Where the hell did my axe go?

I used to get this question all the time from traders at banks.

From 2014 to 2018, I was on a team at Algomi that implemented the Synchronicity software for European Banks. The idea behind Synchronicity was like a riddle for a child, it sounded simple but was actually difficult. First we aggregated all of the content from a fixed income desk into one database then normalized the data and applied an algorithm to the data.

A typical project would have the following datasets:

- Axes from a pricing engine or order management system (ION usually)

- Trade history from an internal backoffice system or TOMS

- Inquies from Bloomberg, Tradeweb, MarketAxess, MTS & manual voice inquiries - Holdings from IPREO, eMAXX or manual uploads from salespeople

Once the data was aggregated in one location it was easy to apply an algorithm to find actionable axe and inquiry suggestions for salespeople based on historical trading patterns.

The database would publish suggestions, axes, quotes, trade history, inquiry history and holdings to an internal network of voice salespeople. However, the real value add was the network that was built with asset managers. A portfolio manager on the network could immediately see if a bank publishing an axe had traded a particular ISIN.

To me it was genius. Now bank traders and salespeople would have a datapoint to verify that they were active in an illiquid issue. I think the reason I was so passionate is that I had sat in the salesperson’s chair from 2010 to 2014 wanting this technology.

I hopped around the City and European financial hubs for about 4 years merrily implementing, training and watching. I only spoke English and I was always gracious for the traders and salespeople that would speak English to me. I understood “Where the hell is my Axe going?” but would cringe when I would get the question in Danish, Dutch, or German.

I usually knew what an individual was saying b/c they would be pointing at a column on their computer screen or at me.

“Can I see the list of buy side users and who is actually using it?” was usually the next questions from traders and salespeople that were skeptical. My attitude was always recalcitrant because I had provided this list to all department heads and the project had been signed off.

However it was one day in Canary Wharf when a client sat me down and showed me ALL the platforms that were getting their axe and price content.

Instead of think of the platform as the destination, I needed to think about the final destination of the data. If a trader is sending her/his axe to 20 platforms, then where does it actually land.

I started to write down my old workflows and destinations:

I was in voice sales and Bloomberg, email and my phone were my channels.

Bloomberg Bloomberg IB’s -extremely valuable so I only sent quotes to my best clients over IB. All of my negotiations happened on IB. Bloomberg RUNZ messages went to everyone in my SPDL(Speed Dial). Bloomberg MSG content was blasted to my SPDL (Speed Dial) Bloomberg ALLQ display went to only clients that were approved on NFPV and then enabled to trade on ENAB.

MarketAxess MarketAxess RFQ responses would go to institutional players on the buyside.

Retail ATS Platforms TMC, Bondpoint, Tradeweb Retail and MTS axes and quotes went to a network of retail players and financial advisors.

Then I came to the conclusion that it would be better to map it out for USD corporates and municipal bonds.

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