It’s six years since Morgan Stanley’s Matrix raised the bar for trading software. A state-of-the-art UX design and revolutionary features made the widely adopted Bloomberg Trader platform look distinctly ‘8-bit Atari’ almost overnight.
That’s not big news any more, of course. All of the major Investment Banks have their own comparable products that are rapidly becoming compatible across devices to keep pace. Ambitious products like UBS Neo have taken the model one step further by augmenting trading activities with a universe of collaborative, analytical, reporting and management offerings for their clients. Lower down the food chain, many of the Tier 2 banks have increasingly slick offerings of their own, too.
Much further down the tail – away from the institutional banking landscape – the explosion of digital access has opened up low volume trading to the masses – or at least those with the appetite and means to speculate. The rise of spread betting, e-brokerage and day trading – as well as emerging trends like social trading – has resulted in an abundance of applications that offer access to markets.
We recently did a stock take of some of the various trading applications out there, with an eye on the ‘retail’ end of the market. In this competitive landscape, is the user interface offering a differentiator?
As you can see, the key component parts of trading are largely generic across both Investment banking platforms and ‘retail’ investing applications, even if the underlying functions are tailored for each audience.
Does that mean that we have reached a point in evolution where the UI design required to open and close trades is now perfectly optimised for the devices with which we interact?
Maybe, although there are still many more bad examples out there than there are good ones.
What is apparent is that serious investment in UX is no longer an afterthought – it’s table stakes. Businesses that are already demonstrating this capability through their products have stolen a lead on their competitors. They are now better placed to move beyond simple optimisation and into the realms of innovation through design.
For example, the social trading platform eToro has reinvented almost the entire proposition of trading by offering it within a social context. It is a Facebook for speculators with a simple, functional trading offering at its core.
eToro: “The wisdom of the crowd”
We are not comparing social trading networks like eToro with Investment Banking, of course. That would be like comparing apples and oranges. Yet in the institutional banking world, reinventing the proposition is just as relevant, and the proposition here is rapidly becoming about streamlining and client servicing.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, clients are highly averse to being kept in the dark. They are demanding slick, ‘access anywhere’ services that are transparent, robust and comparable with the digital products that they use in their personal lives. Better, quicker information and decision making is key – self service, real time reporting, more powerful analytics that can be understood and acted on easily, meaningful data visualisation and contextual, multi-channel sharing and messaging between client and bank are all areas that are ripe for improvement.
As bank profit margins flatten, and the rebuilding of trust and credibility continues, the marginal gains made in the emerging financial landscape will increasingly be reliant on a service revolution and the vision to build it.
Digital products that support this change will have to reduce financial overheads and lead times and make better use of aggregated data, while simultaneously enriching the channels of communication, relationship and service. That is the challenge and it is here that innovative user-centred design can always provide a differentiator.