By Clayton Meadows, Head of Operations, REDI Global Technologies
As trading platforms have evolved over the years, their features have grown in number and sophistication. With every technology advancement, regulatory change and market structure shift, new capabilities have emerged for traders to master. At the same time as this explosion in functionality, true integration with the rest of the trading stack has become a reality as well, allowing for a seamless flow of order information straight through the entire investment process.
While these new tools and technologies have resulted in clear efficiency benefits, they often come at a price: service. Many software providers treat support as an afterthought, resulting in high employee turnover and under-skilled staffers. This leaves users with myriad frustrations: increased onboarding times, inexperienced support desks and the inability to successfully tackle unique client issues, which not only impacts productivity, but adds business risk as well.
Many vendor reviews, however, focus almost exclusively on capabilities, technology and cost. Service and support is all too often an afterthought: that is, until it’s needed, when it becomes an extremely important component of the overall client/vendor relationship. In order to save some of the potential headaches that we’ve seen, we offer the following questions to consider when vetting a provider:
Initial onboard and setup
- What is the average length of time that a vendor’s onboard takes? While the onboarding process requires the client to be an active participant with regards to document completion and such, straightforward onboards should be able to be completed in only a week or two and often as little as a few days.
- How large is the client implementation team, and what is the average amount of experience possessed by the team, both in the industry and with the particular vendor? Account setup can be extremely complicated depending on the quality of the vendor’s internal tools platform, which often receives far less development resources than the client-facing system. As well, the team must be proficient with the entitlements and clearing integrations that are required. Having a knowledgeable group driving user setup can not only make the process run much more smoothly, but also enable you to be back up and trading should an unforeseen issue arise once live.
- Similarly, how many FIX engineers does the vendor have, and what is the team’s average experience and tenure? Are the engineers globally dispersed, allowing for 24×6 coverage, or are they all in a single location? In addition, does the vendor maintain its own FIX network, or leverage a third-party? While third-party networks can provide efficiencies, they also create an additional layer of dependencies (read: extra time) when onboarding or troubleshooting.
Ongoing service and support
- How is training handled? Is it solely via documentation, or is on-site support provided as well? And if so, at what cost? User guide documentation is obviously important, but live training is valued by many users as well.
- Where is the vendor’s support staff geographically located, and what is their availability? Are they knowledgeable on not only the system, but overall market structure and the way the various products trade as well? Understanding how an instrument trades is imperative if an issue arises, particularly in derivatives markets where risk is exacerbated by the notional values of trades that can be in the tens of millions of dollars.
- Should you desire it, is the vendor available to shadow your trading and provide proactive suggestions to improve trader workflows? A quality service and support organisation should be able to provide value at all times, not just during an issue.
- How flexible is the system? Can the GUI be customised to meet your workflow needs or emulate a look/feel that you’re accustomed to? If it can, is it provided as part of the relationship, or is there an extra consulting fee involved?
- Are development services available to provide bespoke solutions like custom reports or API-/DDE-based integrations? If so, what is the cost? Having access to custom development resources can help improve efficiencies and also enable vendor’s platform to match your needs, rather than vice versa.
At the end of the day, good service won’t salvage a bad product, but a poorly run, inexperienced service organisation can definitely outweigh the benefits that even a quality platform provides. Hopefully with a little bit of extra due diligence, you’ll never have to find out for yourself.
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