P&L Report Card
It is interesting to note how many banks are suddenly re-focused on the user experience or UX. The last time we saw this level of enthusiasm was probably 2010 following the high profile impact of Matrix, which says something about both clients’ rediscovered willingness to engage with the single dealer platform, as well as the push for greater analytics capabilities.
Whatever the driver, users of platforms are much more demanding than they used to be in terms of how easy it is to use, move around and find what they are looking for. This also means that to stay at the top of the tree some attention has to be paid to the UX and this was difficult in a year in which MiFID II dominated so many budgets and resources.
Inevitably, those at the top of the tree score well here, BNP Paribas’ Centric, Citi’s Velocity, Deutsche’s Autobahn, JP Morgan’s eXecute and UBS’s Neo all fulfil the basics of a good UX with plenty of added value, as does Goldman Sach’s Marquee, which offers good market graphics around market depth and liquidity, as well as real-time analysis of order book depth both on the bid or offer and generically.
We have already discussed those platforms in some depth, so suffice to say that client feedback is that all are a major improvement on the experience even just three years ago – this is quite some achievement given how many products and services have been added in that time.
It is an interesting debate whether or not dedicated teams should be allocated design and UX work and the industry does appear split between those focusing on specific functionality and work “under the hood” and others who, whilst doing that, also seek to improve the UX. For what it’s worth, our view is that the UX could very soon become a differentiator between single dealer platforms as homogenisation takes place and the banks ensure they have every angle covered.
Ease of use and understanding will also be important if we are right and the future of this world is componentised and delivered via third party channels, as well as on the one desktop.
Not only will it be important that the overall platform looks good and works well, but if one piece of functionality, for example a pricing tile, is to be delivered to a client, it is important that client doesn’t have to search around for the right place to click.
It sounds simple, and in some ways it is, but it is vitally important because competition isn’t going away, so getting the details right could be the difference between your pricing or execution services being taken by a client or not.
Winner – BNP Paribas
It feels as though BNP Paribas’ CortexFX platform, which sits within Centric, has been around for many years – in fact it’s only six years since the bank rolled it out and indeed five years since the broader Centric product was released on the world. That it feels that way is in no way negative, rather it reflects the level of functionality and excellence of the product set that we would previously have expected to see from a much longer build out.
The genius behind the platform can be shared equally between the original design, which was to be open, scalable and flexible – the App Store approach – and the vision that wanted to create a platform that met so many needs of the varied customer base, but was easy to navigate around.
If a client unit wants business and regulatory reporting tools, they are at their fingertips – so too the trader wanting liquidity or access to the, as discussed elsewhere in this feature, excellent suite of algo execution products.
Research is delivered in a clean fashion, with good graphics that enhance the user experience rather than confuse, and as we have noted before, the alerts functionality is excellent, especially as it is proactive rather than reactive. The ability to take an alert and seamlessly transition from one task into another should not be under-estimated and BNP delivers.
The vision behind Centric and Cortex reflects a structured approach with a clear end goal – and the design was validated by how easily the bank managed to transition away from Silverlight to HTML5.
Not unlike UBS’s Neo, BNP’s platform can “suggest” apps to clients based upon their usage and this “shared” approach is backed up by the strength of the App Store on hand.
A client’s business can change and if it does, the banks need to be able to react in good time if the user is not to be put off by first a delay in developing and then rolling out of a new app. Centric has the apps and can easily transition the client experience at the same time as the client is changing their business structure.
Underpinning the client experience is an enhanced MIS system rolled out by the bank for its sales teams, this has resulted in workflow efficiencies for bank and client and if there was one area of the UX we feel has improved above all else in the past year, it is for the corporate client, where improved cash management apps have been added, as well as the ability to access statements and make block payments.
As BNP Paribas has added products over the past years, the ability to navigate the platform has become vital to client retention and the bank has achieved this. The platform is dynamic, proactive, flexible and scalable – all of which is very good. But the really great thing about the UX on Centric and Cortex is how easy it is to have all the information you want, at your fingertips.