Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

e-Forex talks with Tom Higgins, CEO of Gold-i, a global market leader in multi-asset class trading systems integration.

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 58 / e-Forex Interview / October, 2014

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

Tom, you have been working in IT Finance since 1985. What do you continue to find so interesting about this industry which helps to keep you enthusiastic about it?

It’s a global market which is fast moving and continually evolving, with new products appearing all the time.

I maintain my enthusiasm because it’s an exciting market which we have disrupted and can continue to make a huge difference in, playing a major role in helping banks and brokers in every continent to trade more profitably and manage their risk more effectively.

You set up Gold-i in 2009. What gap in the retail FX trading market did you spot and want to exploit?

As a former Chief Technology Officer for an online broker in the City, I was frustrated there was no specialist company in retail FX technology to buy software from. Software had to be developed in-house which was expensive and often limited in functionality. I knew that other brokers faced the same issues.

I left ODL in 2008 to set up Gold-i and provide retail brokers with access to the same execution and risk management tools as institutional brokers, at a fraction of the cost. I believed that my institutional background would be a real advantage – and this has certainly proved to be the case. I think it has given me a thorough understanding of how best to serve the market in terms of products, professionalism and service.

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

The Gold-i Gate Bridge, our super low latency liquidity bridge, was the first product which we launched. It was a real game changer in the retail FX industry, opening up opportunities for retail brokers which didn’t exist previously. 

My vision has always been to focus on ongoing innovation and we have subsequently been able to lead the market by launching a broad portfolio of industry first products, developed largely in response to customer requests so we know we are creating products for which there is a genuine need in the market.

What are your main day to day responsibilities within Gold-i?

My role has evolved considerably over the years as Gold-i has grown from a start-up business to a global market leader.

Initially, as the first employee of the company, I focused on software development and networking with my wide range of industry contacts in order to grow a client base. 

Over the next few years I was very ‘hands on’ in every aspect of the business from strategy and planning to marketing, new business and product development.

Gold-i now has over 30 employees, including many talented developers and QA experts. I also have a very strong management team and can delegate many of the operational aspects of the business to them, freeing up my time to focus on strategic goals, communication with employees and longer-term planning. 

I get involved on the operational side with the most important or challenging issues.

One of the reasons why I believe we have been so successful is because we have a clear set of core values which run throughout the organisation – these include always putting the customer first, treating everyone with respect and always acting with integrity. As part of my role, I continue to instil these values across the organisation so that they do not get diluted as we grow.

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

I hold monthly Town Hall meetings with all staff to provide updates about our progress, sales and future plans. To educate them about the market, I also focus on a different topic each month, such as the institutional market versus the retail market or understanding how prime brokers operate. The forums are open discussions where we also talk about new products and share ideas.

Who are Gold-i’s main types of clients and what sort of trading activities are they usually engaged in?

We have over 90 clients, including many of the world’s leading brokers in Europe, USA, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East. Our clients are typically large or medium sized brokers, predominantly in foreign exchange but also offering CFDs, indices and commodities. 

The majority of our clients have tens of thousands of clients themselves and use multiple trading systems. They often need complex integrations and multiple liquidity providers.

Gold-i has grown its business with quality and customer focus as the bedrocks. Please tell us a little about the product portfolio you have built upon those foundations.

You are right – we have grown the business by focusing on innovative, reliable, customisable products backed up by excellent customer service. We are renowned in the industry for our flagship product, the Gold-i Gate Bridge, which is rich in functionality and is widely recognised as the fastest and most reliable MT4 Bridge in the market. However, we are so much more than a bridge provider.  We have developed a wide range of products to address specific client needs. 

These products and services focus on four key areas:

1. Risk Management – Helping brokers to manage risk effectively, limiting risk on the B Book and enabling them to access A & B book positions in real-time.

2. Liquidity – Our Bridge provides access to a choice of over 50 liquidity providers and can also be used as a liquidity aggregation and distribution tool for institutional clients.

3. Integration – As the global market leader in MT4 integration, we can integrate MT4 with back office, CRM, accounting and risk management solutions. We can also integrate MT4 with any third party solution, giving clients the flexibility and choice to select whichever solutions best suit their requirements.

4. Hosting and Server Management – We have a range of flexible options for brokers wanting to outsource all or some of their IT requirements in order to run their MetaTrader environment effectively. 

“I believe that Gold-i has transformed the global retail FX and CFD trading market because we have opened up opportunities for brokers which did not exist previously.”

“I believe that Gold-i has transformed the global retail FX and CFD trading market because we have opened up opportunities for brokers which did not exist previously.”

What types of managed services does Gold-i provide and how are they customised for brokers seeking differing levels of IT support for their MetaTrader environments?

Gold-i offers a range of options from infrastructure selection, hosting and varying levels of 24 hour IT support to suit different client needs. Our Managed Services range from our Bronze Service, for customers who require second level support to their in-house IT function and out of hours cover, though to our Platinum Service for larger brokers who want an unlimited Managed Service with a dedicated out of hours support number.

We have developed our Managed Services options in response to client requests to help them to run their MetaTrader environment more effectively. We can help with varying requirements, whether clients wants MT4 specialists to provide support to their existing IT team or require a fully outsourced service, eliminating the need for any in-house IT resource. By outsourcing all or some aspects of their IT management, brokers can free up a significant amount of time to focus on servicing their clients and growing their business.

You have said in the past that broking technology should be outsourced to expert vendors wherever possible. Why do you maintain that?

