Helix looks across the pond in 2018

Matthew Battaini and Bryan Vanderputten outline what sets Helix Financial Systems apart in the crowded technology marketplace and offer a taste of what the firm will offer in 2018 and beyond

What is Helix’s core offering, and how does it differentiate from other firms competing for business in securities finance?

Bryan Vanderputten: Our core solutions are focused on securities financing. How we differentiate ourselves in the securities lending industry is through our depth of knowledge and our staff’s ability to provide premium support.

We hire people with deep business and technology knowledge who work in-house. Our support staff and developers have been market participants in the various securities finance businesses, so we understand the needs of our clients as well as they do. For example, I have hands-on experience trading in the US and Canadian repo markets, whereas Matthew Battaini has a background in securities lending.

Better yet, we can anticipate those needs, providing cutting-edge, relevant solutions that stay ahead of the curve. We listen to our clients on a regular basis and include their feedback in our software development and road map planning.

Additionally, we attend all the major industry trade shows, conferences, and read industry publications to keep on top of the latest developments, regulations, requirements, and opportunities in the Securities Finance industry.

In the US, repo and securities lending are more bifurcated than they might be elsewhere, as there are a lot of differences between what a securities lending user and a repo user needs, so we have built different solutions and customised the user experience to give each desk exactly what they need. Having worked so closely with each other over the years, Matt and I have a unique ability to also understand the overlap in the two businesses and we’ve been able to build solutions for these overlaps—in terms of collateral management, risk, and profit and loss.

How did you fair in 2017, and what’s in the pipeline for the coming year?

Matthew Battaini: From a securities lending perspective, we’ve seen a lot of interest from non-US customers. We see our business footprint growing to markets in Europe, Canada and possibly Asia. Our product has evolved from a US-centric tool to a global trading platform, capable of traditional securities lending as well as structured products lending.

We are beginning to offer hosting solutions for our customers, helping our clients get to market faster. It will also help us speed up the integration time with customers. It normally takes months, but we are now able to do it in weeks.

Vanderputten: Recently, we’ve had double digit revenue growth. We have two very robust platforms to offer in the securities finance markets in addition to our to-be-announced allocations platform.

We’ve also added in a third product recently: a reporting tool called HelixALARM. It sits on top of our repo and securities lending databases and provides balance sheet reporting and netting opportunities, collateral mix/management, calculations and other risk management tools, for post-trade management —MIS reporting— that adds value to the suite of solutions that we offer.

We are in the process of signing a UK/EU-based bank to offer our repo product. Our securities lending product is also going live in Canada soon. The plan is to continue to add more robust features and add-ons for Europe, the UK, Asia and Canada, as our client base and support staff in these regions continue to grow. We are heavily investing in this growth in 2018 and 2019.

What challenges will Helix be facing in 2018?

Battaini: In 2018, we’ll be looking to expand our presence in Europe.

Vanderputten: Specifically, we’ll be looking to replicate the success we’ve had in the US and will adapt it to the European market. We’ll also be looking to hire for talented people on the ground to achieve this goal.

How does Helix support both its buy- and sell-side clients? How do their needs differ?

Battaini: From a securities lending point of view, I typically don’t refer to my customer as buy-side or sell-side. We evaluate their needs solely based on the style of business. Are they a clearing firm. Are they looking to run a conduit business. We support the different focuses of the business through flexible features that can be tailored for each business type.

Vanderputten: The software features and requirements of buy-side and sell-side clients are very similar, even though each might have a different business need or perspective on the market. Our solutions are adaptable to both sides of the business and can be scaled depending on the size of the client.

We’re starting to offer more fully hosted solutions for those firms that don’t have the immediate ability to get up and running, eg, they don’t have a server inside their network to install our software or IT staff to support the environment. That’s the biggest difference between the sell- and buy-side that we see. On the business side, the buy-side is just as sophisticated, but, in terms of technology, they might need an IT partner to help with trade entry, straight-through processing, and post-trade management processes, which is where Helix comes in.

With your expansion in Europe in mind, do you foresee any regional challenges with that, such as Brexit?

Battaini: There are regulations that will affect us and some regulations that won’t. For example, Securities Financing Transactions Regulation (SFTR) is a requirement. We’re talking to the European trade repositories. However, the implementation of Brexit does not appear to pose significant issues at this time.

Vanderputten: From what we know about the Brexit negotiations so far, I don’t see Brexit changing our solution requirements significantly. Some of our client’s businesses are clearly affected, but it has not reduced their need or demand for our technology. They have changed the way they use our solutions in order to be in compliance, and we have changed requirements with them when needed. In the US, capital requirements regulations, such as Basel III, have affected the size of balance sheets for banks. From our point of view, as a software provider, this doesn’t change our level of our support. There may be more companies that need our solution. Regulations can be good for technology, it’s been good for us.

Battaini: Brexit might affect a company’s location and size in staff more than anything else. It might affect companies headquartered in London or the UK and their capital requirements, more than it would affect how our solutions work.

How do you fit into the larger framework of Cantor Fitzgerald?

Battaini: Being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald has allowed us to leverage in-house synergies and resources, so that we can concentrate on our core competencies and leverage non-core software related business functions such as human resources, legal, accounting, for example. We operate as a small targeted software company, while enjoying the security and funding of a global firm.
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