Sales & Trading: Saving Time & Increasing Efficiency With Symphony
At Symphony Innovate 2017, leaders from Nomura, FIS, Haitong International Securities Company Limited, J.P. Morgan, Money.Net, and T. Rowe Price discussed the fast-paced sales and trading workflow. They shared their experience of deploying Symphony within their respective organizations and how new technology is evolving their business. Read the full transcript below.
Henson Orser, Nomura (Moderator): Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome and thank you for attending our roundtable here...I’m Henson Orser, Global Head of Sr. Relationship Manager of Nomura. I’m happy to be here to host these talented and interesting people. What I’d like to do is start down at the end and have panelists introduce themselves.
Andrew Freyre-Sanders (Haitong): Andrew Freyre-Sanders from Haitong Securities. I’m responsible for equity trading at Haitong.
Harald Bina (FIS): Harald Bina from FIS and I’m running the market in real-time business.
William Quan (J.P. Morgan): Will Quan with J.P. Morgan, working within the corporate investment bank, focusing on the API and bot efforts across investment banking
Morgan Downey (Money.Net): Morgan Downey, CEO of Money.Net. We’re a market information provider. We’re a startup competing with Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters.
Matthew Howell (T. Rowe Price): Matt Howell. I work for T. Rowe Price. I run our global derivative multi-asset trading capability. My relationship with Symphony goes back a number of years. They were part of our initial trading and innovation technology movement a few years ago. We go back a long way.
H. Orser: Great. Let’s get started. We have a few folks from Sales and Trading and a couple of vendors working on apps and add-ons with Symphony. We’ll start with the Sales and Trading side. Matt, what did your desktop look like? What systems were you using before Symphony existed?
M. Howell: The collaboration ecosystem on our desktop has been augmented by Symphony. Everyone has seen a trader’s desktop -- we have 6 monitors up and a plethora of chat tools. Communication was primarily done through other market data platforms and email. For us email is where we’ve seen the most effects of Symphony and the implementation onto our desktop.
A. Freyre-Sanders: Very similar. Full of different applications and sources of information. Combine that with multiple ways of communicating with people. The standard desktop is full of far too many places to log in to get information. Sharing buyer, email, chat, etc. to different groups. It’s best described as very cluttered.
H. Orser: When you think of day one of getting Symphony and test driving it, and thinking about efficiency, and how to use that and stop using other things, how did that play out as far as looking at other stuff and what you started to do?
A. Freyre-Sanders: First, I just started at a new firm 4 months ago. This is the second Symphony deployment I’ve been involved in. We managed to get it deployed in my first couple of weeks of joining. In the early adoption phase it was about bringing conversation to one place. Trading is very technology-focused and the daily interaction of groups from traders, sales, technology, having everyone who communicates in different ways -- WeChat group within Operations, email interaction across different offices, IB, Bloomberg, etc., getting everyone quickly in one place was a huge benefit immediately. Aside from app integration, simply bringing everyone to talk in one place was huge. Joining a new organization and getting to know people was a big benefit.
W. Quan: At the beginning of the year we had about 20,000 users. Now we have about 60,000 users. As we get more users onto the platform it creates a critical mass where we have a lot of large internal chats to migrate across Symphony where people can share ideas around macro trends more easily, and that’s created a cascade effect where that network effect with people using Symphony has grown throughout.
M. Howell: That is something we’ve seen internally too. Some of our use cases are around internal communication moving off other platforms or other medias where they haven't worked. We haven’t been able to stand up permanent chat groups. One of the good examples was the fixed income team looking to communicate with the sales team out on the road. Sales is out meeting clients and needs to be up-to-date with what our macro team is thinking. Historically it sat with email. Email updates were written, but went stale quickly or weren’t updated quick enough. We tried other platforms. Eventually Symphony, especially once we got the mobile piece working, took over the role, and now that is our largest and most easily used chatroom. Once that starts happening, the lightbulb goes off and people get what the platform can do and they start forming their own communities.
H. Orser: This is a panel on Sales & Trading and one of the things we’ve observed at Nomura is that the group chats we had with incumbents were certainly very effective for front office Sales and Trading. The chat we’re now developing throughout the form involve other departments such as ops, legal, onboarding, etc. Have you discovered that as well?
M. Downey: As a vendor, we directly compete on providing the content that goes into the chat -- market data, news, information. Having a much more ubiquitous access to real-time chat has opened up a lot of doors for us, in terms of having access to a much broader set of users. It’s also made workflow efficiency much more powerful. Everything is sped up and people can be more productive.