Broking technology is getting increasingly complicated all the time. There are more platforms, more asset classes and more people wanting to trade. It’s a 24 hour market – so finding staff who are willing to work out of hours is hard, and finding staff with the right specialised skills is even harder.  It makes perfect sense to outsource to experts – it’s extremely cost effective and can provide a brokerage with a far greater level of expertise than they may be able to have in-house. 

If we agree that technology is not a cost to keep as low as possible but a strategic asset that can improve the profit, efficiency and security of a broker’s operations, what do you see as the greatest challenges facing these firms as they try to manage this mission critical resource as effectively as possible?

The most important thing is embedding IT into the organisation. It’s vital that IT is treated as a strategic function of the business and not treated as a support function. 

My advice would be to involve senior IT staff on your board so that the direction of the company is guided by the benefits that your systems can give you. It’s also important to engage with technology vendors early as there can be a long lead-time in terms of product development.

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

Do you expect to see increased interest from brokers for multi-asset class trading solutions and why is managing the liquidity function in this environment such a difficult technical undertaking that needs to be handled by specialists like yourselves?

There is definitely an increasing trend for multi-asset class trading solutions. We are currently seeing interest in CFDs from most brokers as well as an increasing interest in indices.

In terms of complexities, non-FX asset classes aren’t the same globally and require much more complex integration from the technology vendors to get a consistent experience for the end user.

Outside FX, the technical integrations get more complicated as the products are more variable from one exchange to the other. Using a specialised technology vendor who has embraced multi- asset class trading from the outset will undoubtedly smooth the path.

How much demand have you seen from brokers wanting to implement spread betting into MetaTrader and why has Gold-i become such a popular choice amongst firms looking to do this?

We regularly receive requests for spread betting to be added into MetaTrader because we have such in-depth experience in this area as well as a proven track record. We have adapted the Gold-i Gate Bridge to trade spread bets and cover these trades in a non-spread bet market –  for example, to spread bet CFDs and cover them in normal CFDs.

Many brokers have moved towards A-Book and agency trading as a pure B-Book model may no longer work for them. Do you agree with some commentators that there is now a strong case for brokers adopting much smarter risk management solutions, including perhaps some form of hybrid model and applying the use of more technology?

Absolutely. I think every broker can benefit from a hybrid A-Book B-Book model. To do that they need to have extremely good risk management tools. They need to use tools such as Gold-i Visual Edge to look at the profitability of clients and decide which clients to A-Book and which clients to B-Book. 

We have some very compelling risk management tools in our portfolio including the Gold-i Position Keeper, a bolt-on product which helps brokers to limit their B-Book risk by showing a real-time overview of all exposure, and the Gold-i Margin Caller, which enables brokers to manage their operational and trading risk by setting up email and text message alerts in case of margin calls.

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

Why does Gold-i place such importance on Research & Development, unlike many other technology companies in the FX space?

If a company wants to embrace innovation they continually have to develop new products whilst supporting existing products. The only way to do this is to invest in R&D so that there is a strong product pipeline.

Innovation is the lifeblood of Gold-i’s business and our in-house developers have always been actively encouraged to spend between 10-20% of their time developing new products, which may or may not end up being developed. We have always invested heavily in R&D and will continue to do so in order to remain at the forefront of the market.

What advice would you give brokerages about the key attributes they should look for when choosing their technology partners to find the best provider who can help them to manage their trading operations, differentiate themselves and achieve their business objectives?

Choose a vendor who shares your vision, understands your drives and has a really good set of technology products and services which match your current and future requirements. Make sure the vendor offers strong customer support.

Over the last year your team has been working to build the Gold-i Matrix. Why have you made such a major investment in developing this product and what innovative functionality is it designed to provide?

The Gold-i Matrix allows our clients to enter a new space and generate additional revenue from aggregating and selling liquidity. As a phased release over the next year, we will be adding functionality to give brokers more and more opportunities to enter new markets. 

Like the Gold-i Gate Bridge, the Matrix will be a major game changer and will give Gold-i significant growth, allowing us to enter the institutional space as well as fuel further growth in the retail market.

Gold-i: The FX technology company with innovation in its DNA

Gold-i was recently awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. You must be very proud of that. Looking back over the last few years where do you think Gold-i’s products and services have made the most significant contribution to improving the capabilities of retail FX brokers?

Winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for our ongoing innovation was a fantastic endorsement of our achievements to date. It’s the UK’s highest accolade for business success and it was an amazing opportunity to go to Buckingham Palace, meet the Queen and talk to her about Gold-i.

I believe that Gold-i has transformed the global retail FX and CFD trading market because we have opened up opportunities for brokers which did not exist previously. 

Gold-i has provided brokers with very high performance, very low latency products which are rich in functionality, enabling retail FX brokers to be more profitable and grow faster than they ever would have been able to. We have improved the capabilities of retail brokers already in the FX and CFD market and have also enabled many regulated companies to enter the FX and CFD market for the first time.

Finally, looking ahead, where is Gold-i planning on expanding its current range of products and services and the geographical footprint of its business operations?

Our product roadmap extends until 2016. We will focus heavily on the Matrix over the next year and will also continue to develop products in response to specific customer requirements. 

We envisage that our Hosted and Managed Services will be one of the fastest growing areas of the business as we are seeing huge demand from clients of all sizes requiring help in running their MetaTrader environments.

In terms of geographic footprint, we will continue to grow with carefully selected partners who share our values and ethos. We already have representatives in Turkey and Japan and are aiming for major growth in the Far East and Middle East.