Saxo Bank Head of Platforms Christian Hammer: SaxoTraderGo is first step towards a new disruptive platform offering


Technological prowess is key to success in today’s ever evolving online trading industry, and Denmark’s cutting edge expert Saxo Bank is a veteran in terms of the development of proprietary systems which shape the future of the industry.

This week, the firm launched its new SaxoTraderGO device-neutral trading platform, built in HTML5 and utilizing a brand-new in-house developed “OpenAPI”.

LeapRate exclusively reported live from the launch in Paris, where Saxo Bank senior executives joined Lotus Formula 1 racing driver Romain Grosjean to discuss the virtues of cutting edge technology in this industry.

Vice President and Head of Platforms Christian Hammer has been working with Saxo since 2007. Having held several key commercial positions in Saxo including Global Head of Marketing, Head of Private Business and, Head of Product Management, he has hands-on experience with business development and outlined the edge that SaxoTraderGO has, how it came to fruition, as well as detailing the rationale behind going down the fully customizable, device-neutral route

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Christian Hammer has the over all responsibility for the electronic trading platforms in Saxo Bank. This includes defining and scoping what functionality to develop and offer via the company’s flagship product, the SaxoTrader, as well as take new platforms to market, for instance Apps, Social Trading, Wealth Management Solutions, etc., and coordinate the commercial launch across the entire value chain (PR, marketing, sales, markets, back office).

“I think it’s safe to say that the launch of SaxoTraderGO has required significant resources though-out the company and has only been possible by a team effort. So far it’s been a great success. Although only launched in France, but with a rapid roll out during June in all Saxo markets, the latest data looks good: we doubled the number of active trading clients and trades placed on SaxoTraderGO in just one day. In addition, the high number of return visitors and returning trading clients indicate that we have created an environment that our clients are comfortable with and appreciate” Christian Hammer explained to LeapRate.

Christian Hammer then began to answer some questions with regard to the new technology.

What does the launch of an entirely new, proprietary platform which is device neutral and can be adapted by users to suit their trading mean for Saxo Bank commercially?

First of all, we know from our clients that more and more users are accessing our platform from multiple devices. We are tying all of the app space closer together with the new SaxoTraderGO. This means that you don’t need to find out how a new app works for each device that you own, ours works the same way whether it is on the web, tablet or mobile.

The functionality is the same, but the application is optimized for the device such as swipes on mobile, or clicks for the desktop, but it all uses the same code. This way, we are not causing the user confusion each time they use a different device. Everything that is done on one device is carried over to the next, so if you log in on web, smartphone or tablet it remembers the settings.

We took this direction because mobile and tablets have been the fastest growing UI among Saxo Bank customers for some time. 75% of all volume is generated by clients using multiple devices. This is why it was important to give a uniform experience across all devices, and to carry settings across. If, for example, I have added something to my watchlist on one device, why should I have to build another? It should simply be carried over.

This helps in our quest to make customer interaction with Saxo Bank as easy as possible. We know from our surveys that the focal point of everything we do is the platform. We are an online bank and a FinTech company, however the focal point is our trading platform so we must make it easy for customers to interact with us.

There is a pre-trade universe on SaxoTraderGO with content, news, and  research, and there is a trading universe which I demonstrated at the launch, and a fully-integrated Account Services function for all post-trade services such as financial statements, subscription models and back office services.

Everything is developed in HTML5 and on top of the “OpenAPI” to make this as easy to use as possible.

How do you view Saxo Bank’s technological edge over the competition in the retail FX sector?

We are one of the first financial institutions to fully embrace HTML5 technology. There are always trade-offs with technology, but we think HTML5 represents the best effective option when it comes to deliver a compressive consistent integrated client experience across multiple devices and form factors.

HTML5 is good for some things and less good for others, but we think the time is right to go all in on HTML5. We have built the platform from ground up and at the same time we have made sure that the underlying technology is optimized to support application development. All functionality is served through our new OpenAPI, we use websockets for push and streaming, and we have integrated Content Delivery Network (CDN) acceleration technology.

In the old days, a price update used to come from the client application polling the server for price updates periodically, this new system does it by streaming constantly.

We are a multi-asset provider, therefore it is important that we offer one single account with cross-margin. Some clients only trade one asset class. We have a multi-asset trading engine, however on the first log in to SaxoTraderGO, we ask the client about his or her preferences.

If a client chooses that he or she only is interested in trading CFD or FX, for example, then the news feed tailors itself towards the type of trading that is selected by the client. The same goes for the instrument finder, calendar events etc. The idea is to make the information available and the platform experience as relevant as possible for the client.

