If you’re not familiar with the world of
on-the-go execution, try typing the word 'trading’
into Apple’s iTunes Store. Any punter doing so can
find a plethora of applications for the iPhone permitting just
that: Forex Trading, City Trader, FX360, iTrade, DealBook,
Forex on the go, finspreads, mobitradeone – and
that’s just on the first page. (More colourful
titles include The Fast Money Machine and How to Make a Fortune
From Options Trading.)
And as anyone who reads London’s morning
freesheets can’t have failed to notice,
it’s pretty clear who many of these products are
being marketed at on this side of the Atlantic. Ad images
abound of the young City trader out to dinner with a pneumatic
blonde, trading lean pork bellies behind his menu.
But the makers insist that the apps are much more than idle
gimmicks or free advertising for their workstation
"This is the future," TradeCapture OTC’s Vinnie
Annunziata told FOW last year after the launch of his
firm’s commodity trading app, Tap and Trade.
"Whether people use my software or somebody
else’s, in the next three years every trader and
risk manager is going to be using something like this," he
insists. "It’s like sitting at your terminal, but
you can be on a train."
The bulge in your pocket
Even the bulge bracket banks are getting involved. In March,
JP Morgan ported a version of its MorganDirect platform to the
gadget, allowing armchair traders access to forward, swap and
option transactions for some 300 currency pairs.
This is no mere retail investor system either. It contains
all the powerful tools – real time execution, fast
access to liquidity and straight-through processing –
of its institutional bigger brother.
Others have more modest ambitions. "iDASTrader interfaces
are designed for the retail investor," says Karen Gentile,
president and CEO of DAS, whose app offers equities, options,
futures and forex in a combined platform. "Most broker-dealers
don’t have the knowhow and the means to run their
own technology. They’re brokers, not technology
developers. But DAS’s infrastructure is uniquely
designed to work for the most sophisticated of institutions to
the least experienced investors."
So why the sudden burst of activity on this one platform?
Perhaps it’s because Apple’s device
has one strong competitive advantage: all three incarnations of
the iPhone share the same standard size.
"The biggest problem you have for Blackberry apps is you
have so many different aspect ratios to deal with," says
Shailander Mangla, developer of Interactive
Brokers’ iTWS trading platform. "So
it’s harder to get your designers involved. If you
give people the bare minimum [screen resolution],
it’s not as pleasant to use."
While BlackBerry appears to be catching up (indeed, DAS
Trader’s app appeared on BlackBerry’s
platform first), it appears Apple’s immense
marketability and user-friendliness has given it the edge for
Reaching new users
"We felt it would be an ideal and targeted medium to reach
out to the Macintosh/Apple users," adds Gentile. "Almost all
our clients are Windows users. Most retail trading technology
is designed for the Windows environment."
But why should the platform-neutral remote trader choose DAS
over the others? "iDASTrader is unique, because
it’s the only direct access level two trading app
currently available on the app store," claims Gentile.
"It’s the first and only app with streaming real
time market data."
But perhaps users want more than raw speed. Mangla thinks
"Access to price mechanisms 24 hour is key," says Mangla.
"For options pricing, this is an exceptionally valuable tool."
Interactive Brokers’ program boasts live price
alerts for stocks, options and forex – essential for
those reliant on the familiar security of desktop trading
So what does the future hold for remote futures trading?
"I’m not sure on-the-go trading is ever going to
replace trading in an office, or even a home office," concludes
Mangla. "I would say this is really a complement."
For others, one senses, the lure of trading from a
café in Florence rather than a wet corner of Surrey
might prove too hard to resist for much longer.