Emerging markets: Exotix goes global to follow its dreams
Can a failing frontier markets brokerage transform itself into a full-service investment bank? Duncan Wales, head of Exotix, believes it can be done through the creation of a global partnership network – and so does his backer, Icap founder Michael Spencer.
When Duncan Wales agreed to head up Exotix in mid 2016, the firm was in a mess. Once a profitable niche brokerage focused on frontier markets bonds and distressed debt, it had gone steadily downhill after the financial crisis.
“Exotix was a trailblazer, but it allowed itself to fall behind,” says Wales. “It faced huge competition in its traditional space and it tried to diversify in difficult markets in a very challenging environment. It lost its way strategically.”
Founded in 1998, Exotix was originally an offshoot of broker-dealer Icap. In 2007, the group sold most of its stake in the firm to IPGL, the private investment vehicle of Icap owner Michael Spencer, to avoid being hit by punitive capital requirements.
Over the next decade Exotix cycled through senior management at an alarming rate, with little to show for it. By 2014, the firm was in the red, and an initial restructuring attempt the following year failed to produce much in the way of results.
That is where Wales came in. A lawyer by trade, he has a long-standing relationship with Spencer dating back to 2003, when Icap bought US electronic trading platform BrokerTec, where Wales was working at the time.