The client can amend this at any time in the platform to show all types of asset. It is just a setting. This is a way of perfecting simplicity.

The white labeling capability within Saxo Bank is part of a long tradition within the company. Some very large banks use our system under their own name, loge and license.

For White Label customers, often customization is essential, in terms of specific colors, logos, languages, disclaimers and the asset classes the want to offer their clients. White Labels can specify a full multi-tenant IT system, specific to the needs of each type of client they want to service.

We offer them to run the solution as though it was their own platform, and the white label partners have the same customization functionality as we do internally. We were forced to consider this aspect in the design of the platform as white labeling is a large part of our business.

HTML5 and the OpenAPI are of great importance in this respect. Whenever we had to do a change in the past, we had to change it on the various backend servers, as well as in the different platforms and Apps. Now we have one HTML5 front end, and it is all served by one open API, so we only have to make a change once internally for the back end, so we can deploy changes much quicker and for much lower cost.

Open API is REST based, well defined and encapsulates all of the complicated business logic. One benefit of this is that we can easily get very good front end developers who know how to code front ends but don’t necessarily have 20 years of experience in FX or Options. In the near future we can open up this functionality to a wider range of developers, including third party companies and individual developers outside of Saxo Bank. They get an access code to the API and can code a small app, or a new feature, themselves.

Finally the SaxoTraderGO and OpenAPI will be the corner-stone of our next generation White Label Solution. It allows other banks to integrate trading functionalities or back office functions from Saxo Bank directly into their own online banking applications. And the clients only sign in once.

The launch of the new SaxoTraderGo platform was held at The Family, a start-up incubator in Paris. Do you draw similarities between Saxo Bank’s technologically advanced R&D ethos and the free-thinking, cutting edge methodology of today’s FinTech start-ups?

Yes, most definitely. I can’t take the credit for launching at TheFamily. TheFamiliy is a French start-up investor that is trying to re-build the entire French eco-system.

I didn’t know them before the Head of our Paris office suggested to do the launch at their place. Kasper Elbjoern, Head of Communications, thought it was a perfect match for Saxo, and I obviously agree because Saxo is more than just a bank, Saxo is a hybrid between a bank and a technology company.

Kim Fournais and Lars Seier Christensen, our CEOs and co-founders of Saxo Bank, built the bank as early adopters of the internet. They came across the internet at an early stage and appreciated that here was a real chance for a small firm to differentiate itself and become a trading facilitator. We still think of ourselves as a true FinTech company with a banking license and that’s why launching SaxoTraderGO, our third-generation platform, in this start-up environment felt authentic. I think it was an original and appropriate launch strategy.

Do you envisage a future without desktops, where mobile and wearable devices will render desktops obsolete?

I am not so sure about that, I think different segments want different things. A few years ago, nobody thought about mobile and tablets, whereas now they come first when it comes to developments and even more recently we have seen the watch applications being launched. I am sure we will see new devices and ways to trade in the future.

With HTML5 and OpenAPI we are a lot more flexible and able to service our client on their choice of devise. Right now SaxoTraderGO works on web (Windows and Mac), iOS, Android and Black Berry devices. Soon we will also support Windows Mobile.

I think other banks will adopt this methodology quickly as it is a way of future-proofing and keeping the cost down. Yes, it is easier to get good performance on a native Android app than a HTML5, therefore extra work is required – but then it also works across more devices and operating systems.

I believe that any entity in such a highly advanced business such as ours who does not embrace interactive media, video and customer engagement on the move will become a dinosaur. Saxo Bank’s recent launch of SaxoStrats which streams videos via Twitter proves that this is indeed correct, and that Saxo Bank is a leader in this. Do you agree that obsolescence beckons for those who do not embrace new media?

We want to bring content, trading, account information and relationships together within the platform. We don’t start from scratch as we already have a great content and social site (www.tradingfloor.com) that is also developed on top of the OpenAPI and we also have a great multi asset trading engine.

Still it is very challenging bringing all this together. Our ambition is to deliver an outstanding client offering. We call it the “Saxo Experience”. And SaxoTraderGO is our first step towards a new disruptive platform offering.

Photographs: Featured – Christian Hammer, Vice President and Head of Platforms at Saxo Bank. Right: LeapRate senior executive Andrew Saks-McLeod with the new SaxoTraderGo platform in Paris this week

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Saxo Bank Head of Platforms Christian Hammer: SaxoTraderGo is first step towards a new disruptive platform offering

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