Eric Neo of Singapore’s Trading-Atrium discusses institutional trading

Back in summer 2014, LeapRate was first to cover the news of CEO Eric Neo’s new project and vision for trading firms to operate in Asia with the latest cutting edge technology in the form of his Trading-Atrium ecosystem.

The atrium provides a base for small firms to professionally trade with direct access to financial markets from the heart of Asia-Pacific’s dominant trading home of Singapore.

Since launching, the only other news we’ve heard from the Trading-Atrium was its latest partnership with Horizon Software to bring their HFT platform onboard late last year and before that a partnership with Blackwell Global to provide FX liquidity.

Interestingly, not too long ago Mr. Neo worked in the retail-focused FX/CFD trading industry during a brief stint at CMC Markets where he was in charge of sales for Asian markets, excluding Japan.

Eric looks back on his entrepreneurial journey up til today as he now leads the Trading-Atrium vision forward. For his thoughts and insights on Singapore’s trading industry and current developments with the Trading-Atrium, check out his discussion with us below.

LeapRate: Has the launch of the Trading-Atrium been as you hoped so far?

ERIC: The launch of our Trading-Atrium response results were positively unexpected and am humbly gratified. Our soft launch event held at the Trading-Atrium facility saw over 70 industry participants of the Electronic Trading Ecosystem attended which comprised of Exchange representatives, Technology providers, Clearing Broker representatives & more importantly the Buy-Side communities.

In the 1st six months of our live operation, Neo & Partners Global successfully on-boarded and incubated two firms into our Trading-Atrium facility; (i.) a Russian Family Office which focused on Derivatives trading and (ii.) a Singapore Proprietary Trading firm concentrating in FX trading.

As well via our Trading-Atrium Ecosystem of services, we have connected an overseas financial institution in expanding their global trading operations.

Concurrently, Neo & Partners Global had also several local and overseas select Clearing Broking firms joined as a part of our Trading-Atrium’s Ecosystem; Multi-Asset & Broker-Neutral Panel, through our invitations. Being an Entrepreneurial start-up firm providing a uniquely “disruptive” business model plus creating Asia and Singapore’s 1st Trading-Atrium, there’s a constant need to build the market awareness to the industry.

As such in 2017, Neo & Partners Global has decided to invest further in our 1st overseas business development effort(s) by participating in the Futures Industry Association (FIA) 10th Annual International Derivatives Expo in London as an exhibitor.

LeapRate: Can you give metrics on how many firms are now operating from the Trading-Atrium?

ERIC: Due to the sensitivity nature of information, we are unable to provide the specifics. But what we can share additionally is incubation being a core part of our business model(s).

LeapRate: With Singapore being a key financial trading hub, do you ever believe it will surpass London or New York in terms of size and volume?

ERIC: From the perspective of size and volume, perhaps allow me first to share some facts and figures as follows below:

Foreign Exchange Volumes (stats. from Bank of International Settlements):

In 2016, Singapore is ranked 3rd Globally at USD 517B with UK being ranked 1st at USD 2,406B and US next at USD 1,272B.

Global Financial Centres Index (stats. from Z/Yen Group):

· In the 2016 report, Singapore is ranked 3rd Globally with 42 points behind New York and 43 points behind London at the top spot.
· Now in the 2017 report, Singapore continues to maintain its ranking but has closed the gap, raising by eight points and is now only 20 points behind New York, 22 points behind London.
· This survey report applied instrumental factors which are grouped into five broad factors of competitiveness: Business Environment, Human Capital, Infrastructure, Financial Sector Development and Reputation.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Report (published before the UK voted to leave the EU):

· Singapore is placed 2nd of 30 ranked cities globally behind London at the top spot in cities of opportunities segment.
· Superior technology, low taxes and efficient transport and infrastructure systems helped Singapore to overtake New York.
· Quote from PwC, “An analysis of corporate total tax rate, personal rate, and tax efficiency shows that Singapore, along with Dubai and Hong Kong has the lowest rates and highest efficiency collectively”.
· This survey report unlike other surveys that rank financial hubs based on their competitiveness, the PwC index assesses cities on their social and economic health too, measuring indicators such as the ease of doing business, demographics and technology readiness.

So with the above facts and figures alongside what is happening on the regulatory side of the fence stemming from the current Brexit and the US Trump Administration…

I believe Singapore being a key financial trading hub, may not surpass London or New York in terms of size and volume but rather remain in the top spot for Asia-Pacific.

LeapRate: Why is the Trading Atrium superior to a trading firm operating from their own office space?

ERIC: To put into right context and perspectives, our Trading-Atrium is based on a complete business ecosystem concept methodology comprising of six parts;

(i.) Exchanges / Liquidity Pools,
(ii.) Algorithmic / Quantitative Trading Applications,
(iii.) Advance Hardware / Low Latency Networks,
(iv.) Multi-Asset & Broker-Neutral Panel,
(v.) Professional Services and
(vi.) Academic Services.

With these parts, we integrate with the design philosophy which is simple but powerful: the sum of the parts must be greater than the whole.

Our distinctiveness is also the focus on Asia Pacific landscape from a geographical perspective.

