“Mind The Gap!” – The life and times of a man on the move Episode 64

I speak to longtime FlexTrade executive James Tolve as he reflects on 13 years at the firm, and provide some food for thought about new asset classes for young and educated retail traders whilst in the Welsh valleys

In this weekly series, I look back on what stood out, what was bemusing, amusing and interesting during my weekly travels, interesting findings within the FX industry and interaction with an ever-shrinking big wide world. This is purely observational and for your enjoyment.

End of an era, beginning of a new era!

It is always very admirable to see some incredible tenacity and commitment among professionals across the FX and multi-asset electronic trading industry.

We should all be very proud of the innovative and avantgarde business sector that we all make a significant contribution to on a daily basis, as it has evolved tremendously over the past two decades, in many cases displaying technological topography, trading infrastructure and product ranges that lead the way for the wider financial services sector.

Development cycles are very short by comparison to banks and traditional financial services companies, and enthusiasm still shows in all areas of the industry from R&D to technical support to sales.

James Tolve

It is therefore a major milestone when a well recognized professional decides to move on after a long period of time at one of the benchmark companies of this sector.

New York’s evergreen broker-neutral, execution and order management trading systems company FlexTrade is about to wave goodbye to James Tolve.

James contacted me this week to let me know his decision.

“I hope all is well and just wanted to share some news. After 13 years I’ve decided to leave FlexTrade. My last day will be Friday, September 27” he said.

“I made my decision last month and am planning on taking some time off, perhaps a month or two, before commencing a search for something else” he said.

“Just wanted to say it’s always been a pleasure working with you over the many years we have worked together during all parts of your career. I hope we’ll be crossing paths in the next chapter of my career, wherever that may be” he concluded.

James has been instrumental to FlexTrade’s marketing effort over the past 13 years as the firm committed significant resources into thought leadership via its very detailed blog, which was not promotional at all and took the thinking man’s approach of providing vital insights, viewpoints and facts and figures which institutional partners and customers of trading technology companies can use as reference points for their business decisions.

I have long been an advocate of that approach, and FlexTrade has made some very commendable headway during this period including the recent partnership and integration with OpenFin; the extension of Goldman Sachs’ actionable IOI functionality within the FlexTRADER EMS; and the availability of FlexNOW via Amazon Web Services (AWS).

James, I wish you very well and great success in your next advancement in your career, you have a lot to be proud of. But most of all, enjoy your well earned time off!

Food for thought

What has food got to do with financial technology and electronic trading?

Not much, I hear you say, apart from that ‘profiteroles’ appear to be roles from which you can profit.

This week I spent some time at the Abergavenny Food Festival in South Wales, which is one of the most famous and well respected chef, farming and professional culinary festivals in the world.

The culture-rich town of Abergavenny is part of the cuisine, theater and literature region of the Usk Valley in South Wales, and is an annual destination for local and global chefs, farmers, academics and manufacturers.

The Abergavenny Food Festival takes over the entire town, and has lectures by the Castle, Masterclasses with famous chefs, every aspect of cuisine on display and most of all, an emphasis on sustainability

The event is very much top drawer, and features lectures from leading food scientists, farmers, developers of sustainable methods of farming, as well as demonstrations and workshops by some of the country’s most renowned Michelin Star chefs.

After cooking with the chefs during a Masterclass, learning some ingenious techniques from The Whitebrook’s owner, famous chef Chris Harrod on how to present cauliflower with burnt onion, cauliflower puree, beer pickled onions and pine buds with crispy kale and hedge bedstraw, most of which had been foraged from the grounds of the Tintern-based two-Michelin Star restaurant, I noticed a common theme this year.


Everyone is talking about sustainability. This got me thinking, why aren’t we thinking along those lines in the electronic trading sector?

Retail customers these days are highly astute, and many traders fit into two broad categories, those being novice traders (whom the regulators are falling over themselves trying to cater for by strapping down leverage and curtailing certain trading terms and tools), and sophisticated traders who fully understand complex charting, market conditions and how a brokerage actually works in detail, with good capital resources and a few years of expertise.

It is clear that the novice traders are underserved in that some of the smaller firms treat them as a Cost Per Acquisition / conversion which is not a practice that belongs in the fintech or financial services business at all, and therefore they do not have an aligned product range to choose from, and in many cases a brokerage which can give them a good start to a trading ‘career.’

The more experienced traders fare better and can afford the equities brokerages, as well as to stump up more margin capital to be able to work with good quality firms in first tier regions with leverage restrictions, said firms being well regulated and in many cases large, well capitalized and publicly listed with their own proprietary platform.

So, at Abergavenny, whilst in my element as the kitchen is my second domain after my desk at FinanceFeeds, I began drawing a conclusion that if we are all to attract the new, young and highly educated demographic onto electronic trading platforms and away from the challenger banks (that have NO money therefore cannot challenge the banks!) then we should perhaps sell sustainability.

I was speaking this week to DriveWealth and CQG in Chicago, and they are about to go live with their multi-asset solution for MetaTrader brokerages which, in partnership with NetDania, a firm well versed in providing professional trading platforms, is able to offer brokerages connectivity to OTC derivatives and exchange listed products on the same MetaTrader platform without the exchange clearing and membership fees, or separate topography that requires a $50,000 minimum deposit that makes Chicago appear out of reach to retail clients.

Experimenting with different applications of balsamic vinegar

In the culinary world, food from sustainable sources sells. And it sells in very large numbers to a very middle class, relatively wealthy, educated and young demographic.

Here in Central London, it is almost impossible to go into even a supermarket without seeing the words “sustainably sourced” or “organic” on absolutely everything, complete with a full description of its farmer or manufacturer’s solution to sustainability.

With the need for differentiation between retail brokers, it could be that trading the commodities produced by sustainable farms, trading sustainable land, farming stock, an raw materials grown in sustainable methods, as well as the pre-listed stock of development companies and fishing entities, exploration firms  – pretty much any commercial entity committed to sustainable food production – is a potentially good set of asset classes to get into.

The 45 to 60 year old low-deposit ‘punters’ that have been worn down by the constant barrage of calls over the last 15 years from unregulated MetaTrader-based FX firms who beg for a $200 deposit are now a barrel that can no longer be scraped. Over 1000 identical MetaTrader platforms are white labels, and their vendor, LP, product range and method of sale are identical to each other, hence the recycling of leads that tends to occur as sales people go from one to another, passing the leads on as they go.

Nobody falls for this anymore, and the 231 MetaTrader-based brokers that actually have a product and a good quality operation have simply increased their sales efforts via partnerships, and the main market is dominated by the firms with their own platforms in the UK or North America.

The young demographic buy into things that they actually see value in, sustainable farming and food being one of them. The UK, North America, Scandinavia, Australia, some parts of Europe are all home to a massive, high end and very trendy food culture, and with that comes a massive, high end and trendy potential client base.

If we can offer a well educated, well informed 25 to 40-something who cares about what is in his food enough to commit huge resources in paying for such products, watching YouTube tutorials to get good recipes and going to festivals – even music festivals these days have chef-standard food trucks – then they will likely be interested in trading sustainable commodities or investing in the pre-listed stock of a ‘disruptor’ to the food industry backed by the real money of hard working and committed chefs who know what they’re doing and are seeking an advancement of a vital industry for the greater good.

For many, food is a massive hobby and a way of life, but it is also a vital product that we all need.

Food for thought…..

Wishing you all a super week ahead!



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