John Quayle
John Quayle

NatWest Markets: Agile Markets platform

When e-Forex interviewed John Quayle, Head of FX Algo Execution, NatWest Markets, to learn about the scope and scale of its Agile Markets platform, it quickly became clear that this state-of-the-art, single dealer offering addressed the complete waterfront of NatWest Markets’ customers’ FX needs from pre- to post-trade. Its range of functionality, its flexibility and future-proofed advanced technology marks it out as a likely significant feature in the e-FX landscape for some time to come. This is what we learned.

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 79 / Platform Profile / December, 2017

What sort and range of customers does NatWest Markets provide FX dealing services for?

JQ We have a strong, technologically advanced electronic offering, joined up across products to serve our customers effectively – from small and mid-sized corporates to large companies and global financial institutions. 

Our single dealer digital platform, NWM Agile Markets™, sits within this offering and is specifically tailored for customers and their bespoke requirements. Our market-leading derivatives expertise and highly regarded prime brokerage business supplement this to provide our customers with a holistic FX proposition.

You are part of the team that has been building Agile Markets, the bank’s next generation low latency electronic trading platform. What key features and functionality does it provide? 

JQ Agile Markets is the home for all NatWest Markets FX services across cash execution, strategy, prime brokerage, options, algos and analytics. Through a single login, customers can access all of the NatWest Markets FX products and services that they need.

We’ve built Agile Markets in the language of the web (HTML5) so customers can access the platform from any modern Internet browser, or open it through an easy-to-use desktop application.  No special downloads are needed for customers to easily access Agile Markets.

Customers can use Agile Markets to:

•  Execute FX products in real time, with competitive pricing. Trade on streaming spot, outright and NDF FX prices
•  RFQ for swaps, and multi-quote for spot and outrights
•  Price and execute vanilla and exotic options
•  Place orders and use automation tools (bulk order placement)
•  View the latest desk strategy and sales commentary articles
•  Analyse market conditions pre- and post-trade
•  Execute using NatWest Markets’ innovative algo strategies and monitor in real time
•  Use the automated gamma hedging strategies for managing options risk
•  View all of their activity in the trade blotter
•  Manage their trades using post-execution apps and confirm post-trade

What factors and considerations were key from the start in shaping the concept and design of the new platform? 

JQ There are many FX trading platforms in the market. Our aim was not to be a cookie cutter version of everybody else, but to provide the best of what NatWest Markets offers in FX to our customers on Agile Markets, which has been designed as a simple and reliable platform to use.

Throughout the design and implementation process, we spoke to our customers about what new functions and services they wanted on Agile Markets, and trialled new apps and features in their early stages with a set of pilot customers. 

Not only have we drawn from best practice in the FX technology and platform space, but we have also looked beyond FX to other industries that produce similar products: for example – data heavy, fast workflow apps.

We have built a highly regarded analytics toolkit  

What do you see as the real benefits that customers get in using a platform like Agile Markets and what is unique about your product offering? 

JQ Among the many benefits for customers using Agile Markets, one of the most important is flexibility.

Firstly, we are able to tailor products to our customers’ needs far more closely than is possible on a third party platform. This enhances the products that we can offer and the granularity of their pricing. 

Secondly, the particular architecture used for Agile Market makes it easy to add a new app at any time, effectively making the platform scalable. An interesting example of a unique app is the ‘gamma hedger’, which enables the risk management of an FX options portfolio to be automated. The gamma hedger frees up traders’ time and allows for the capture of opportunities that a trader may otherwise miss.

We have also built a highly regarded analytics toolkit that allows for a given strategy, or other measures of interest, to be simultaneously compared across multiple currency pairs. This significantly speeds up the process of searching for market opportunities for our customers.

Many readers of e-Forex are interested in transaction cost analysis (TCA) and achieving best execution. What toolsets does Agile Markets provide that can assist them? 

JQ Indeed, these topics are very pertinent to our customer base. We have a variety of tools on Agile Markets to help users to be both well-informed pre-trade, and to investigate and measure performance post-trade. We have a strong belief in bringing market transparency to our customers and TCA is one way to do that.

Prior to a customer placing an order or trading on the platform, there are several tools they can use to aid decision-making.  Our analytics toolkits can be used to analyse current spot liquidity conditions, or a particular options strategy. This has been developed over a number of years.   

Post-trade, customers are able to analyse their transactions using the Agile Markets TCA tool. This incorporates various comparison benchmarks, including live independent mid-market rate data from  New Change FX, which enables customers to evaluate the quality of their executions.   

Many firms nowadays are worried about both the dependability and security of their electronic trading platforms. What steps have you taken to ensure that Agile Markets is both very secure and reliable? 

JQ Agile Markets has been designed to be resilient and to keep the customer and their business safe and secure. Our dealing applications are covered by a double layer of authentication. The platform login includes both a password and a second form of authentication. Customers have the choice of using a hard token, mobile phone or desk phone to receive a code, which they enter at login, as well as their password. We have given customers the choice between daily or 30-day, two-factor authentication (2FA) – this means that they can choose the appropriate login security for their business.  

In what ways do you think Agile Markets will strengthen and enrich the traditional relationships between the bank and your customers? 

JQ Increasingly, customers across the globe are choosing to trade on electronic venues, as business models change and evolve with technology. 

We envisage that the majority of trading will be executed over electronic venues in the coming years. Agile Markets not only gives customers the tools to execute efficiently; it also provides unique added-value features and analysis to help customers with their trading decisions and to assist them with navigating the ever-changing liquidity environment. 

We offer a comprehensive, professional suite of market-leading services as well as the traditional FX product set, providing value to our customers and helping to deepen our relationships with them.

Customers can use our automated gamma hedging strategies for managing options risk
Customers can use our automated gamma hedging strategies for managing options risk

In what ways have you tried to future-proof the platform to ensure it remains state of the art for as long as possible? 

JQ The FX market is a dynamic one, so we have designed Agile Markets to evolve with it. We’ve done this by building the front end of the platform with its own application programming interfaces (APIs) that can link securely into third-party apps or our own FX back-end technology stack. It means that when we add new apps, products or features, it can be done quickly and cost-effectively for the benefit of our customers. APIs make Agile Markets highly scalable and dynamic.

Thank you John. We look forward to revisiting Agile Markets again in due course, to learn more about Agile’s new apps, products, features and capabilities as they evolve. Thank you for speaking to us.