Jon please can you remind our readers about what Devexperts does and tell us a little about how the company’s products and services have evolved over the past 20 years?
Devexperts is a very product oriented company providing trading platforms for brokers of all kind. We provide a family of trading platforms which are DXtrade CFD, DXtrade Crypto, and DXtrade XT (for listed securities brokers). Although we focus on brokers, we serve the whole financial industry. This runs the gamut from institutional trading to retail, and everything in between, including wealth management firms, exchanges, investment funds, and insurance companies.
We started out developing custom trading platforms, this naturally evolved into other areas of the financial markets such as dark pools, market data provision, and exchange software. Our approach has always been to be open to how finance is evolving and to challenge ourselves to break into new markets such as crypto or AI with our smart assistant Devexa serving both brokers and traders. We’ve also recently even been involved in some highly interesting and innovative work in the non-fungible token space – we are developing an NFT marketplace for our client.
We’re in the interesting position of being the name behind many of the big names, so, as such, we tend not to make a huge fuss about what we do, instead focusing on ensuring that our clients can continue to do what they do, backed by software that’s the very best in class. This year we’re actually celebrating 20 years in the business, and we’re very proud of all the things our team has achieved over the years. There are 6 Devexperts R&D offices in Europe (Munich, Porto, Sofia, Istanbul, Tbilisi, and Vilnius), and one in the USA (New Jersey), there’re also 2 offices in London and Singapore where you can meet up with our business development specialists. We’re also terribly excited to keep growing and improving our software and services.
As a platform developer, how do you view Apple’s recent removal of MetaTrader’s apps from the App Store, and what does this mean for brokers?
The main thing it means is that the brokers that hadn’t developed a mobile strategy of their own, outside of the off-the-shelf platforms from MetaQuotes, have now found themselves at a significant disadvantage compared to those who did. In hindsight, they’re now recognising the risks associated with having such a monolithic potential point of failure as the backbone of their respective offerings. Particularly in the age of mobile trading, you have to see this as quite a monumental oversight. But then, this isn’t exactly news. We and many others have been quite vocal on this point over the years, it just seems to have come to a head right now.
As I understand it, it’s the fraudulent and highly disreputable practices of certain rogue brokerages offering the app that have led to this action, rather than any specific issues with MetaQuotes itself. The software does what it’s supposed to do, but the way certain brokers have chosen to use it is a different story entirely. In many ways, these platforms are sort of victims of their own success, and this goes back to one of the most commonly-cited issues with having an entire industry reliant on a single platform provider. Not only is it incredibly difficult for brokerages to stand apart from each other when the very backbone of their trading services is identical across the board —this is probably the most frequently discussed weakness— but it also becomes so easy for everyone to get tarred with the same brush when something like this happens.
Perhaps this will be the event that hastens the sort of change in the industry that we and other technology providers have been calling for. It’s human nature to not go to the lengths of changing things until outside events force you to.
How has it affected you? And have you taken any preventive measures after this event?
To be honest, for us it was more of a surprise that it took so long for something like this to occur than anything else. As far as how this decision affects us, it doesn’t really impact us in the slightest, so there are no preventative measures for us to take or anything like that. The mitigation of the risks for our clients we mentioned above are actually baked into our products, which, for the most part, are our flagship SaaS DXtrade platforms. Moreover, this built-in protection against vendor lock-in is one of our USPs: brokers licensing the platform from us always have an opportunity to go for a custom solution and buy out the source code. It means they will continue the developments fully in-house.
Our DXtrade platform has not been affected by anything currently taking place with this Apple ban for a couple of more important reasons.
Firstly, when we offer a platform such as DXtrade as a white label to a brokers, the platform is a true white label, and so in the app stores it is published on behalf of the broker licensing it. In this way, nothing changes after this ban and the brokers themselves are responsible for behaving in a manner that’s in keeping with their regulatory obligations.
Secondly, there’s been a thriving cottage industry in getting MetaQuotes software to do things it wasn’t originally intended to do for many years now. The same doesn’t hold for our products. We want to let the brokers focus on their core business and leave the technology part to us. No extra headache with connecting liquidity providers (as we polished DXtrade APIs for an easy connectivity), no extra tools such as bridges meaning no extra costs for unnecessary plugins; single-tenant deployment. We honour brokers’ independence and never catch 22 them into locking within a single liquidity hub or making them dependent on 3rd party plug-ins.
If our client goes for a custom trading solution with us, we’re developing products on their behalf, specifically tailored to the unique contours of their respective businesses, and there’s really no connection at all between them and anything currently taking place with this MetaQuotes event. But this is another story, the type of businesses that commission custom developments are of an entirely different order than the bucket shops currently giving MetaQuotes a bad name.
Why do brokers choose third-party platforms, like yours, over developing their own proprietary tech? Is there a shift taking place in this area?
