What do traders want? It’s simple really. They want ways to show on screen all the applications that matter to them. At one time, if possible.

Traders want to be able to access their proprietary data and news, trading indicators, and algorithmic order types, among other things, within their analytical and trading platform. Traders also want to take data from their data platform and export it to other applications that can create signals, alerts, and conditions.

Always in search of an edge, traders are increasingly turning to trading technology providers that enable them to customize their experience. These customized environments allow traders to access the tools they use to find undiscovered insights and perspectives on the markets while at the same time allow them to eliminate tools and information that are mere distractions.

Some suppliers, recognizing this trend, are working with suppliers of complementary products to develop platforms that put more control in the hands of traders. This is a positive industry development. Despite the fierce competition among vendors as the markets have gone electronic, traders’ needs must be met.

Vendors can meet these needs by providing a platform for which third parties can develop plug-in applications to meet specific customer requirements. Or they can make sure their software works with other vendors’ applications.

Outside of the securities trading industry, both types of solutions are common. The iPhone App Store is a classic example of a platform that allows for the easy development of third-party applications. Similarly, the interoperability of SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications has become increasingly common, online. Most SaaS vendors such as Salesforce.com and 37Signals, have a long list of vendors whose products have been developed, tested and put into use around the clock, with their base software that is provided to users over the Web and maintained there.

Application programming interfaces, of course, allow third-party developers to build applications that take advantage of the vendors’ platforms. Obviously, no trading platform is ever going to have hundreds of third-party applications, like the iPhone, but in order to better meet the needs of the marketplace, vendors need to consider facilitating the commercial availability of applications that meet niche requirements of traders.

One company that provides a model, though, in the trading space is Progress Apama. The firm now has more than 75 partners and customers globally who leverage its complex event processing (CEP) capability and broad market access. Another example is MATLAB from MathWorks. MATLAB is a widely-used, high-level environment for algorithm development, data visualization, analysis, and mathematical modeling. In the financial services sector, MATLAB has worked with many partners to integrate its application with the functionality of their applications.

While the need for integration and ability to work with various products is significant, it is also critical not to underestimate the importance of ease-of-use of the resulting solution. The vast majority of traders are looking for a simple “plug and play” model where vendors hide the integration “wiring” from the trader. To get there, consider these best practices:

  • Focus on what your company does best. This helps identify where your development time should be spent and what you have to offer potential partners.
  • Do a gap-analysis to identify needs your customers have that are not addressed by your product. The information for this analysis should come directly from your customers or indirectly from your sales force.
  • Choose a partner that has software that meets at least one of those customer needs. You should be looking for a synergistic relationship – you need something, they need something.
  • Plan the integration so that when it is available to the customer, it appears as a seamless part of the product. No time-consuming or complicated installation should be required.
  • Ensure that the integration is also easy to use and easy to maintain. Test, test and test again, before release.

The days of rigid, closed systems are numbered. Traders just want to trade and they want the best tools at their fingertips, ready to go at a millisecond’s notice.
This article can also be found at SecuritiesIndustry.com.

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