Citi Velocity ups the ante

Launched almost a decade ago, Citi Velocity has continued to evolve rapidly since its signature v2.0 release in 2012, and has most recently been overhauled to provide a best-of-breed platform, built for and designed by traders in today’s regulatory environment. e-Forex talks to David O’Byrne, Director and FX Global Product Head of Citi Velocity, about the features that will future-proof Citi Velocity and ensure it is not only the fastest and slickest single-dealer platform, but also the safest.

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 76 / Platform Profile / June, 2017

David, what prompted the latest revamp of Citi Velocity? 

Our clients. We continue to aggressively evolve the product in anticipation of the future needs of our clients and a prime example of this is the Citi Velocity Command Centre. The regulatory environment in the aftermath of the financial crisis catalysed a compliance culture evolution shifting from predominantly remedial and rules-based into proactive and principles-based. As the activities of our clients face increasing scrutiny by regulators, there is a growing need to not only detect issues of concern before they become problematic, but do so across a wider range of activities and geographies. In direct response, Citi undertook development of a new user interface to provide administrators at our clients with visibility of and control over their traders’ access rights and activity on Citi Velocity. Our focus throughout has been on empowering our clients by giving them the information and tools they need to effectively manage risk.

We have also taken strides to position our long term strategy around our internal franchise, aiming to make Citi Velocity not just the focal point for clients but for sales and trading as well. We’ve achieved this with the development of a new Sales Ecosystem, designed to integrate into the Sales RFQ, order management and workflow processes. An incredibly agile client entity picker tailors a salesperson’s view for each incoming request; Price Tiles, Order and Trade Blotters, Workflow Tools and a Sales Dashboard with key client metrics re-configure in a fraction of a second to show information pertinent to the client they are about to quote.

What added functionality does the Command Centre bring?

Command Centre empowers authorised client administrators with control over account mappings; NOP limits; and individual trader configuration from overall desktop and mobile access rights to product-level entitlements to back-up trader designation, and allows them to reduce access to any of these for all or select traders with immediate effect.  Further, the administrator can see real-time who is currently logged in to Citi Velocity, whether on desktop or mobile, or if not currently logged in, the last log in date, time and IP address. Overarching or granular transaction limits can be set for traders, varying by device, instrument and currency pair. Allowed hours of access can be pre-defined. The list of controls is vast, yet the same focus on design and usability that has gone into the trading interface has gone into Command Centre, ensuring the wealth of information on display is easily digestible with flexibility to drill-down or up to the required level of detail. Ad-hoc changes can be made with a minimal number of clicks, while audit trail and bespoke transaction reports can be scheduled to run automatically on a periodic basis and real-time email and SMS notifications can be set for activities of interest to reduce the time and effort required for the administrator to put in place their compliance framework, and optimise the overall user-experience.

Command Centre
Command Centre

How have you used the overhaul of Citi Velocity to improve the Transaction Cost Analysis services offered?

Meeting best execution requirements is a critical component of the investor protection standards under MIFID and clients expect increased transparency before, during and after they execute. While Citi has always boasted an excellent TCA toolkit we had yet to really electronify the offering outside of our post-trade client reporting for best execution. This most recent overhaul has seen the development of a fully-fledged pre-and post-trade TCA solution, based not only on Citi’s internal analysis but also connected to external 3rd Party vendors for independent benchmarking. The TCA Dashboard provides insight into real-time and historical spread and liquidity conditions by currency pair and time of day. Clients can evaluate the performance of Citi’s suite of Intelligent Orders across a broad range of criteria including execution completion time and an indication of the degree of average slippage to mid they should expect for varying notional sizes across each time zone. These tools help in the pre-trade Algo selection process showing for example, the benefits of using an internalisation strategy during periods of low or limited market liquidity vs DMA. Post-trade specific execution reports and live charts are available to enhance levels of transparency and visibility, alongside independent post-trade analysis that will be made available. We also provide clients with insight into their real-time execution footprint as they execute – where a client running their execution through Citi can see their fills plot graphically in real time against a market neutral price with passive fills clearly distinguished from when an Algo had to aggress.

How have you addressed the growing move towards mobile trading?

