“This is an important phase in our development,” Lawton reports, referring to the launch of the new sell-side QUO trading platform. “Sell-side banks and firms serving wealth management clients can now white-label and distribute the QUO platform as a privately branded online trading platform, and they can do so at speed. The whole process potentially taking less than three months from initiation.”
The sell-side launch of QUO follows the continued success of TradingScreen’s all-asset class execution and order management system, TradeSmart – which enables asset managers and hedge funds to meet market structural challenges.
QUO launched its cloud-based software-as-a-service platform in 2019; it allows investment managers to manage portfolios and the entire life cycle of trades in an integrated and compliant solution. The premise for the initial launch was that as the fund and wealth management sectors converge, firms need a light touch web solution for execution and order management that does not require multiple logins and clunky permissions for any investment strategy requirements. QUO solved this by offering investment managers an efficient and streamlined order management platform across multiple workflow streams.
Helping the wealth management industry
“In the time since we first launched, we have now firmly established QUO as an outstanding lighter-touch OEMS for wealth managers that is easy to deploy and that simplifies investment management processes, from the start of day file uploads to order execution,” Lawton reports. “It is helping many incumbent private banks and other wealth management firms to compete with digitally-transformed leaders in their industry and with new entrants crowding into some of their markets and segments, especially the mass affluent.”
In a world in which digitisation is must and no longer a nice to have, especially after the onset of the pandemic, any bank or wealth management firm wishing to compete and stay ahead in its markets, must be on top of smart onboarding, smart compliance, reduced administrative burdens, and offer its clients a much more user-friendly interface and connectivity.
Digital days ahead
Lawton explains that anyone wanting to compete in the wealth industry needs to meet the needs of the ‘on-demand’ generation and to boost their broader client offering. To accommodate this vision, different features of QUO allow investment managers to adjust seamlessly between different trading strategies, enabling a comprehensive view of their portfolios.
The appeal of the QUO ‘software-as-a-service’, cloud-based solution is that it bypasses the need to log into multiple portals, allowing client firms with various trading systems to view all asset class activity across different parties using just one screen. By doing so, QUO can propel banks and wealth management firms practices into a much more competitive position in their respective markets.
QUO’s offering merges data, all asset class positions, pre-trade checks, P&L, and referential positions with an execution management system. This new rollout significantly enhances the QUO proposition, expanding the firm into the private banking and wealth management divisions of sell-side institutions to help them service their end-clients. “With greater market demand for automation and connectivity, QUO can be utilised by not only our clients but their clients – allowing for greater digitalisation across the board,” Lawton comments.
Ease and speed combined
He explains that the ease and speed are totally in tune with the drive of the sell-side brokerage and banking QUO customers to encourage their end-clients into digital workflow solutions, and that to date, over 100 QUO users have already gone live with the white-labelled system.
Lawton also observes that the recent move into the sell-side is timely as he considers that the wealth management industry is well behind the retail banking industry, especially in Asia. “Electronic trading in private banking and wealth markets remains rather limited,” he reports. “Oddly enough, it has been sweeping the retail market and has dominated the institutional side for some two decades, starting with the introduction of electronic futures exchanges back in the late 1990s. But in the HNW and UHNW wealth space, electronic trading and digitisation of that whole workflow remains very limited to this day.”
Human touch & digital precision
He says that while this segment of private wealth remains high personal touch - quite rightly in his view - that should not actually deter banks and other providers from digitising some parts of the workflows to improve compliance, risk management, improve efficiencies and outcomes and so forth.
Lawton reports that he saw the need from both the buy and sell-sides when we launched in 2019 targeting the buy side, meaning the family offices and external asset managers, smaller hedge funds, and generally getting those types of players familiar with the firm and its platform. “And we have won solid traction thus far, we could diversify our offering and focused on the sell-side.”
