World Gets Smaller for FX

Terry Flanagan

Demand for electronic FX trading is escalating in response to the global economy and new technology, such as mobile computing, that’s rapidly transforming the once-manual market.

“The world has gotten smaller due to tech, and a lot more activity is cross border,” said Michael Ward, CEO, North America and Europe at USForex. “People have become more sophisticated about trading currencies, and as a result, the spreads that banks earn have become smaller.”

Operating a successful FX trading business requires both a user-friendly front-end that can attract mobile and tablet users, as well as efficiencies on the back end.

“The successful companies are those that can earn 40 basis points per transactions and still make a good profit margin,” said Ward.

Backed by Accel Partners and The Carlyle Group, USForex has developed technology to transform the otherwise outdated, yet very necessary, global foreign exchange services space.

“A lot of banks have started to catch up on the front end, with mobile apps and the like, but the back end is still old school,” Ward said. “It takes a long time to change legacy processes.”

Electronic trading is already standard operating procedure for investors and many large corporations in the U.S. FX market, but even in the United States electronic trading platforms managed to expand their customer bases last year by meaningful margins.

The share of U.S. market participants trading foreign exchange electronically increased to 82% in 2012 from 76% in 2011, according to Greenwich Associates.

Among users of e-trading, the average share of FX transactions executed via phone calls between market participants and dealers declined to 23% of total volume in 2012 from 27% in 2011.

“In terms of overall foreign exchange trading volumes, 2013 got off to a strong start,” said Greenwich Associates consultant Peter D’Amario. “If this level of activity holds, we would expect to see meaningful increases in both the absolute volumes executed through online systems this year and in the share of overall marketplace trading volumes executed electronically.”

Establishing a U.S. presence and gaining licensing approval in California, the world’s ninth largest economy, represents a growth opportunity for USForex and provides businesses and individuals a cost-effective transfer option that was previously not available, according to Ward.

Travelex, ING Direct, and Macquarie Private Wealth use USForex’s to enable clients to seamlessly make international foreign payments and money transfers. It provides iPhone and Android mobile applications that enable customers to check rates, access market commentary and log into the mobile trading site.

“A lot of financial institutions doing international payments would look at either building it themselves or going to a vendor,” Ward said. “By enabling them to white label our technology, we are providing a third alternative.”

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