Gold-i - The company that’s programmed to innovate and isn’t afraid to be different

Tom Higgins, CEO of the multi-award-winning FinTech company, Gold-i talks to e-Forex about its continual focus on pushing boundaries and its mission to help brokerages and banks around the world reap the benefits from its market-leading technology.

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 81 / e-Forex Interview / July 2018

Tom, Gold-i is well-known throughout the industry for its flagship product, the Gold-i MT4 Bridge. However, you are much more than a bridge provider nowadays. Please tell us a little about your current product portfolio.

We have evolved our product portfolio to provide a range of tools which add value to a brokerage and provide brokers with opportunities to either make more money or manage their risk more effectively. Our current product portfolio mainly splits into two areas: multi-asset liquidity management, with our innovative Matrix suite of products; and risk management, with our powerful Visual Edge software.

Our recent release of Matrix Net provides a strong liquidity distribution channel for Liquidity Providers and Prime of Prime brokers, enabling them to leverage our extensive global network and reach clients who use Gold-i’s Matrix, MT4 Bridge and MT5 Gateway products.

On the risk management side, the combination of increased regulatory requirements and the increasing demand for high volatility products such as cryptocurrencies has made it more important than ever for brokers to be able to manage and monitor their risk effectively. 

Brokers need to be able to slice and dice trade data in many ways in order to have an in-depth understanding about the key metrics which drive their trading operations. They need to be able to manage their exposure in real-time, reduce potential losses and easily identify growth opportunities.

Gold-i  - The company that’s programmed to innovate and isn’t afraid to be different

You set up the company in 2008. How “hands-on” are you nowadays in the day to day running of the business and in what ways has your role within it changed over the years as Gold-i has grown from a start-up business to a global market leader?

The business has changed substantially from the day I set up Gold-i in 2008 when I was the only employee. Now we have a team of 35 people and have grown into a multinational company with a formal structure and an exceptionally strong management team. This has drastically changed my role. 

I began the company as a developer and, having evolved the business, I have grown into a strategic leader. These changes have been necessary to enable the company to grow at such a fast rate and still operate effectively. My focus now is on driving continuous innovation and developing our international growth strategy.

Julian Elliott, Chief Commercial Officer is responsible for sales and marketing, account management and finance.
Julian Elliott, Chief Commercial Officer is responsible for sales and marketing, account management and finance.

The retail trading industry has also changed much over the past 10 years. How have you adapted your business model to stay at the forefront of the industry?

Over the last 10 years, the retail FX industry has matured, gone through a series of shocks and a number of the main participants have changed. One of the most significant industry developments is that FX brokers have diversified, offering a wider range of asset classes to clients. Despite some of the shocks over the last decade, the industry remains very robust and has an excellent future. Gold-i has had to continually innovate and broaden our product capabilities to embrace the increased demand for multi-asset trading. We have had to work closely with our key customers to keep ahead of the game and to keep adding value.

Chris James, Chief Technology Officer  is responsible for software development, QA and client support.
Chris James, Chief Technology Officer is responsible for software development, QA and client support.

What core values do you instil throughout the company and how difficult is it to ensure they don’t get diluted as the firm continues to grow?

Our core values are the most important part of Gold-i. They give us our identity and give all employees a common code of practice. Gold-i’s values relate to innovation, going ‘the extra mile’ and having fun. They are ‘Wear the Loud Shirt’ – innovate and don’t be afraid to be different; ‘Action Against the Odds’ – be determined to make it work; and ‘Embrace the Fun’. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you enjoy being at work, feel a valued member of the team and there’s a fun environment and positive atmosphere in the office, you will be far more motivated to succeed.

Gold-i’s values are central to our interview process – if candidates aren’t a strong cultural fit and don’t match our values, then we won’t recruit them. Our values are central to our success – we’ve given them a lot of thought, and as a result of recruiting against these values, we have a very low staff turnover.

As the company grows internationally it is difficult to keep the same culture and values throughout the business and it requires positive effort to make it happen. We do this by rotating staff between offices, by having staff managed social committees and staff managed charity events. 

China is probably the most challenging environment to ensure our values are instilled. The employment style in China is so very different to that of companies in the West. We’ve had to work hard to keep our values strong in our Shanghai office and it has taken much more of a concerted effort.  Whilst some of our values may initially seem alien to some cultures, ‘Action Against the Odds’ is a value that is appreciated worldwide.

