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Foreign Exchange

BNP Paribas launches Cortex single-dealer platform

BNP Paribas has unveiled Cortex FX, its new single-dealer platform (SDP), which it believes will compete with the offerings of the largest players in the market.

The platform, which has been built in-house using Silverlight technology, has been used internally by 1,000 users for the past five months and has also been tested by a limited number of BNP Paribas’ corporate, hedge fund and real-money clients. It replaces FX eTrader, which was launched in 2009 and is based on a white-label agreement with an external provider.

The platform offers streaming spot, forward, swaps and options pricing, and offers access to market news and information, and the bank’s research.

It also allows clients to trade non-deliverable forwards (NDFs) and – a feature that it claims distinguishes it from the offerings of other big FX banks, such as Deutsche and Barclays Capital – it allows clients in emerging-market countries to book deals on shore. However, that’s not strictly true, as Deutsche is now offering onshore Indian rupee pricing on Autobahn.

“Most banks that are in the electronic space offer G20 and NDFs,” Thomas Soede, global head of electronic markets at BNP Paribas, tells EuromoneyFXNews. “What we made sure Cortex FX could offer was, for example, for the Chinese corporate to trade onshore renminbi, or a Korean client to trade onshore Korean won. We want to be relevant to all our clients which translates into offering all of our FX products in a customizable way - to build with them their execution journey”

Soede says BNP Paribas has ambitious plans, given its large corporate client base and its geographical reach – the bank has a presence in more than 50 countries.

“The application is very full and can be rolled out globally,” he says. “To give you client numbers, if you look at our competitors with respect to the institutional clients, they probably have 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 clients and probably 5,000 users and we share those ambitions.Moving into the SME client segment, these clients numbers have a large multiplier."

BNP Paribas says it has built a separate network outside of the bank’s internal infrastructure to maintain the resilience of its e-trading system.

It has created what it calls a “bubble” independent of the bank’s main IT architecture, with fibre-optic, high-speed internet links with close location to the main FX exchanges. The bank has also invested in tools to accelerate the speed of its internet connection.

“We are not dependent on the traffic within BNP internally, so our highway is purely dedicated to electronic markets,” says Soede.

“We have done what we can to engineer on a low-latency environment. Our challenge is to help clients who have slower connections to take advantage of some of the work we’ve done.”

By building a separate system, the bank hopes to minimize the downtime the platform experiences and has a target that the system will remain up 99.9% of the time, which equates to downtime of roughly 20 minutes a month – a period BNP Paribas says will allow it to undertake essential housekeeping.

The bank is confident in the resilience of its system and its ability to withstand shocks in the market, such as last year’s intervention from the Swiss National Bank.

In the event of an outage, however, BNP says it can quickly get back online given that it runs a parallel back-up system and has dedicated staff on call 24 hours a day to deal with any problems.

The bank’s choice to write its application using Silverlight might surprise some, given that Microsoft has stopped developing the coding system and that the industry is moving towards the use of HTML5. Indeed, there is a perception in the market that SDPs are going to be written in HTML5.

However, Soede says the agility of Silverlight is an advantage, especially in terms of the ability to easily change client permissions and allow different clients varying degrees of access to functions on the system. That, he says, will allow the bank to tailor Cortex FX for the differing needs of, say, a Chinese corporate and a European hedge fund.

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