Syntegra's Tim Furmidge reports on how voice, video and data are combining with computer telephony integration and wireless communications to enable firms to transcend the physical limitations of the dealing floor and create virtual trading organisations.
The trading floor isn’t what it used to be. In an increasingly competitive, global financial services environment, there is a growing focus on how the coordination of multiple delivery channels can help firms extend the reach of their trading floors to maximise opportunity and keep up with client demand, around the clock.
At the same time client expectations are increasing – driven by an appetite for better service and knowledge of what technology can do for them. Financial services firms cannot afford to be complacent. Few, if any, are in a position today to implement trading strategies and deliver consistent service across all geographical boundaries using any channel and any device. In the current climate financial services firms need to address these issues, and empower client relationship management and decision support across the enterprise, or risk getting left behind.
Vision for the virtual trading organisation
Take a moment to imagine a trading organisation, with sales offices, trading centres, staff and clients spread across the world. Visualise the benefits for that organisation if it had the ability to communicate consistently throughout its own organisation and with clients and trading partners using any channel, such as voice, web, email, mobile, video or instant messaging, and via any device such as PC, laptop, PDA or at their trading turret. Imagine too if it could route client contacts – together with all relevant client history and portfolio information – to the most appropriate resources, irrespective of where they are based. Could such a vision be possible? With financial institutions now able to employ multi-channel, computer telephony integration and wireless technologies to link a client to an appropriate sales person, or to communicate trading strategy and instructions to traders, wherever they are in the world, we are seeing the emergence of the virtual trading organisation.
To facilitate this vision, Syntegra advocates the development of a collaborative trading environment, designed to link clients, colleagues and trading partners in a single, seamless decision support environment. Syntegra is already working with two leading investment banks to pilot ITS Myriad – its newly introduced integration framework, designed to integrate multiple channels and bring together context sensitive information at the user interface, whether in a fixed or wireless work environment. The goal is to help firms maximise opportunity spotting, provide integrated decision support, strategy implementation and trade execution, and improve client service. ITS Myriad does this by bringing together all relevant support information from a range of systems pertinent to the interaction with the client or the execution of strategy, for example, contact management, trading history and limits systems.
Providing best advice - standing out from the crowd
Using an integration framework to bring together distinct communication channels and knowledge across the organisation can enable firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace. It can transform the expertise of individual managers into the brilliance of the team. Furthermore by integrating the system with existing in-house applications as well as client relationship management, deal capture and transaction processing systems, firms can empower their traders and sales staff to deliver a superior service to meet, and often exceed, client expectations.
Understanding and meeting the changing demands of clients is becoming key to business growth. With clients demanding a proactive response based on registered interests, past trading profile or impact of market events on their portfolio, banks need to move from providing point solutions to a more comprehensive tailoring of services and advice to individual clients. Using identifiers such as dedicated telephone numbers for top tier clients or voice verification applied to incoming calls – firms can trigger the delivery of context sensitive information to client-facing personnel, empowering them to deliver best advice. Increased visibility of relevant client data can help to create a decision support environment that maximises the effectiveness of client interaction.
Similarly, using a unique client identifier and password, previously agreed with the client, sales traders and relationship managers can be notified as soon as any of their premier clients enter the bank’s web site. Tracking can be received at log-on as a low priority alert to the relationship manager. As a client moves to more sensitive areas of the site, such as a web trading facility or bond calculator, a high priority alert can be sent to an appropriate sales advisor. The web page the client is viewing and the actions taken can be witnessed by the salespeople, and direct intervention – previously agreed with the client – can be taken if they are about to make an inadvisable move. This could be done either by email alert, phone call or even an offer of a videoconference to discuss the next steps.
The value of advice is always judged by the success of previous advice given. Through integration with client contact or relationship management systems the sales person is able to review previous advice given to a client and highlight successful strategies. Similarly, when the client’s primary contact is away, the history of client activity and profile of their interests can be used to guide other members of the team. This will help to ensure a consistent global response to clients, by any member of staff, across any channel.
Information anywhere, in a wireless world
The benefits of multi-channel communication need not be limited to clients. Today the extended hours of trading and trading across time zones drives the need for remote access to information and the ability to stay in touch while away from the office. Sales people and traders equipped with a wireless device such as a mobile phone or PDA (pocket digital assistant) can be equipped to track markets and facilitate secure transactions. For example, using Syntegra’s Wireless ITS Myriad, a sales trader’s PDA can integrate a multitude of channels and gain access to emails, applications, files and other IT resources. This will allow the delivery of business critical information and transaction verification in real-time – enabling them to receive calls from clients and make on-the-spot decisions as if they were sitting at their normal desktop.