W. Quan: From a J.P. Morgan perspective, we think client experience first and workflow. I think those two ingredients and thinking across the trade lifecycle is definitely giving us a lot of opportunities in terms of how we do make that sales and trading interaction more seamless. Once you do that it gives us an opportunity to connect with clients the way they want to connect with us. More targeted with research, pre-trade content, all the way through to pricing analytics, to getting a post-trade status. That’s the network effect we’re seeing across the trade life cycle.
A. Freyre-Sanders: Having been in the trading space for a while, we’ve got to be one of the most backward culturally of the financial world. The amount of internal competition between desks is ridiculous. I took Symphony in the last organization to effect a cultural change and bring people together. When you go to a client and represent yourself and you have people competing internally for orders from the same client, for information, and bad communication, a tool is a great enabler. We had to get something central to the organization to change the behavior of people and move away from setting a bad example. I sent an email, that was how you communicated, or they didn’t respond, or I left a voicemail. Moving to this new job I wanted to set a strong foundation as a team. It sounds basic, but after years of “survival of the fittest” and competing your way that happens inside an organization is very destructive. For us we needed some kind of technology that enabled collaboration. Where we’ve then seen success in the new firm is getting everyone on the same page and facilitating open dialogue of sharing information, and making everyone feel included. The biggest measured results is how people work together around clients very quickly. There were destructive behaviors before with many sales and traders I’ve worked with. Huge impact across teams.
H. Orser: We’ve found establishing group chats which are the coverage teams around clients, across all functions, which works far more effective than reply all emails where it is very difficult to filter out what you should or shouldn’t pay attention to. It’s hard to alert someone that you are waiting for a response from them in a group. Coverage teams have a group chat that has made us more efficient and productive. Harold, have you found that adding onto Symphony gives you better access or efficiency?
H. Bina: What we also saw is we now have a chance to have one way to communicate with our clients. We as a vendor have a lot of activity on the support side. Today you see many means of communicating with our users, like email, whatever communication system. Some don’t have any so you can’t share screens. We found Symphony very useful. Now we have one tool to use to communicate with users. It was one big step forward and it is the future that we can connect with every firm out there with Symphony.
M. Downey: Yes, very much so. Also the timeliness. If you have to reach someone before Symphony existed you had to pick up the phone and call their cell, office, and you may get in contact if you’re lucky. They may put their phone on silent. Now you can ping them. And within two seconds if they can and they’re in a meeting they can respond and say “what’s up?” It’s made our interaction in terms of customer service for certain banks -- most people I talk to at J.P. Morgan in real time I talk to on Symphony. It’s sped up in a positive way and doesn’t interrupt the person. They’re sitting there and can continue their meeting without taking a call. IT made interactions a lot more frictionless. There is less hassle in dealing with communication.
H. Orser: That’s a great point as far as who has access to the chat function. We got to the point of eliminating multiple chat lines that not everybody has the same access to and reduced inefficient emails enormously around the reply all function. Let’s talk about bots, APIs, and add-ons. What is the experience for you guys with mobile and signals? How is it making it more productive or cooler in a technology world?
M. Howell: Those of you who saw the presentation know we believe in the power of signals and curating the content that is coming through to the Traders, and onwards up to the Portfolio Managers and Analysts from the desk. So tagging content, autotagging, generation of signals, sharing of signals internally is where this moves to the next level. It’s fine when you start with half a dozen chats, but as they multiply you can’t be keeping up with all of them, and that’s when you use the functionality of the platform to be more efficient. For example, we have a couple signals we use for curating around earning seasons. Our traders have sector coverage so they tend to build hashtags around those sectors. That way while the street might be delivering a sort of commingled content our sector traders can focus on the sectors they care about and make sure that the content they’re delivering back into the analysts and PM’s is relevant to them rather than this melange of everything else.
W. Quan: From a practical use case perspective, the recent innovation is around “How do we provide our bot and API to our users and clients to access all the content within the context of a chat.” That is one piece of functionality we’ve enabled for internal users. One place where they get research, commentary and apps with context so it makes it that much easier for user to access our content. That gives Sales and Trading the opportunity to respond to client inquiries in a rapid manner. That leads onto additional workflows across the trading lifecycle. Extend that into pricing and analytics it has this cascade effect when you have this critical mass of users to really join it from the front to the middle to the back all in one workflow. We’ve seen that dramatic work change in the past 4-5 months. It brought a lot of teams together internally -- our UX, technology partners, clients. Our clients are coming to us as well with open dialogue about how we can improve that client workflow. It’s fostering a lot of positive innovative conversations.
