LeapRate Interview: What matters in a trading platform? Patrick Oerer of Unitrader elaborates

Retail FX platform development has become an incredibly competitive industry segment recently, with many new, up to the minute FX trading platforms having risen to prominence, gaining a noticeable market share across the world, and even branching into new uncharted territories.

Indeed, whilst the platform itself is of great importance to how an FX broker positions itself toward its client base, there is far more to the consideration than just the user interface itself. Turnkey brokerage solutions which are tailored around specific platforms have become very popular, as technology companies turn their hand away from niche market specialization into the provision of full solutions has been a particular theme for this year.

One specific example of this is BMFN, which offers the Unitrader platform alongside MetaTrader 4 and Currenex as part of its fully integrated white label solution that allows its partners to be up and running within a matter of minutes.

Progressing his role as CEO of BMFN, Luis Sanchez is majoring on the technological aspects of BMFN through the company’s state of the art platform Unitrader, which is its own proprietary system. He introduces us Patrick Oerer, CEO of Unitrader who provided LeapRate with a categorical insight into the ethos of the Unitrader platform.

Please introduce us to Unitrader, how it was developed, where it fits into the platform provision market, and what its target audience is.

UniTrader is designed for both novice traders and active traders looking for an edge. From logical interface to comprehensive reporting tools, UniTrader is the best choice for people who want to trade various financial products at once. UniTrader has a very user friendly trading platform that provides an exclusive trading experience for individual traders, introducing brokers and market makers.

We started to develop UniTrader back in 2011 based on the idea to build a simple and intuitive trading platform that is fully dedicated and customized to the needs and requirements of our successful Introducing Broker and White Label Partners. BMFN has one of the largest IB/WL networks in the FX industry and thus we have a profound understanding of what a partner needs to grow his individual business, tag his own clients and outperform competitors. UniTrader is the best platform for Introducing Brokers/White Labels who look for flexible management of their clients’ account and business.

UniTrader represents a new generation of trading platforms with fantastic features and functionalities, which so far have not existed in the online trading industry. And, UniTrader allows us to successfully compete on both B2C and B2B markets.

The platform segment has become a veritable battleground recently, with many modern, upcoming entrants such as algo-friendly cTrader, and the application based Tradable having made inroads into global markets, notably Tradable’s recent entry into Africa. How does Unitrader compete with these solutions, and do you see it as a potentially popular platform for traders in world markets?

UniTrader is a state of the art trading platform that is easy to understand and provides instant access to financial instruments around the world from wherever a customer wants to trade. For example, UniTrader is one of the most popular trading platforms in Mexico especially because we are cooperating with Universities, providing UniTrader trading rooms for students, replacing Bloomberg and Reuters. UniTrader gives students the advantage to learn and understand how to trade on demo accounts by watching financial markets in real time. We enable professors to integrate UniTrader into their curriculum and teach students on demo accounts that they can easily setup and monitor.

Every month we assist Universities with our local teams to run trading contests with thousands of students participating. We have run similar projects with Universities in Eastern Europe and Turkey and we will continue to provide such complimentary services wherever possible. We have already scheduled additional projects with Universities in China and Peru.

UniTrader runs weekly trading contest with attractive prizes as well as recurring contests with specific topics such as Non-Farm-Payroll. The most popular contest of UniTrader, however, is the international beauty contest; Miss UniTrader. The Traders contest with a personal assistant, the potential Miss UniTrader, is aimed at finding a representative who will be the official face of UniTrader, who will participate at trade shows, appear on TV and join sales seminars in different parts of the world.

The traders and visitors of the official Miss UniTrader website can open demo trading accounts on the landing page of a favorite assistant. The more demo accounts that will be opened and the more trading takes place on the page of a particular assistant, the higher the score of that assistant will be. Every month traders and site visitors will choose a winner. The monthly winners will then participate at the Miss UniTrader election. This year’s election took place in November in Shanghai and the new contest for Miss UniTrader 2015 has already started. The contest will be rolled out globally, with Miss Unitrader Latin America scheduled for 2015.

As Unitrader is synonymous with BMFN and comes as part of an integral end-to-end solution which white label partners can install within a matter of minutes, how much flexibility does Unitrader offer aside from its connection with BMFN’s proprietary ‘broker in a link’ turnkey solution?

UniTrader has a modular setup and can be configured in many different ways. The modules include an individual Trading Console, an IB Console, separate Omnibus Console, a Console for Money Manager’s as well as a Risk Management Console including Dealer Blotter and Risk Aggregator for Market Makers. Depending on the business structure, UniTrader can be used independently from BMFN by banks, market makers or STP brokers as the platform is license based.

Market makers are able to provide sub-licenses to their own WL and Ominbus partners or may provide Money Managers to the Money Manager Console. With the integrated Back office and CRM tool, UniTrader is a very attractive solution for brokers with lots of additional options and very attractive price structures.

The UniTrader Risk Aggregator helps Market Makers with numerous platforms, whether it is UniTrader, MT4, MT5, ACT Forex, cTrader, Currenex or perhaps a number of the same platforms, to make sense of their risk exposure and real time P&L across all financial products. The UniTrader’s Risk Aggregator allows brokers to break down their risk exposure and P&L per platform and/or per currency pair or product and to aggregate all into a single exposure.

BMFN has over 4,000 white label partners and has been very successful in accruing many of these from China. How important to a Chinese partner is ergonomics and ease of set up with regard to back office, trading platform, withdrawal facilities, CRM and website integration?

