Over the last few months, the entire finance industry has gone through a forced experiment on how well companies can operate with an almost entirely remote workforce. This has been a strong contrast on the differences between how we work at home as opposed to the office. Operationally, this has highlighted risks such as home internet that has never been designed with business level resilience in mind. In the old normal, loss of your internet was as inconvenient as not being able to stream your favourite shows, but now it can mean losing your immediate view on your trading position. The new normal also demands that we are away from our screens even more, be it increased childcare or even simple activities like getting lunch, which is no longer a 5-minute trip to the local chain sandwich store. Getting a call for an update from a portfolio manager now becomes arduous when the only tool you have left to get status on hundreds of orders is the telephone.
The need to be continually aware of our exact position is fairly unique to the finance industry and has led to a strong culture of always having a warm body on the desk, “just in case”. This has cemented itself in the tools and technologies we use and helped stop traders being part of the mobile revolution the world has seen over the last decade. With everyone now working in a distributed fashion, this way of working is considerably more challenging, and a home internet outage can be a serious disruption. Of course, much of this isn’t new – traders have long had to make tough decisions, such as whether to attend important business meetings or stay and monitor order flow. Trading multiple markets either requires more traders or very long office hours.
With a reported increase of broadband outages in the UK of 62% and no clear view on when many will be able to return to their offices, home internet failure is now a genuine operational risk and this can be seen by recent examples like the recent outage at Virgin Media. This isn’t a local problem either with global outages reported to be up by 77%. It is difficult to estimate the overall impact of an increased reliance on home internet but it could be much larger than the reported £742m lost in 2018 just from business connectivity problems.
Imagining what it would be like for a trader experiencing a home internet outage is not difficult. Say there is also a big market event that could seriously affect their trading plan. Their portfolio managers might be calling up asking for an update they can’t easily give, and they certainly can’t work their orders electronically, having to resort to voice for every change. All the while, turning their router on and off to see if it helps.
It will take years for home broadband to approach the resilience we are used to in an office environment, so until then we need a reliable backup solution. Fortunately, there already is a ubiquitous solution available which we all have, even if we don’t realise it: our mobile phones. Mobile internet speeds have seen a huge rise over recent years to the point where they can even approach normal wired internet. This may not be the full solution of course, as typical desktop applications are not optimised for the idiosyncrasies of mobile connectivity, lower bandwidth and smaller devices.
At the start of the year, FlexTrade began working on a mobile application as a companion for its cloud-based trading platform, FlexNOW. This has been part of our strategic initiative of “access anywhere securely”, to give traders the ability to use the platform irrespective of where they are – effectively unchaining traders from their desks. In the meantime, COVID-19 came along, making our mobile application even more valuable during this pandemic. The trivial install of the EMS has allowed a seamless transition to working from home, and now with the mobile application they have a powerful alternative if they lose connectivity or need to step out. We’ve used UX designers to ensure that they have a clear view of their trading regardless of device size, whilst ensuring the application is secure and prevents any data loss should you leave your phone on the train.
We are more than happy to set up a call and give you more information on how to unchain yourself from the desk and mitigate your risk.