I think there definitely is. As the industry grows increasingly competitive, we’re seeing the importance of specialisation. Brokerages specialise in brokering trades and marketing their services to traders. They don’t tend to have the development chops to undertake something as resource intensive as creating financial software from scratch. Even if they do, they place themselves at a competitive disadvantage when choosing to focus their attention on this area rather than on what ought to be their core competencies.
That’s not to say that they can’t have very capable developers on staff engaged in all sorts of innovative projects that enable them to stand out and attract users. Just that as the industry has matured, we’re seeing a division of labour in which specialists can focus on what they do best.
In addition, it’s not just about building the thing. It’s about maintaining it, iterating, ensuring it remains competitive against rival offerings from other specialist development houses. It’s also about being agile enough to incorporate new technologies as and when they gain ground, like crypto. To manage all this in today’s market it really has to be all you do, rather than a small department in a business engaged in a completely different vertical.
As you say, Devexperts is known for delivering tailored financial solutions. Who are your clients nowadays and what do they demand?
As mentioned earlier, Devexperts is engaged with a wide variety of financial players, from systemically important financial institutions, to move-fast-and-break-things retail startups. For this reason, the demands placed on us vary widely depending on the end client.
The custom developments we’re engaged in for large financial institutions take place under non-disclosure agreements, and you can understand why that would be. In order for us to create the kinds of solutions they require, we really have to get into the nuts and bolts of how their respective organisations are put together. In the solutions we provide these types of institutions everything is bespoke, and not only does it have to work at all times, there have to be layers of redundancies in place to mitigate against the very worst-case scenarios.
This differs from our more accessible, mass market products like DXtrade that we white label out to a different class of financial services firm. The requirements in the retail space are quite different in that we have to remain competitive in an industry where time to market, affordability, and flexibility take precedence over other concerns. And where we necessarily have to be much more in-tune with what retail traders require, not just in terms of what these platforms can do, but also how they look and feel, which is paramount in the retail space. We’re also competing with a different type of technology providers in retail trading.
Over the years we’ve learned to create synergies in our organisation so that the high assurance stuff can inform and trickle down to the world of retail, similar to how a new technology that premieres on a high-end Audi will eventually find its way into a more affordable VW, Skoda, or Seat.
You’ve expanded into the world of crypto in recent years. How big do you think the crypto trading market is going to be, compared to retail FX and how have you felt the current crypto winter to be?
The fascinating thing about crypto is that, unlike almost all other asset classes, crypto is a foundational technology rather than just an asset in its own right. In this sense, it’s completely unlike FX, stocks, or commodities.
The following isn’t a perfect analogy, however, it’s similar to the mania around tech stocks during the Dotcom bubble. Back then most of those companies were little more than names on a ticker with a price attached to them. Little did most of the people speculating on them know that a generation later we’d be doing absolutely everything, from talking to each other, engaging in all media, and indeed even trading absolutely everything, over the Internet.
I think crypto eventually eats the world in the same way that the Internet did. That also means that many of the things people currently value in crypto today will disappear and go to zero in favour of the technologies that will eventually allow us to do things like manage supply chains, run elections, track identity, monitor energy usage and the like.
As far as the crypto winter goes, while we at Devexperts haven’t necessarily felt its chill, it’s definitely here as evidenced by how much value these assets have lost over the past year or so, and how fewer mentions there are of things like NFTs and the Metaverse in the mainstream media. But bear markets are always times in which people knuckle down and get to building, which is what we as a company are all about. Perhaps you need the excesses of bubbles to bring the eyeballs and capital to the space that eventually build the future, just like the Dotcom bubble in some way led to the world we live in today.
What’s next for Devexperts? What will be your focus in both the short and long term?
In the short term, Devexperts will be helping brokers overcome the damaging situation with their mobile apps being blocked and building a stronger and more independent infrastructure. With our offering ranging from CFDs to cryptocurrencies and even listed securities assets, we’ll help them become true multi-asset and multi-market innovators, who have business continuity plans at hand.
This is at a time when resources have been at a premium, brokers’ marketing departments operating beyond their peak capacity, and the influx of new traders and interest in CFDs despite bear markets have led to many brokers looking for a reliable platform provider to let them focus on serving the traders. As with everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s a case of a row of unforeseen events pushing older technologies to breaking point while demonstrating first-hand the importance of the many innovations our companies have been tirelessly working on these past few years.
In the long term, I hope one of our innovative products will become an industry standard, improving the way people trade financial markets, and thus making people’s lives better. You can expect to see both Devexperts and our market data subsidiary dxFeed breaking the fourth wall in our industry and going directly to the end trader with certain solutions and services. This is because we feel we’re now equipped to start building recognition amongst traders themselves as innovators in this space and we feel that eventually it will be the traders themselves who are asking brokers to offer our platforms.
We’re collectively working towards making the industry as a whole stronger, more efficient, resilient, and better able to meet the challenges of today’s markets.