This is precisely the reason why we started developing UniTrader. It takes a massive back office organization to handle over 4,000 partners from which 90% require an individual business model; starting from different kinds of rebates, commission or P&L models to specific branding and marketing wishes, real time reporting, deposits and withdrawal functions among other features.

UniTrader allows us to cover all these requirements of IBs, partners and clients with a single platform that also helps us to monitor, structure and develop our own business more efficiently.

UniTrader has some unique features such as:

 Demo and live account opening ability without leaving the platform

 Integrated deposits or withdrawals functions

 Website widget for partners that allow displaying their own websites

 Chat function to keep in touch with clients real time

 Built-in CRM to stay on track with prospects and clients and to convert leads successfully.

All these features have been developed based on client/partner requests as well as our own experiences in the industry. Usually, once a client has made a decision to open an account and to trade, the account can’t be active fast enough while at the same time the IB wants to see his or her commission earned from the introduced client. The sales person wants to see his sales commission structure and management needs to have a clear picture of P&L.

So to answer your question, ergonomics and ease of set up with regard to back office, trading platform, withdrawal facilities CRM and website integration, all of it is very important to our Chinese partners or any partner as a matter of fact. UniTrader assists every single person and partner in a successful and customized set up.

What is the current split between Currenex and Unitrader among BMFN clients?

There is a split between Currenex and Unitrader, however, since the introduction of Unitrader, we have witnessed a clear shift toward Unitrader. Clearly, UniTrader plays a very important role in our sales process as sales people are able to identify themselves with the platform since it is our own product. The integrated CRM allows them to assist clients during the onboarding process more efficiently. Another great feature of UniTrader is that sales staff is able to see sales commission in real time, which is motivation them to develop their book of business.

Supplying Prime Brokerage solutions to partners has become a very cost-sensitive business. What is your opinion on how Prime Brokers and liquidity providers can ensure that their broker partners continue to provide good quality client referrals by giving a good commission structure and low spreads, yet retain a profitable cost model for the Prime Brokerage and the broker partners alike?

Yes indeed, client onboarding on both retail and institutional level has become very expensive as clients are attracted with ridiculously low spreads, or low/no commissions just to close the deal.

The entire FX industry has become very competitive, no matter on which side of the trade you are sitting at the end of the day. There are more brokers, Prime Brokers and Liquidity Providers as ever before since the FX world has become very attractive to financial institutions thanks to its high volume.

Personally, I believe that technology is key to success and surviving in this industry, especially when it comes to managing risk. The most successful companies in this industry are those with the best technology. I believe it is very important for brokers and their Prime Brokers partners and/or Liquidity Providers to cooperate closely together to have a clear understanding how to handle toxic flow and how to share revenue and commissions.

What is the best way to capitalize the infrastructure of a retail FX firm? Is it best to invest in on-site infrastructure and then take liquidity feeds only from a provider, or do you think it is better to take an entire solution from a technology firm and capitalize it monthly or on volume rather than having the in-house maintenance costs?

Considering the large variety of professional technology available on the market today, I would rather go with a full solution of one provider unless the volume reaches a critical level. Of course, dependent on the deal provided by the technology and/or liquidity provider that should allow the retail broker to be profitable.

In fact, this was another reason for us to build UniTrader, to offer a one stop shop solution for retail FX companies, no matter if start-ups or active brokers. Basically, we aim to provide a solution for companies that want to become part of the FX business for a relative small cost or for those brokers that want to improve their business or partner model with a more advanced technology.

If I was to start a new brokerage business, I would definitively prefer to have the flexibility of a technology that allows me to add liquidity based on my requirements or to change technology rather than having the cost of an in-house solutions that should never be underestimated.

On a cost-per-million basis, how do you envisage the most sustainable solution to reduce the STP and liquidity bridge cost to white label partners and IBs, and do you anticipate that many brokers which operate in the retail FX space will have to reduce the spread that they offer to traders as they will find it hard to b-book clients in future, or do you anticipate that most will continue to run a b-book in order to keep spreads low so that clients do not look elsewhere given that margins are very narrow these days?

In my opinion, retail spreads are already too low, which makes it practically impossible to run a pure A-Book business model. Reducing spreads even further means to B-Book the majority of the business, however, revenue cycles are getting longer and longer and hence, capital requirements to maintain operation are increasing as well. It’s definitively a certain trade-off and I believe that a good combination of A-Book/B-Book makes sense for those brokers seeing enough volume or having sufficient capital. For any other brokers with lower volumes, I would rather suggest to keep an A-Book model and try to share revenues with the LP.

Like I said before, technology is the key to successfully manage these two environments.

What is Unitrader’s plan for 2015?

2015 will be a very exciting and challenging year for us. We are aggressively going after the small, cost conscious retail broker who is looking for a solution as well as the settled broker who wants to introduce a unique trading experience to clients with a new platform.

Just recently, I have been appointed as the new CEO of UniTrader and I look very much forward to make this all happen and to position UniTrader as a popular trading platform within the FX industry. I’m sure that UniTrader will make a real difference in the market with its features, the mobile app and our outstanding partner solutions, including the off the shelf brokerage solutions for Market Makers.

Further, we have several events on the schedule such as the recurring trading contests and certainly the final election of Miss UniTrader 2015 at a new venue.

We have a lot in our pipeline….stay tuned!

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