Fast, accurate and customised: the future of digital trading platforms

As the world settles into a new normal, what will the electronic trading platforms of tomorrow look like and what did we learn from the Covid-19 pandemic?

In a year when remote working went from being an exception to being a requirement, digital tools became a lifeline. The world had to learn to live in a digital and virtual world overnight. For example, SMART Derivatives, BNP Paribas’ digital platform for structured products, saw its usage nearly double: quotes done by clients rose by 80% in 2020 from 2019 and the number of trades executed increased by 85% in 2020 from 2019.

We recently spoke with Camille Bonnin, Global Head of EQD eBusiness, and Geoffrey Rodrigue, Global Head of Equity Derivatives Business Transformation, at BNP Paribas, to discuss how they managed to continue developing their e-platforms, especially SMART Derivatives, which just won the ‘Best Issuance Platform 2021’ award by SRP.

Four recent improvements to the platform stood out when Structured Retail Product named SMART Derivatives “Best Issuance Platform” in the SRP Europe Awards 2021:

  • With the introduction of hybrid products and dual currency certificates, the platform extended from equity derivatives to an integrated cross-asset solution with the ability to price rates, credit, foreign exchange, commodities, equity and hybrid related derivatives;
  • User experience improved with the release of the new Secondary platform which allows users to closely monitor their existing inventory of trades through various angles;
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG) rankings are now available for all products;

  • A new tool using artificial intelligence (AI) can now provide users with personalised trade ideas and sophisticated BOTs complement the platform’s chat functionalities.
How did you adapt SMART Derivatives to cope with the pandemic? Especially with both clients and employees working remotely?

Camille Bonnin: By design, SMART Derivatives was created for clients to connect remotely. Our technology was instrumental for our clients to continue working without difficulty during the pandemic. We received some very positive and encouraging feedback, and one client even sent us a picture of himself trading via SMART Derivatives in the Alps:

SMART Derivatives in the Alps

It is clear that SMART Derivatives is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a must for both our clients and our salespeople to perform their job every day. We of course had to adapt internally as well during the pandemic, but we are a digital team and so have managed this transition smoothly, which enabled us to focus on our development streams, even in the face of the disruption.

What’s next for electronic platforms?

C.B: Investors and asset managers will gravitate towards platforms that are easy to use and to plug into their ecosystems, offer a full range of products and are highly automated and customised thanks to new technologies like AI and machine learning.

Everyone wants speed, security and accuracy, accessible from anywhere, and at lower costs.

We’re looking at three trends in particular:

Actively Managed Certificates (AMC) are becoming a must-have for clients looking for cost-efficient investment vehicles to implement their trade ideas. We are about to release a new module within SMART Derivatives allowing clients to create and rebalance their AMCs automatically on a vast universe of underlying assets (stocks, ETF). This will be complemented by an analysis tool, which can analyse and optimise the underlying basket of those AMC.

Unlisted mini-futures are an asset-class where we see increasing interest. Contrarily to usual structured products offered through SMART Derivatives, unlisted mini-futures are pure market access products, and so the execution process must be as smooth as for straight equity cash transactions. It requires high-level technology as well as seamless downstream chain, which will also be available soon in SMART Derivatives.

APIs are increasingly gaining attention. Clients have been more and more looking to have integrated and seamless systems. We plan to also offer the ability to access the full range of SMART Derivatives pricing and booking services in an electronic way by connecting an API so clients can benefit from SMART Derivatives within their own ecosystem.

Which trends are you seeing in digital platforms for institutional investors?

Geoffrey Rodrigue: Pricing can no longer be the only differentiating factor in an industry that tends to be more and more commoditised. Institutional clients are asking for more input to help them define and monitor their investments in an optimal way. This is exactly the added-value that we bring via our web platforms.

For instance, created from a partnership between BNP Paribas and a French fintech, our web platform Brio offers equity portfolio managers efficient and robust analytics. Our institutional clients now have the ability to conceptualise and test their investment strategies before connecting with BNP Paribas sales to proceed to transaction, specifically for Custom Basket swaps and QIS solutions.

As a fully customisable solution, Brio demonstrates the close collaboration across different businesses of the bank by focusing on system innovation and risk management technology to uncover new operating efficiencies for both our clients and sales. Feedbacks received from fund managers show that they are increasingly recognising the value that innovative technology and fully customisable risk analysis systems can deliver to their funds, their investors and their portfolio managers.

What is your view on single dealer platforms over multi-dealer platforms?

G.R: We are convinced that single dealer platforms like SMART Derivatives and Brio will still be a key component of our clients’ digital journey. Firstly because of their level of customisation and flexibility, and secondly, for the very advanced benefits that they bring in a very wide range of investment areas, through tools such as ESG Scan integration, AI engines, BOTs systems, advanced risk management tools etc.

Multi-dealer platforms, on the contrary, will continue to focus on more standardised transactions and offer a more limited number of sophisticated tools that are becoming more and more important for our clients to cope with the markets’ complexity.

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