Leveraging global relationships
To build out its sell-side customer base amongst the banks and brokers, QUO is leveraging parent TradingScreen’s established connectivity with 350 plus banks and brokers globally, many of which are not yet offering electronic trading to their family offices and external asset manager type clients in the wealth management arena.
Lawton explains that the processes therefore remain highly mechanical and step by step, with orders from the end clients still coming largely from the RM and then on through a rather convoluted series of actions through to the trading desk. “It remains largely a fairly cumbersome flow, whereas QUO can offer these sell-side players a completely automated electronic workflow,” he explains.
Once purchased, these sell-side customers have a ready-made, white-labelled solution for their clients to trade electronically. It is also very easy for the private clients to use, starting with a single sign on and with simple steps right through to execution and full account information. “It is ideal, as it is branded by that bank customer as their own platform,” Lawton enthuses. “Essentially this gives these sell-side clients their own trading platform at the fraction of the price.”
QUO is not taking its eye off the buy side, of which the firm continues to concentrate on. “We have won robust traction in this segment,” Lawton reports. He explains that QUO has seen a lot of demand and interest from amongst these family offices, multifamily offices, external asset managers, smaller hedge funds, and others as they realise that they need to have a more robust trading capability, order management and portfolio management capabilities.
“A family office or an EAM, for example, can buy the QUO product and then can operate seamlessly with the perhaps five or six banks or brokers they normally work through,” he explains. “Moreover, the platform automatically creates a full audit trail of all of the trades and offers a full risk and compliance toolset, so that prior to any of those trades completing, all the requisite checks are done, allowing them direct access to trading in the market. The result is a complete transformation of trading and execution capabilities for wealth management firms, family offices and even for wealthy private clients.”
The holistic approach
Lawton offers further insight into what he sees as QUO’s unique proposition and key advantages. “As we aggregate client positions across all of our customers’ custody agents, so, with a single sign on, the clients can see positions holistically. This means they can look at an account that may have positions, for example with some leading global banks, and can pinpoint portfolio positions precisely.”
Additionally, he explains that once those positions are established, they can be viewed in real-time, and from there, trade directly into the correct broker or custody agent or execution agent, and also rebalance those portfolios seamlessly and in real-time.
On the subject of security and reliability, Lawton adds that as QUO is web-based and cloud-based, there is no installation requirement, all supported by TradingScreen’s own private cloud aligned with eight data centres globally. “It is proven to be very robust and we have never had a security breach. We also maintain all of the back-end infrastructure, which is somewhat unique.”
A key ongoing mission is the digitisation of the onboarding process for both QUO and for the clients themselves. A second priority is the hiring of new talent in Asia, Switzerland and also looking ahead to penetrating the US market. “As TradingScreen is in fact a US company, QUO will later this year leverage their connections to open doors in that market, which remains the largest wealth market globally right now,” Lawton reports.
Lockdown but not locked out
He closes the discussion by remarking that Singapore has been a good place to be during the lockdown, both from a business and personal perspective. On the business front, naturally he hopes to be able to actually meet more clients before too long, and therefore perhaps focus more of their attention on the QUO proposition. And on the personal front, he reports he is enjoying sailing - a 65 foot ‘Passagemaker’, based on a US East Coast fishing boat - more at this time, discovering the southern islands around Singapore from its berth at One15 Marina.
“We never realised the amount of wildlife around us, we now notice more sea snakes in the marina, lots of jellyfish, turtles, sea otters, and all that because they have less human interference with their habitats, perhaps less pollution and so forth,” he reports. “The shipping activity and supply chains and logistics seem to be as active as ever, but the marine life has really come back strongly.”
Lawton currently lives on the boat and explains that although a relatively large vessel, it is also a slow displacement boat, which can voyage huge distances on very little fuel. “I actually built it over eight years from 2003 and finally launched it in 2011,” he reports, “and believe it or not I filled it up with fuel in 2011, and I've still not refuelled it, so a decade or so later I am still on same tank of diesel! It only has one engine, and the tanks are an impressive 8000 litres!”