So how is our Trading-Atrium superior to a trading firm operating from their own office space, my views are as follows below:

1. Our Trading-Atrium Ecosystem range of services, as described above, essentially provides the functional exposures of Business Development areas to a trading firm establishing themselves in Singapore in our facility.

These capabilities are similar to what you find in top-tier firms like DRW, Jump Trading, Flow Traders, Hudson River Trading etc., which to most firms may not have access to, in order to continually adapt better to a fast changing environment and grow sustainably.

2. Our Trading-Atrium facilitates ease of Advanced Trading Technology Adoption opportunities and Cost Aggregation benefits.

In simple term, a trading firm need not have to pay 100% cost in order to leverage advanced trading technologies to run ahead of the curve, which can be a common obstacle.

3. The Asia Pacific landscape is by nature very fragmented. For a single asset class instrument such as an index, you have choices from minimally five exchanges in five different countries, notwithstanding each country’s exchange has its own nuances in trading regulations, taxes etc.

At our Trading-Atrium, we position ourselves as a Knowledge Hub with a distinctive focus on Asia Pacific.

The Trading-Atrium by Neo & Partners Global (NPG) is a complete business ecosystem, a technologically sophisticated electronic trading facility that covers all aspects of a trading ecosystem. The Trading-Atrium’s key differentiator and unique competitive advantage lies in its powerful capability to conduct multi-asset global trading on one single broker-neutral platform.

LeapRate: What are the most traded assets from companies utilizing the Trading-Atrium?

ERIC: In the context of incubating new trading firm setups in our Trading-Atrium, we observe the most trading assets are in derivatives and particular on indices. There are also the inclusion of other assets such as Securities; Equities, which we support.

LeapRate: Can you talk about your history in the trading industry, we documented already that you spent time at CFD broker CMC Markets in Asia-Pacific sales, minus Japan, how was that experience?

ERIC: About my history in the trading industry, it all started back in the year 2000 during the voice trading era. At that time, I was with a systems integration business unit called Syntegra under the umbrella of BT, one of the world’s leading communications services companies.

At Syntegra, I was providing voice trading solutions (Trading Turret/Dealer Board) to the financial services sector within S.E. Asia region ranging from Money Brokers, Oil Brokers, Hedge Funds, Trading Floors of the Banks and even to select Central Banks. Gradually over the years, I was given an expanded portfolio to take on BT’s Global Financial Services coverage targeted at commercial and investment banks.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to cross-over to the Sell-Side joining Singapore’s only listed and biggest securities broker – UOB Kay Hian (UOBKH). This marks my transition move to the Electronic Trading domain.

At UOBKH, I was heading up the Group’s E-Business division or now known as Internet Broking comprising of their Singapore (HQ), Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia E-Business units.

In 2010, this marks another transition into a new segment to the world of Derivatives; CFDs’, joining CMC Markets as their Head of Sales for Asia (ex-Japan). The experience was challenging but yet refreshing given I was responsible for building the Institutional space and concurrently expand the retail area.

Adding to the challenges was the introduction of a new trading application platform cutting across both the institutional and retail areas, notwithstanding that time where regulatory compliance was increasing.

After a year with CMC Markets, in 2011, I found myself presented with a rare opportunity to leap into the world of Algorithmic Trading space, joining an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) called RTS Realtime Systems (RTS) as their Sales Director for Asia Pacific region with my teams in Singapore (HQ), Hong Kong and India. The RTS that we knew has been acquired by Bloomberg back in 2014.

My journey in this algorithmic trading technology space continues in 2013 where I joined a uniquely different ISV; Flextrade Systems, as their Senior Vice President covering Commodities, Derivatives, and Securities domain in Asia Pacific. During this time, it was the era where China Derivatives market was the “hot kid” on the block and leveraging this opportunity strategized the successful penetration into the China futures market with the deployed FlexFutures, its state-of-the-art futures trading system, at Haitong Futures Co., a subsidiary of Haitong Securities.

And finally, in 2014, I took the leap of faith and another but a bigger challenge in starting my entrepreneurial journey creating Neo & Partners Global, Asi, and Singapore’s 1st Trading-Atrium.

LeapRate: Are there any plans to expand geographically the concept of the Trading-Atrium?

ERIC: Yes, I do have plans to expand geographically my concept of the Trading-Atrium and the present target is somewhere in the N.E. Asia region.

LeapRate: Are you yourself a trader? What does 2017 hold for the Trading-Atrium and your other companies, any key developments you would like to share?

ERIC: I’ve been asked this question many a time “am I a trader” or “was I a trader before”. My usual response is “strangely I’ve only traded twice myself in my entire professional career of  ≥ 15 years ?during the years of the Rooster (Chinese zodiac).

There are several key developments brewing for my Trading-Atrium and other companies as follows below:

Neo & Partners Global; THE TRADING-ATRIUM
(i.) Exhibiting in FIA IDX 2017 this June in London.
(ii.) Expanding low latency connectivity to select major and/or emerging exchanges.

To check out the Trading-Atrium click here.

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Eric Neo of Singapore's Trading-Atrium discusses institutional trading


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