We continue to capitalise upon a first mover advantage in the mobile space, in addition to investing in the technology early on we took a unique approach to mobile trading; rather than focusing initially on order management we prioritised development of executable streaming prices for FX Cash products. In part this decision defined our approach to develop native iOS and Android applications rather than using HTML5 - allowing us to make the most of the user experience features on each device: delivering richer functionality and aesthetics coupled with the fluid animation and fast graphics critical to support click and deal. And it’s a decision that has paid dividends - we’ve seen more usage and execution done on streaming prices, than on orders. Those early innovations have now been protected with design Patents on several aspects of the execution and order submission screens. 
Over the last year as we continue to define our approach to mobile trading there are two sets of distinct requirements which we look to cater for; those of the Traders and those of the Control / Compliance / Risk functions at our clients. The traders want quick access to markets, execution, order management, and notifications on the go – which we had catered to from the outset. It was often the case however that our clients’ Control / Compliance / Risk functions had not approved mobile as an execution venue and we had to work with them to deliver device controls in multiple forms: two-factor authentication, device nomination, trade notification, tenor and product deal limits all specific to mobile. We have catered to all of these through the Citi Velocity Command Centre.

Analytics
Analytics

In what ways have you enhanced the cross-asset capabilities on Citi Velocity?

There have been a myriad of improvements in our client offering across FX Options; G10 Rates; Futures, Equities and Commodities. In the Rates space we’ve developed a new Swap Execution Facility (SEF) Aggregator, enabling clients to execute across various SEFs from the same platform; In equities, clients are now able to allocate orders to accounts using booking types Blind and Step-in; and we’ve also broadened the Futures product offering with Options on Futures, Calendar Spreads, and Futures Outrights across a broad set of exchanges. New benchmark algorithms and synthetic order types with Ticks, Time Sliced and Pegger to Timed Orders are supported. We’ve made execution management enhancements: fill summaries, average prices, levels, warnings and confirmations coupled with a profit & loss screen showing realized vs. unrealized, net long & short & gross traded. But most notably has been the extension of our Futures offering into the Mobile execution space with Limit Order submission, a Market Monitor and Order Blotter. 

What about FX execution, has this been enhanced on the platform?

We continue to build out our exotic FX Options offering with TARNs, Pivot TARNs, Window barriers, Precious metal options and Resurrecting Accumulators with real time analytics and charting for implied and realised vol and correlation. Tradable Options Axes are now available for multi-leg and exotic options and a wholly new value-add product, Trade Ideas, has been introduced which allows Citi salespeople to attach a tradable FX Options Cube, pre-populated with a trade idea, to a CitiFX Wire publication so that clients can read an article and view/place suggested trades off the back of it. New trade ideas are highlighted through in-app notification and via the Widget counter. We have launched this feature with FX Options but it is an extremely powerful tool, extendible to our whole cross-asset offering. In the FX Intelligent Orders space we’ve added a Peg strategy that acquires inventory while avoiding crossing spreads, and the ability for clients to ‘Fill Now’ while working an Algo order, which enables users to fill a portion of an algo at a risk price, immediately, as well as an Order Monitor, a highly compact, filterable and searchable order summary with order management. 

“There have been a myriad of improvements in our client offering”
“There have been a myriad of improvements in our client offering”

What architectural improvements have been added?

Investment in our architecture remains a key priority for us as we look to optimise performance, reduce latency and achieve higher throughput across the stack. Over the last year we’ve achieved a 50% improvement in trade capture and FX Options system capacity as well as delivering price updates 50 milliseconds faster to clients as we reduce hops, upgrade our network bandwidth and re-architect flow.

We’ve worked to promote stability and resiliency in a number of ways: first with an Active/Active setup for trade processing and pricing; second, deployment across Live/Live Datacentres with active event monitoring allows users of Citi Velocity to move seamlessly between datacentres in the event of disruption, facilitating near zero downtime for our clients. Further, we have the instrumentation in place to capture health/performance metrics in real-time which we use not only to fine tune the application but to proactively investigate and address issues in the stack before they have the potential impact clients. 

“Demand for our new functionality has been tremendous across all client segments.“
“Demand for our new functionality has been tremendous across all client segments.“

How have clients responded to the added functionality?

The uptake has been unprecedented. Demand for the new functionality and the Citi Velocity Command Centre and TCA Toolkit in particular has been tremendous across all client segments. Integration with our clients is a partnership – understanding how each firm manages their user base, and the information and controls of importance to them. To date, over 60 of our largest platinum accounts are live, with another 100 in various stages of onboarding. We envision this functionality becoming the requisite for all clients who continue to avail of single-dealer platforms now or in the future.