M. Howell: Thinking about implementation within their respective organizations brings a lot of ideas to us and vice versa. Seeing all the models coming up, cool ideas for automation creates a rich environment for collaboration and brings people together in a way we haven’t before.
A. Freyre-Sanders: Having just started, not everything is live, but a few things we are working on that we’ve done before are really simple. Say trades are coming in all day long, and a lot of people want different information. Some simple things we’re working on is taking the people together and going back to that original cluttered desktop where you have your trading platform with your GUI and lots of analytics, your CRM system and other clients, Oracle, Bloomberg. What’s nice about Symphony is you kind of start to integrate each of those data sets and then, you know, the simplest thing now is you can have a chat bot. A new one we’re working on is when a new order pops up and based on permissions and who can know what information, that chatbot can go “This stock flows just came in,” because it’s relevant to the holdings list you’ve got for your client, whereas to the salespeople they can’t know the stock but they do want to get a sense of how much came in, and maybe management wants some sort of information. It’s a simple tool that you integrate from the data set from the trading platform where we refresh periodically and a chatbot can spit out to people the bit of information they want based on what they’re allowed to see. One other thing is that for years you had 6 screens. The capacity to have this many screens is painful. Setting alerts is easy and getting the bit you want quickly is great. In a heavy-algo world we’re integrating back events with their analytics engine, back with news and information about a client into simple clear updates, and presenting that pack to the people. Symphony brings you together in there. It’s almost like we don’t have applications anymore. It’s just data. Google kind of did this years ago. I don’t use my calculator anymore. You type in 5 x 2 lbs into kilos and it analyzes the language and gives you the answer. There used to be all these separate websites, now you’ve got this central thing in an odd world you’ve got a prompt signal which is Symphony connected to data sets. It really simplifies and competing for desktop space goes away. Exciting being somewhat new, and building from scratch. APIs and data is a big theme. It really is just a data set and the analytics around it. Some of the things we are working on are really simple. Once you’ve got the community there, then throwing all the information is much easier.
M. Downey: It’s the simple thing of having a lot of people on one platform. It sounds like a trivial, simple thing to do, but it’s very powerful. The fact that Symphony is an open system and it allows us to interact as if we are one application. Other applications are very siloed. Symphony is built as open architecture. It is a very simple thing like single sign on that you forget when you sign into Apple and sign into Uber once, you don’t have to sign in again. Those little things have an impact, especially in trading. People won’t sign into 8 things every morning. 2 things maybe. People don’t have the time. Having that ubiquitous and open architecture Symphony is based on makes our lives and the customer’s experience more compelling and productive.
H. Orser: You think about automatic most recent research popping up, like a ticker, order update with proper enablement so people aren’t seeing “what they shouldn't be seeing.” Even with mobile there is a compliance aspect with having all this communication in a single place. We all discussed how important that is. We talked about meeting notes and synchronizing Symphony with CRM systems as people talk about coverage models. Has there been progress or efficiencies around that?
W. Quan: From Sales and Trading, if we can make it easier when you are talking to clients to get coverage and interactions, you make it one less step for that salesperson or trader, the overall is a better client experience and a lot more efficient. It’s a lot around APIs and bots. It’s complimentary to the workflow. Symphony is rolled out at J.P. Morgan across investment banks, it is a key channel for interaction and information.
A. Freyre-Sanders: One simple example is the richness of hash tagging and cash tagging where the sales guys have an end of week wrap and send an email that they went to see 5 clients, and 7 stocks and they talk about these questions for 4 analysts against 5 clients, and typically that email went to all analysts and everyone had to read it and reply to the bit that is relevant to them. By the end of the day on Friday it is hundreds of emails long because everyone is searching for what they’ve got. If you have a chat room for everybody and say “I went to see Matt #TRowe talked about $941 and VOD, etc.” and then that one email thing tagged each analyst only has the stocks he cares about or an @ sign for his name. Each sales person only has just got the clients they’re covering and information relevant to them, and same with the trade. So you’ve just got this one email suddenly goes under no one cares about. People reply if they want. That’s hugely powerful. You don’t miss anything. You come back and see what’s relevant to you and reply to that. In the past a lot was dropped or you spent a lot of energy reading everything. You can integrate that back with your CRM to log that data. It saves huge amounts of emails
H. Bina: That’s what you see: the bombarding of email is really a problem today. Today we have used these APIs from Symphony to provide a market map terminal user. Market map is a workstation with global exchange data, news analytics, etc. What you can do in the terminal is use Symphony’s OBO API and pass it onto a chat room or an individual. That really helps you save a lot of time by copying and pasting information, and it’s instant. That’s a big advantage. On the other side if you have two market map users and one says a price to another one, he can send an action link. The other user can click on that link and get a visa display, a full quote, or whatever in the terminal. That is a great new feature we can bring to the community.