Gold-i  - The company that’s programmed to innovate and isn’t afraid to be different

Gold-i was recently named one of the top 100 Most Influential FinTech Companies so innovation is clearly within the DNA of the firm. How do you encourage and sustain it within the business?

Innovation is very difficult to define but it is easy to feel. We keep innovating by maintaining our presence at key industry events and taking part in industry panels. We meet a lot of people at these events and gain vital feedback which influences our product development. In addition, we have a very flat structure and an open management style, which involves input from all members of staff. This ensures that client feedback is clearly communicated across the organisation.  It means that we learn from our clients every day and listen to their needs. We always focus our innovation on areas which will have tangible business benefits for our clients. At the moment, one of the key areas requiring innovation, which is in our radar, is complex liquidity and risk management with derivative cryptocurrency products.

“One of the key areas requiring innovation which is on our radar is complex liquidity and risk management with derivative cryptocurrency products.”
“One of the key areas requiring innovation which is on our radar is complex liquidity and risk management with derivative cryptocurrency products.”

Who are key members of your executive team and what responsibilities do they have?

Two key members of the executive team are Julian Elliott, Chief Commercial Officer, and Chris James, Chief Technology Officer. Julian is responsible for sales and marketing, account management and finance. Chris James is responsible for software development, QA and client support. They have both worked their way up from junior positions in the company to senior leadership positions and have extensive experience. I work very closely with them to ensure we are maximising growth opportunities whilst also delivering the very best products and services in the industry to our clients.

We have evolved our product portfolio to provide a range of tools which add value to a brokerage.
We have evolved our product portfolio to provide a range of tools which add value to a brokerage.

Your sales team has expanded over the last year. How is the team structured?

Our sales structure has developed substantially over the last year and we have grown the team, driven by significant client demand as well as market opportunities. Julian Elliott leads the global sales and marketing team. We have five people in our sales team and have recently added an in-house marketing function too, with the appointment of Maria Lopez.

We are seeing a move from B Book trading to hybrid A/B Book trading as brokers need to conserve their regulatory capital.
We are seeing a move from B Book trading to hybrid A/B Book trading as brokers need to conserve their regulatory capital.

Why is the Gold-i Matrix multi-asset liquidity management platform such a ‘game changer’ product for the company and such an invaluable tool for brokers?

Brokers increasingly look to buy in technology rather than to develop it in-house and this has fuelled the development of Matrix – our sophisticated multi-asset liquidity management platform. We see it as such a game changing product as it took the company into a new era, giving brokers tools which were not previously available to them. Matrix offers multiple routing and aggregation methods to allow brokers to offer the most effective execution model to different client types. It not only allows brokers to aggregate incoming liquidity feeds but also enables them to offer their own liquidity out to clients – an invaluable tool for brokers looking at alternative revenue streams. More and more brokers are becoming truly multi-asset, covering FX, CFD and crypto asset classes – and these asset classes are all fully supported by Matrix.

I’ve always been a firm believer that if there’s a fun environment in the office you will be far more motivated to succeed.
I’ve always been a firm believer that if there’s a fun environment in the office you will be far more motivated to succeed.

How has your development team recently extended the capabilities of Gold-i Matrix with Matrix Net?

The introduction of Matrix Net has enhanced our Matrix product suite by offering Liquidity Providers such as Prime of Prime and non-bank market makers the opportunity to distribute multi-asset liquidity effectively to many additional clients. It has been very well accepted in the market place, and we see Matrix Net as a core product for us going forwards.

Matrix is a game changing product for us
Matrix is a game changing product for us

Gold-i was crowned best Cryptocurrency Solution Provider at the Finance Magnates Awards 2017. What are your own views on the cryptocurrency phenomenon? Is it just a bubble or something more lasting and fundamental? 

The cryptocurrency phenomenon is just starting. Everything dramatic and new has bumps and blips and this is just what we’re seeing with cryptocurrencies. The products that are good for small investors are not the same products that should be used by larger speculators. Hence there is a divergence between cash cryptocurrencies and CFD cryptocurrencies. CFD cryptocurrencies are the correct product for the retail broker market as they greatly simplify execution and remove complications around delivery and mining.

How does the Gold-i Crypto Switch help brokers to capitalise on demand for cryptocurrency trading and how popular is it proving to be?

