October 12, 2012

What is the next technology innovation that is going to revolutionize the way that institutional traders interact with their OMSs and EMSs?

I’d wager that it’s going to involve mobile apps and personalization.

With mobile apps and smartphones permeating so many aspects of our lives, from checking headlines and personal banking, to tweeting about the markets, I assume that traders on the buy and sell sides will want to use these devices when they are out of the office or at home in the evenings.

“It can ruin some vacations,” quips one executive at an EMS provider.

But seriously, will institutional traders look to rebalance a portfolio, manage allocation to client accounts, track commissions or route trades to multiple dark pools on an iPhone? It’s more likely that the iPad or an Android tablet with its larger screen size will be their device of choice for more complex tasks.

Since people take their smartphones on planes and on vacations, they are apt to monitor the status of orders, or eyeball execution reports while waiting for takeoff. “I don’t see anyone on vacation without an iPhone in hand,” said one CEO of a leading EMS provider. “It’s great for someone who wants to be on the golf course if they can get some alerts, check P&L, or do limited trading, the CEO suggests.

Any application that is currently on a PC can be adapted to a wireless device, so it’s not a technology issue. “Providing it on an iPad is really not important,” he notes. The functionality will be limited due to the limited screen space.

I’m not sure how many vendors are offering full-blown mobile apps in the OMS-EMS arena. When I spoke with OMS and EMS providers recently, they were focused on regulations, rolling out cloud-based, hosted solutions and cost pressures on their clients. But I learned that Charles River Development unveiled a tablet and smartphone app on Oct. 3, which the company said provides secure remote access to the firm’s OMS.

According to the company, Charles River Mobile allows financial advisors, portfolio managers, compliance officers and other investment professionals to monitor critical information when away from the office and offer more personalized service to their clients.

“We’re seeing a fair amount of demand for it,” Tom Driscoll, a global managing director at CRD, told me in an interview. “People are looking to place orders and monitor their trades, particularly on their tablets, said Driscoll. While the functionality is more limited than on the firm’s full-blown browser based solution, Charles River Anywhere, some people want a more controlled activity, he suggested. “The tablet itself is very basic workflows — place a trade, rebalance a portfolio or check compliance,” he said.

But would a heavy-duty institutional trader use a tablet if he had a desktop setup? The answer is most likely no, because of the volume of information that’s coming into it, and the simple fact that tablets probably aren’t fast enough yet for that type of workflow.

Even so, OMS and EMS providers should offer their customers a mobile app as a way to keep them more connected to their orders, and as a matter of convenience and portability. They could create mobile apps that their clients can download from iTunes. And as a sign of good will, it should be free to customers that are already paying high fees.

Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in ...