H. Orser: We’re going to open up for questions. We talked about transformation and collaboration. It’s amazing to look at where we’ve come from 3 years ago. Do people have ideas or visions of where they see us going in the space and what they’re looking for?
M. Howell: We’ve seen a sizable chunk of my vision when we saw the FactSet Portware demonstration. Both applications that sit on my desktop delivering exception-based alerts in one stream, pulling all other information. Currently anyone at a trading desk who is asked a question goes to 5-6 places to get relevant information. We want to simplify that down to the desktop so it becomes more of a cockpit.
M. Downey: We’ve only seen the beginning with smaller buy-side, smaller hedge funds. More corporations like Boeing’s Treasury Dept. with 8-15 people is where people will see an explosion of use cases because there's revenue transferred there between customers and the sell-side entity. We are just beginning to see that build-out. That will be a huge value-creation of this new communication method.
W. Quan: APIs and bots will continue to accelerate. We’ll have a lot more opportunities around specific assets, whether you’re in credit along more inventory-based, talking about IOIs or axis, or rates and you’re trying to interpret brokerage apps, where there’s a lot more fluid in terms of the macro-transit. It provides opportunities to home in on different opportunities in the workflow. Connect different experiences a lot more closely. I think with embedded chat and structured objects it gives an ability to connect that experience a lot more closely, versus when it’s in different apps. It forms part of the wider ecosystem. It’s not just J.P. Morgan, it’s how we collaborate with other companies and platforms.
H. Bina: I think it will extend not only to the financial services industry, but also broader to global firms. We need to grow the functionality, which we can provide, and make it even more seamless. We can increase productivity, reduce errors by making it fully integrated.
A. Freyre-Sanders: Someone made a comment about technology for good and technology for bad. I think with Symphony, people are willing to collaborate now or that it has come at the right time. In Asia you have these neutral workshops with brokers who normally are thinking of new ways to compete with each other, sharing ideas about what they’ve done internally and talking about how they’ve solved different communication problems with clients, about trying to get language right or trying to smooth out -- there’s a huge amount of inefficiencies due to excessive competition, and using that to differentiate rather than a value add. Aside from technology evolving we have an opportunity here for working together in the right way in the industry. There’s a lot of fingers pointed to how much value we’ve added to the wealth creation society over the last few years. We’re in need of a way to come together for the right reasons and this feels like an opportunity where people are trying to do that and I think that will lead to some interesting seeds of change with people focusing on the good bits of how they work together. Not competing for the wrong reasons.
H. Orser: With that, I’ll open it up to the floor if anyone has any questions.
Q: How difficult have you found it to establish hashtagging across internal communications. Has there been any catalyst for that?
W. Quan: Our senior leaders at the firm -- There has been a massive push from the top down and from the ground. The first time I went to the trader’s desk to explain what a hashtag was he gave me 10 seconds and told me to come back in a year. The other day he gave me a call and said do you know how I build a bot, because bots are live and practical. It’s about of getting over that learning curve. We found that with the adoption they go through that process of understanding the 1:1’s, the basic features, before you can go develop certain bots to automate. They get comfortable with technology, there’s internal chat rooms they can participate in, then the questions that come out evolve. It’s been from the ground up and the top down which has created a more collaborative atmosphere.
M. Howell: We have had 2 conversations on hashtagging -- both internally and externally. We use hash tagging to increase the value of the content you’re putting into channels. If you’re explaining to a sales trader they’ve been talking to an empty room for the last 6 months because you have 200 other rooms, and if you add a hashtag on at the end that makes it infinitely more valuable, there’s a lot better chance that I’m going to discover that information and value the content that you’ve sent to me. Then internally we’ve actually seen hash tagging take off on its own pretty successfully. People understood and grasped the concept of making their workflow a little more efficient, and saw it helps to group content together, and to look for common threads. Hashtagging isn’t something we’ve particularly struggled with. The question came up this morning, and that always comes back around is about standards and trying to make sure that people coalesce around similar hash tags because we don’t want a fragmented hashtag environment.
