to expand their businesses.

5. What is your position on the discussion around platform proliferation?

I think that these new platforms are a great addition to global FX markets. Actually, they are a great indication of the technology revolution that has been taking place over the last few years. Today, technology has advanced to a point that mass customization is now practical and economically feasible. Modern cloud-based service offerings, like Integral, can automate what you have exactly the way you have it. What we are witnessing is that many off-line FX businesses are moving online by embracing e-FX. It’s a trend that we applaud and one that I think will continue.

6. With lower volumes, regulatory pressure, many new competitors, is this a good time to start your own FX brokerage?

If you have a solid business idea, if you are committed to great customer service, and if you’re marketing organization is top notch, there has never been a better time to venture out and compete in FX. There is more transparency than ever, the barriers of entry are lower than ever, and with the right technology partner, you can focus like never before on customer service and acquisition. If you have any questions, give us a call so we can discuss your opportunity in more detail.

7. What is cloud computing and how can it help me?

Cloud computing is a new paradigm that has dramatically changed many industries, including FX. Its key characteristics are the use of a shared IT infrastructure and a pay-as-you-go business model. Previous static technology products with fixed functionality have been replaced by flexible cloud services that you subscribe to on an as-needed basis. What all that adds up to is a business model with virtually no fixed costs, no CAPEX, and the built-in flexibility to change as your business needs change.

8. Where do see the future of white labeling?

Generally speaking, I see a bright future for white labeling, but it will be slightly evolved. Clearly, I don’t see many new proprietary platforms emerging that are not in one form or another based on a common underlying technology. In light of the quality of technology solutions that are available already, it just doesn’t make sense given the costs and time required to build something from scratch. I am hesitant to call this ‘white labeling’ since it is so much more. White labeling, how it came to be understood by most people, describes the licensing of somebody else’s technology platform and somebody else’s liquidity – without any real chance of making it your own. The new kind of white labeling, how we understand it, puts the business owner in control of key elements and allows for far-reaching customization of the technology tools to fit that business owner’s preferences. FX has come a long way from the one-size-fits-all white-label offerings from years past.

9. What is your position on the principal vs. agency business model?

The debate in the market is sometimes very heated, with different people making absolute statements for or against either one. In my view, both models have their respective merits. Our platform supports both, and at times even for different customer segments under the same brand. And that is the best news: You don’t have to take sides. In the end, your customers will tell you whether they want what you’re offering. And if not, and if you are one of our customers, we will help you adapt to better serve their needs; because that is the most important debate of all.

10. What has been your proudest achievement as CEO of Integral?

The fact that we helped launch more than 200 and counting FX platforms that are all unique, customized businesses that vary in market structure, value proposition, target audience, user experience and business model, all branded under the name of our customers. As far as I know, no one other than Integral offers technology that can support the variety of platforms on a single virtual SaaS system. That’s where we think we have accomplished something that fundamentally changes the economics of the FX service provider market. This is not unlike the effect that the introduction of Lotus 1-2-3 and MS Excel had on the financial software market: One system, provided by a technology vendor, extremely customizable, with virtually unlimited applications designed by and “owned” by the customers themselves.

PS: If you’re interested in the business of margin FX trading and want to learn more about what Integral can do for you, click here.

Dankeschoen

Just as I was looking for a new idea for how to tout the advantages of cloud computing in a different way, Deutsche Bank comes around and does it for me. And, they do it in a very convincing, 20-minute-long video that is very professionally done, featuring senior executives of their FX organization, both from the business and the IT side.

Granted, they talk about open source and we are talking about cloud computing but these are only different paths up the same mountain. The mountain is called shared IT infrastructure. The ultimate benefits for the end customer are increased operational efficiencies, dramatically reduced costs and lower barriers of entry. And they are the same with both approaches.

What the executives say as well is that the do-it-yourself model is dead. Kaputt.

Continue reading Dankeschoen

Some Businesses Take a Really Long Time to Build, FX isn’t One of Them

Recently, Euromoney Magazine published its annual FX Survey 2012. Whether or not you like the survey and trust its findings, at least there is entertainment value in the media coverage that discusses the results. A very entertaining article in the Wall Street Journal provided insights into the great lengths that several participants went to drum up support for their institutions. But there are statements from some of the protagonists that make me smile. Here are two examples:

“Instant results are difficult to achieve in foreign exchange.” (…) Coming in, you need to invest for three to five years before you see results on the scale that the top handful of banks have been [having].”

It’s a matter of perspective but I disagree. There might be some businesses that require multi-year investments before delivering results but FX is not one of them. I can think of a few wineries in Napa Valley where new crop has to mature for years before delivering world class product. Virgin America, on the other hand, launched an entire airline in three years. They achieved this by leveraging a variety of third party service providers to assemble their final product in record time. Likewise, launching your FX business need not require multiple years of investment to deliver a world-class FX product to the market. It can be as simple as setting up a network connection to Integral. You can be up and running in weeks. More complex deployments on FX Grid® might require several weeks or a few months but nothing in the neighborhood of three to five years. That’s just wrong. If you’re in the middle of such a project, consider cutting your losses and give us a call now. Continue reading Some Businesses Take a Really Long Time to Build, FX isn’t One of Them

Not all Clouds Are Created Equal

Not all clouds are the same, and I am not talking about the different ones you see up in the sky. The term cloud computing has reached true buzzword status by now, with everyone having a different understanding of what it means — which by the way is one characteristic of a buzzword.

I don’t want to add to the many interpretations of cloud computing out there, rather outline the most important characteristics that in my view define it: 1) Market participants receive and deliver services over the Internet. 2) They are sharing a common pool of IT infrastructure. 3) They have the ability to easily scale these services up or down in line with how their business needs change. 4) They pay for these services in a pay-as-you-go business model and, and 5) these services are managed by a provider. If all these statements are true, you are looking at a real example of cloud computing.

Open matters

Today, Integral announced an open platform for FX. While ‘open’ to some might just be yet another buzzword, it is critically important in this context. Continue reading Not all Clouds Are Created Equal