Driving the evolution of FlexOMS in EMEA

March 5, 2024 | By: Iain Smith

Q&A with Marc Cousins, Head of Product Management, EMEA

For over a decade, FlexTrade’s sell-side solutions have enjoyed success in the US market and amongst large global broker-dealers with a presence in EMEA and APAC. Now, the focus has turned to expanding the FlexOMS footprint amongst regional broker-dealers in the EMEA market. Local sales and client service efforts have been ramped up, and most recently, Marc Cousins joined as Head of Product Management for FlexOMS in the EMEA team. Marc brings over 20 years of experience from Fidessa, with a recent focus on program trading and complex order handling. We caught up with Marc before the FIX EMEA Conference in March 2024.

What is your role at FlexTrade?

I joined FlexTrade in September 2023 as the lead product manager for the Sell-Side OMS in EMEA. This newly created multi-faceted role brings together clients, prospects, and other stakeholders who operate in the FlexOMS ecosystem to drive the requirements within our global OMS suite.

While it’s a new role for the region, FlexTrade’s sell-side presence isn’t new in EMEA; we have a decade-plus established and mature offering, including global clients with a European presence whom we support and service from our London office. It is, however, the first time we have specifically looked to drive product and sales from the region.

In addition to my broader product responsibilities, I also support and advise sales and marketing strategy and work closely with Client Services.

What are the major challenges sell-side trading desks face in 2024?

Given the ongoing complex operational landscape and external environment sell-side firms face, it’s unsurprising that we are seeing a continuation of themes as we move forward in 2024. Firms still face challenges in rising costs, and tech-savvy clients want clarity on every detail of their trades. To maintain margins, there is also downward pressure on their budgets, which flows through all ecosystem layers to vendors and service providers. More broadly, the last few years have seen a general contraction in the market size, so growing market share has been a priority.

Consequently, the challenge for trading desks is to deliver stand-out services on tighter margins to sustain and grow their business. The pressure to do so and to be at the top of their game daily has never been greater; it only takes one failed basket to drive a customer to another broker.

With tightened budgets naturally comes the theme of “get more done with less”. This requires a delicate balance of insulating against cost while avoiding putting your business in a proverbial operational straitjacket. You need to be cost-conscious but still can deliver innovation and maintain agility to react to evolving demands—which is why your technology partner is now such a crucial choice and business enabler.

Deploying a multifaceted OMS platform that can scale as your business requirements or strategy become more diverse is on firms’ agendas. For instance, we hear from our clients that, increasingly, they are looking to reduce expenditures by trading multiple assets from a single blotter. Whether they are trading fixed income, futures, or equities, they want to be able to do this with their current headcount and within their existing platforms.

How does FlexOMS help to solve sell-side challenges, and what are the key areas on the roadmap over the next 18 months?

Broadly, the strategy has two parts that feed into the roadmap: the functional evolutions, which enhance the business support, and the operational enhancements, which smooth the development and delivery cycle.

At a headline level, our functional roadmap for 2024 includes enhancements to strategic business areas such as Program Trading, Exchange Traded Derivatives, and Market Making. We’re also driving the strategy in EMEA to include broadening European market access, support for existing and upcoming European regulation, and functionality around Retail Service Provision.

Of course, the roadmap is a living thing that we monitor and evolve to ensure alignment with the needs of our customers and prospects. For example, an initiative driven by common client demand in 2024 sees the integration of TCA reports with the OMS. Introducing it into the roadmap formally and making it available for deployment will benefit the global customer base.

Secondly, our operational roadmap is focused on improving the delivery and deployment of our products, which, in turn, helps sell-side firms quickly gain value from their technology investment. For example, automated testing is an area of significant interest. It makes sense to move towards continuous software testing, improving quality, and speeding the overall delivery cycle from requirement inception to deployment into production without reducing quality.

Additionally, moving away from monolithic upgrades, which are inherently risky, towards smaller, more regular increments is a focus. It enables rapid delivery of functionality that makes a difference to clients and, coupled with continuous automated testing, ensures timely, risk-free delivery to customers.

What has surprised you most about joining FlexTrade’s Sell-Side OMS team?

I wouldn’t necessarily say I have been surprised from a technology perspective, as I have been aware of FlexTrade’s progress in the sell-side OMS space for some time. Perhaps I hadn’t anticipated the close working relationship between the buy-and-sell-side teams within FlexTrade. It allows both sides of the business to swap and exchange ideas, enabling us to take a more consultative approach with our clients. For example, if we hear from our buy-side clients that they want to do something, it can be translated into our discussions with the sell-side trading teams. Further, functionality or integrations that we develop can be extended or adapted across products which is hugely valuable.

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