Q: Buy-side Question: With MiFID II, how do you see Symphony playing a role in consumption of research for buy-side and sell-side?
M. Howell: So I sit at a trading desk so I’m not going to be consuming research. It’s another distribution platform. The solutions we've seen from the sell-side currently sit around the lines of click-back URLs through the platform, which will take you to the website where the content would be. That means the usage and tracking sits in the same channels as they would normally. I’m sure there will be innovation there.
H. Bina: What we’d do is you can send a link on Symphony which would take you to documentation on MiFID II. That would be an integrated workflow.
Q: In the session this morning, the panel discussed that a hurdle to replace some of the current existing solutions is that we don’t have enough on the buy-side. 1) What is your firm doing to monitor your clients and get them onto Symphony? 2) When do you see that happening?
M. Howell: Buy-side, we spend a lot of time investing to get the word out about Symphony and the value we think it can play. From a buy-side perspective we don’t see Symphony as a competitive issue. It’s about building a community on a platform that makes it more valuable. So where we can help our buy-side peers with implementations and integrations with those initial proof of concepts, everyone works with those initial issues like how do we get the platform in and justify the costs, we’ve been through those challenges and we’re keen to help others navigate.
M. Downey: It’s not the sell-side getting the buy-side. It’s a vendor challenge. I used to work at Bloomberg. One of the big common things is that it is commonly adopted for buy-side like hedge funds, corporate treasuries and so on, but none of them buy Bloomberg for the chats. They buy it for the data and the terminal. From Boeing I want to see my bond run in the morning and I want to see it in the end because maybe I have to buy an engine part. I want to see the news of my own stock. Then a chat comes up and single sign on boots it up automatically with my daily platform. I think that the Symphony partnership with firms like myself, Money.Net, we’re a low-cost competitor to Bloomberg. People will boot us up and Symphony will come along with us. We’re the trojan horse to the buy-side. We’ll provide the stuff the buy side needs to see in the morning. CFO of Boeing walks into work, Treasurer of hedge fund needs to see the data, and Symphony boots up there with it. Sell side doesn’t need to compel the buy side. Symphony should partner with entities that boot up in the morning for the buy side. Link up with them and that will get buy-side deployment.
A. Freyre-Sanders: When I first took Symphony, the most important thing was the internal organization. If clients didn’t take it up that’s fine, that’s easy. The biggest thing that I found...has been the need to bring the team together internally and make one organization strong and effective. Some see it purely as a messaging app. That’s just one of the deliverables. The buy side is waiting for this magical tipping point when there’s enough people and clients on there then I’ll take it as a broker, or when there’s enough brokers that make a client to me that’s the smallest thing in my mind when I think about what we’re trying to achieve in our organization. Going back to this kind of mass amount of information data, making our organization stronger, and how we meet clients that I unfortunately don’t sit there and try to push my clients to use it. I have clients wanting some of the rich analytics and updates, and this is a smart way to deliver it. As the community grows from data or other things, people may find more user cases out there, but my honest answer is that this is an evaluation of an internal organization’s need to improve. And that would be why you should take it, as opposed to “Cheaper, secure messaging vs. an IB chat.”
H. Orser: One thing I would add as we looked at Symphony internally -- as a front office Sales & Trading platform in competition with Bloomberg, as a rationalization to migrate from a legacy platform is tough. When we looked at the rationalization around Symphony internally, it’s cutting down on emails, reducing other chat platforms. But then the connectivity we have throughout the corporate functions, and we look at usage statistics, it has gone viral in ops where the reply all email is so inefficient, especially in onboarding clients, checking on trades, breaks, and alerting someone for a response; cutting down the time around issues like that. It’s gone viral in ops and I actually think the pull from the buy-side community could come from ops to ops. We have all these efficiencies with other sell side counterparties around trade breaks, etc. and we need you guys to get on board because reply all email vs. Symphony is so inefficient. I think the pull might come from some of the corporate functions, rather than front office sales and trading.
H. Orser: Thank you all on behalf of our panel, thank you.
This panel was recorded live at the Conrad Hotel in New York City on October 4, 2017.
Moderator: Henson Orser, Global Head of Senior Relationship Management, Nomura
-Harald Bina, COO MarketMap Real-Time, FIS
-Andrew Freyre-Sanders, Managing Director, Haitong International Securities Company Ltd
-William Quan, Executive Director, CIB – Markets Execution, J.P. Morgan
-Morgan Downey, CEO, Money.Net
-Matthew Howell, Global Head of Derivative and Multi-Asset Trading, T. Rowe Price