Wireless technologies can also play a vital part in enabling sales traders to keep up with market events and coverage on news channels such as Bloomberg, which can give a good insight into market reaction to a particular event. The ability for sales traders to view this for themselves or use facilities such as video streaming to see the morning sales call on their PDA can be invaluable while they are out of the office.
Face-to-face virtual meetings
In addition to telephone, web and wireless channels, imagine how much easier fast-paced, high-impact decision-making could be if team members around the world could communicate face-to-face via an enterprise desktop video system that is similar to talking with someone on television.
Reliable, high-quality communications tools are mission critical in a fast-paced, information-intensive financial services industry. As business relationships and expertise must be leveraged as quickly and effectively as possible, video communication is becoming a tool as standard and essential as the phone and email.
Syntegra’s ITS Myriad integration framework integrates Avistar’s VOS video operating system to provide a rich desktop visual collaboration dimension. The combined solution can help traders work more effectively and reap the benefits of face-to-face collaboration without the need to travel, or even leave their desks.
Videoconferencing technology is now available to enable traders to easily make two-way or multi-party collaborative video calls from their desktops; record themselves or their videoconferences for later playback; instantly create video presentations and seamlessly bring in desktop applications such as Excel and PowerPoint, or video from outside sources such as CNN and CNBC, to discuss with the call participants.
To take an example, assume a head trader of an investment bank based in London identifies an issue of a new corporate bond that he wants to buy to sell on to his clients and counterparties. But before proceeding he wants to discuss the new issue with the bank’s analyst based in New York. The colleagues could participate in a video conference call, share a spreadsheet, visible to both parties, annotate the document online and together decide on the most appropriate sales strategy.
Drawing on the full potential of the virtual trading organisation, the proposed strategy could be subsequently translated into an outbound campaign and distributed to appropriate sales people with specific instructions to action them through multiple channels such as voice, web, email or mobile. Similarly, if one of the key sales people is out of the office, the campaign instructions could be sent on to his PDA enabling him to execute the strategy remotely.
Imagine that a client subsequently contacts the sales office by telephone to respond to the bond offer. The call could be routed to the most relevant sales person and using ITS Myriad technology all relevant client contact information could be displayed including trading position, history, credit limits and so on. Once a transaction is successfully completed, details of the trade could be recorded and submitted to the STP system. By linking the voice recording of the conversation to a unique trade ID number it is possible to easily retrieve and replay the conversation, either in the front or back office, should there be a subsequent query.
Connecting the virtual trading organisation
The benefits of building a virtual trading organisation – that links clients, colleagues and trading partners in a collaborative trading environment – are clearly compelling. But how should firms go about tying together all the disparate parts of their trading organisation? And what are the benefits of converging voice and data traffic over a single network using new communications technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)?
Given the significant cost savings and reduced administration that can potentially be gained by combining their voice and data networks using VoIP, firms are naturally keen to explore how it can help them develop their business. But despite the overwhelming benefits that VoIP brings, it does not yet meet the stringent reliability and functionality requirements of the trading environment.
Furthermore, with today’s increasingly competitive markets driving firms to focus on maximising client service and delivering added value – the most compelling argument against adopting VoIP in the mission critical trading environment is that there is no direct user benefit. The current delays, synchronisation issues and extended connect times associated with VoIP on a shared network are unacceptable. Importantly, VoIP does not yet support the heavy conferencing demands associated with trading floors.
Rather than adopting new technology for technology’s sake, financial institutions should consider a policy of deploying VoIP where it makes sense, for example, for back office functions, satellite offices and remote trading. In these non-critical areas, the cost saving from using an existing data LAN or WAN to deliver voice can outweigh the concerns about voice quality and reliability.
While VoIP cannot meet the stringent requirements of the trading room today, the barriers to deployment will diminish over time as the technology evolves and proves itself. It is therefore essential that firms begin to prepare now. Financial institutions considering the purchase of new trading technology must look to introduce systems that will support voice-data convergence. Critically there also needs to be interoperability between the two worlds so that a firm can implement VoIP in its back office or satellite branches, but retain traditional voice technologies for the trading floor.
Strategy for success
Responding to the digital age, Syntegra is tying together the multiple means by which clients can contact or be contacted by financial organisations. By ensuring consistency across multiple channels as well as interoperability between traditional voice and VoIP networks, Syntegra provides the banks' clients with maximum choice. In addition by enabling integrated client contact Syntegra is helping firms to deliver superior client service, and stay a step ahead of the game in an increasingly competitive financial services environment.
As head of product management within Syntegra’s Trading Systems Business Unit, Tim Furmidge is responsible for overall project strategy, ensuring that Syntegra’s trading systems products evolve to meet the demands of the changing financial markets and the convergence of voice, video and data technologies. Tim has over 15 years experience in trading systems technology, having held positions at Dow Jones, MTI Trading Systems, Digital Equipment Corporation’s DECtrade group and Data Logic’s Financial Services Division.