Crypto Switch is proving to be a very good seller as the cryptocurrency world moves from physical to CFD trading. In fact, it’s one of the fastest selling products we have ever launched – probably because brokers worldwide are keen to seize the opportunities created by adding this exciting new asset class. Crypto Switch works across all platforms and offers brokers access to leading global Crypto Exchanges and Liquidity Providers for both pricing and trading. It gives them full control over pricing and execution and the choice of primary/secondary feeds or full aggregation. 

The Gold-i Product Development Team
The Gold-i Product Development Team

New regulations are starting to make their presence felt in FX across both institutional and retail markets. What impact is this going to have on Gold-i as your clients take steps to meet these obligations?

For the first time in many years, regulators around the world are working together. They have jointly reduced leverage and improved the quality of brokers that operate. By putting in tighter regulation it makes it harder for cowboys to exist, which is good news for the whole industry. We are seeing a move from B Book trading to hybrid A/B Book trading as brokers need to conserve their regulatory capital. The increased regulatory requirements is certainly impacting our business – it has made us focus our product development around more advanced liquidity and risk management products. 

Crypto Switch is proving to be a very good seller as the cryptocurrency world moves from physical to CFD trading.
Crypto Switch is proving to be a very good seller as the cryptocurrency world moves from physical to CFD trading.

Let’s talk about the MT4 platform. Is it likely to disappear altogether and be replaced entirely with MT5? Has demand for MT5 been as robust as everyone expected?

Brokers can be reluctant to move to something new until it has been proved to be effective, and I think that has happened now. Demand for MT5 has been strong this year and yes, it will replace MT4 in its entirety. This will take a few more years but, with key software providers like Gold-i now having a full product range which can be integrated with MT5, there’s a more compelling reason for brokers to migrate. And MT5, with its multi-asset capabilities is a far superior product to MT4.

Gold-i  - The company that’s programmed to innovate and isn’t afraid to be different

Which Gold-i products are proving to be popular for MT5 brokers?

Our four most popular products for MT5 brokers are our MT5 Gateway which enables MT5 brokers to access over 70 multi-asset Liquidity Providers; our MAM Pro for MT5, which is the most advanced and cost-effective post trade allocation tool on the market; our sophisticated liquidity aggregation tool, Matrix; and Visual Edge, our invaluable risk management and business intelligence tool.

Data management and analytics solutions are also in demand amongst FX providers and users.  How can Gold-i help clients to gain greater insights into their trading, business and customer activities?

Brokers hold an enormous amount of valuable data but it is very difficult for them to get knowledge from the data in an easily accessible and useful format. We’ve been working with a number of advanced hybrid A Book /B Brook brokers over the last few years to continually develop our Visual Edge risk management and business intelligence tool. Many brokers who use this tool tell us that it has become such a vital product for them that they would now find it hard to operate so effectively without it.

How important is it for a broker to embed IT into their organisation and treat it as a strategic and not support function of their business?

A modern brokerage consists of IT, marketing and compliance.  IT supports marketing and compliance and is therefore the most important function a brokerage can have. IT is complex and it is extremely difficult for brokers to develop the necessary IT systems in-house. The vast majority of brokers buy flexible solutions from specialist technology companies in order to operate innovatively and profitably.

The Gold-i Sales & Marketing Team - Our values are central to our success and we have a very low staff turnover.
The Gold-i Sales & Marketing Team - Our values are central to our success and we have a very low staff turnover.

Is Asia proving to be a key hub for Gold-i?

Asia is the fastest growing market in the world but it needs to be broken into China and non-China and the two markets need to be addressed separately. The approach we have taken is to have our Chinese headquarters in Shanghai. This is firmly established and we have a rapidly growing client base in China. We are now looking at expanding our  Asian operations outside of China in order to maximise sales opportunities for our innovative next generation liquidity management and risk management roll out in Asia. 

Please give us a sense of your business roadmap over the next year or so and where your priorities are going to lie in terms of product development and exploring new markets.

Our business roadmap extends in three dimensions: adding complex functionality to all the products, extending global reach with new foreign offices; and adding new asset classes such as cryptocurrencies.

Finally, does Gold-i have a “secret sauce” for success or are there other factors that are responsible?

Our secret sauce is the strength of our values and the importance of having these instilled in all of our staff. Innovation is at the heart of everything we do but to be successful we also need to take ‘Action Against the Odds,’  ‘Wear the Loud Shirt’ and ‘Embrace the Fun.’

For further information, visit www.gold-i.com