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Pete Basso
Pete Basso
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A.B. Watley Improves Direct Access

A.B. Watley in the midst of a software and hardware overhaul.

A.B. Watley is currently in the midst of a software and hardware overhaul. Tony Houston, senior vice president for Web development, says the company is replacing its over 200 Windows NT servers and licensed software suite with less than 20 Sun Microsystems servers, running an updated enterprise architecture software system. Now geared toward the Sun Platform, the company's UltimateTrader and WatleyTrader systems will still take two different approaches for traders–direct-access broking in the former and E*Trade-like internally directed trades in the latter. However, they will both be "married" on the back end, taking advantage of the same transaction database and client/server processing. As a result, Houston says the new Sun-based platform developed by A.B. Watley, not licensed, will be more scalable and reliable for users.

Since it went public a year-and-a-half ago, A.B. Watley Group Inc. found itself with quite a bit of money to spend on upgrading its online brokerage platforms, including its direct access trading product, UltimateTrader. Houston says the company spent approximately $25 million over the last four years to bring its technological goals to fruition. Recently, A.B. Watley struck a deal with Tradeworx Inc., which now provides A.B. Watley's clients with a limit order pricer and in a few weeks, a stock screening tool, Houston adds. In addition, the company plans to release wireless and voice recognition trading applications as well as enhanced online educational videos and customer service chat in the coming months.

"We are Wall Street and technology," he says. "We're the combination of a trading firm and a technology firm. These other guys, like E*Trade, Ameritrade and Schwab–they get technology from somewhere else. We consciously went after the direct access brokerage space. We consciously went after the top one to five percent of the online trading community, and the best way to do that was to provide a superior product."

Indeed, A.B. Watley does focus heavily on both the brokerage and the technology side. With a 60-member IT staff, the company hopes to begin licensing its direct-access trading platform to other online brokerage firms in the near future, Houston adds.

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