By Bhavin Patel
July 2020, London
Prior to Tritex, my professional experience has been within Financial markets and most recently, running a bond trading business for a large European bank. Throughout this time, I have had first-hand experience of the evolution financial markets trading, from doing deals “manually”, i.e. over the phone, to a digital ecosystem where most trades were done over electronic trading platforms. This process of digitisation has had profound benefits for both the industry and the market participants. In a nutshell, my previous role was to buy and sell bonds with institutional investors around the world and the role of a roaming team is to buy and sell wholesale capacity with Operators around the world. In this blog, I will share some of my thoughts about which aspect of this journey can be similarly applied to the wholesale roaming market and how these benefits can be realised for Operators.
The Tritex platform takes an alternative view to way wholesale negotiations are carried out today with the vision that the Roaming Industry will benefit in the same way through the evolution of a digital ecosystem to manage these negotiations.
The constant pressure of competition forces prices down and inspires improvements in every component of the trade cycle, from automated trading applications to matching engines to clearing services.
The application of computing technology enhances aspects of the trading process and the trading relationship among Operators. The effect is not merely “to build a better telephone”, but potentially to create a new way of trading which affords cost savings, increased efficiency and improved risk management capabilities.
Some of the benefits that Electronic Trading can bring to Operators:
Ease of dealing
With a few clicks counterparty Operators can be engaged, deals can be negotiated and agreed over an Electronic Trading platform. Financial Markets Trading went from being predominantly based on doing trades with brokers and dealers over the phone to Electronic Trading platforms which significantly reduced the time spent on users finding and doing the best deals.
An Electronic Trading platform provides Operators with a digital marketplace to get deals done, which they can manage remotely whilst having business support systems to analyse and manage the negotiations.
Particularly during this time, managing negotiations remotely is becoming a necessity and an Electronic Trading platform can enable business continuity.
Increase market share
For more aggressive Operators looking to gain market share, Electronic Trading platforms gives the ability to advertise more aggressive prices to market participants of their choosing. This gives the ability to increase their market shares of inbound roaming revenues potentially having transformational revenue enhancements to the business.
Electronic Trading is more cost-efficient, making it possible for trades to be passed straight through directly to back office support systems, for example DCH/FCHs by linking the execution and confirmation of trades with clearing and settlement procedures. This is known as straight through-processing, or STP, which does away with intermediate manual intervention and so has the potential not only to reduce the overhead costs for agreement handling, but also to minimise the risk of errors in trade reporting and record keeping and to make risk management more effective.
Therefore, the scope for straight-through processing means that Electronic Trading offers a significant advantage where standard settlement and clearing procedures can be implemented and has the potential to reduce many of the variable cost components of processing agreements.
The standardisation of the process is something Tritex is actively working on with Clearing Houses and Operators
Improved Operational efficiency
The automation of the trading process has important consequences for operational efficiency. Operational efficiency will also improve because of the automation and integration of other trade related processes. Currently, Roaming Mangers are involved in the pricing of all individual transactions, however with the evolution of an Electronic Trading platform pricing engines could be developed for smaller transactions, freeing up time for Roaming Managers to focus on the larger deals more valuable deals.
In Financial markets, electronic trading systems automate the collection of pre-trade and post-trade information, e.g. obtaining prices/quotes and execution information. By greatly increasing the amount and timeliness of information, Electronic Trading platforms provide greater efficiency and reduce search costs, i.e. the costs of searching for the best price.
Because this information can now be moved electronically, trading platforms offer some substantial potential benefits, in terms of greater efficiency in the trading process and reduced costs. However, reaping the benefits is not entirely straightforward and requires investment in the technological links to trading venues and in the systems to automate the processing of trades.
This is a new area for the Wholesale Roaming market and it is possible that in our particular use case full disclosure of trading information does not always lead to better market functioning and keeping degrees of anonymity is still likely to have positive effects on the way the market functions – this is still to be seen.
However, Electronic Trading transparency does not only relate to price discovery, but, on a more micro level, provide the owner with a full log of the transaction behaviour of the users and it is possible to record the search and trading activity of customers as well as the reactions of dealers (in terms of price quality and speed and in terms of “hits and misses”, ie whether a quote request finally results in a trade). From a business perspective, better access to trade-related information is generally regarded as a valuable asset.
Electronic systems can be scaled up to handle more trades simply by increasing the capacity of the computer network. The current environment is not set up to be expanded to account for more deals. In order to cater for the increasing number of deals as a result of new technologies (M-IoT, NB-IoT, 5G Network slices) there will need to be more conferences or more time at conferences to allow for more face-to-face negotiations and more negotiators to accommodate these new deals, a much more costly process. Thus, Electronic Trading systems can potentially exploit economies of scale and reduce operational costs to a far greater extent.
Electronic Trading can also facilitate scalability by allowing Operators to potentially unbundle their services and concentrate on certain niches or expand into new niches without significant investment
Barriers to access
Electronic Trading gives users direct access to all other participants on the platform. Rather than waiting to book a face-to-face meeting or waiting for email replies, through an electronic platform, users can digitally get the deals done on a virtual marketplace.
Electronic trading platforms can automate processes for risk management activities and regulatory reporting requirements across the trade lifecycle (real time or near real time reporting opportunities). Electronification enables efficient development of electronic audit trails. They can also improve processes for overall data management.
For Compliance or Finance departments greater visibility of Trading and the overall book allows for better control and understanding of the Trading activity and to calculate risk exposure or to set triggers for unusual or out of bounds activity whether these breach Government or Regulator imposed rules or internal policy. Overall and deal by deal VaR (Value at Risk) becomes more manageable.
For trading purposes, the common physical location of users is unnecessary as long as they can connect to the system. Electronic trading is location neutral, allowing continuous multilateral interaction among participants; participants need only to connect to the system from any location, particularly enabling cross border transactions.
Electronic Trading is multilateral.
Currently, each Operator manages their own network of counterparties, which is limited as the network can only be expanded by hiring more people. These bilateral networks are at risk if a Roaming Manger leaves, which also makes it harder to share information across internal teams and to downstream systems.
Moving to a digital ecosystem, we create a central platform that all Operators can connect to. Immediately moving from bilateral connections to a multilateral platform, which means multiple negotiations can be managed in parallel.
Wider connection gives better opportunities for Operators to get the best deals, maximising inbound revenue and optimising outbound costs. It becomes much easier to negotiate and close contracts, meaning operators can engage in more negotiations and have more flexibility on deal terms.
Financial markets have seen the number and types of instruments traded on Electronic platforms expand and grow into new areas allowing for the revenue or risk to be traded in different ways to cater for the level of exposure counterparties are willing to be exposed to or want to bare. The same may well be true of the wholesale roaming access market in which new instruments such as Options could be appropriately applied to lay off long term risk for IoT products in market but which are exposed to risk due to the shorter term wholesale market pricing not extended out to cover the life of the commercial deal in place for the IoT device/service in market. On the converse side this is also a new revenue opportunity not yet addressed by the market.
An electronic trading platform creates an environment that makes trading and execution scalable; transparent; operationally efficient; better compliance and risk management; cost efficient; all with higher volume deal throughput. With additional opportunity for new instruments to be traded resulting in new revenue streams and better cost and risk management.