Trader: Alexa, do you want to come to work with me?

Conversation-as-a-Service meets the trading floor

The way we interact with computers has continually evolved from punch cards, command line interfaces and keyboards, the introduction of the mouse and more recently touchscreen devices and Alexa. The common driver for change is always to make things easier, faster and more intuitive to input and access information. The latest technology advancement in this area is your voice, or ‘conversation-as-service’. The emergence of voice-controlled devices and smart homes enables people to issue voice commands in different languages to perform tasks and control a whole variety of different devices within a technology ecosystem. Devices such as Alexa enable music, appliances and other media to be controlled simply by stating our desires and wishes. The big benefit of such technology is being able to control multiple devices via a single medium.

The tech titans are investing heavily in voice technology and the race is well and truly on. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently commented, “It’s a simple concept, yet it’s very powerful in its impact. It is about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to our computing,”

Consider a busy trading floor, where traders and brokers are talking to various clients and brokers on potential trades, and then switching to internal conversations with market and credit risk departments regarding open credit limits and risk related questions. There is a constant flow of questions and communication on where a trade can be executed and the potential impact on exposure, market risk and P&L. Conversations and email exchanges occur, middle office need to run reports on the fly and provide fast responses. In some situations, trades are done based on yesterday’s closed position, exposing potential intra-day risk breaches. Could voice control play a role in this type of environment? The trader might want to ask, ‘What is my exposure to BP?’, ‘How much credit line do I have to do this?’, ‘What is the current forward curve of WTI?’. A single-entry point into multiple data sources would be a key starting point to answer these questions. If a voice-controlled device had live hooks into a common data source across trading platforms, venues, market prices, credit and risk positions, it would be a compelling technology for a bustling trade floor environment.

Clearly the voice technology is maturing to the point where adoption has become mainstream and is becoming part of our DNA. But having multiple applications, each with voice capabilities is actually disruptive. What we can learn from Alexa is that through one medium we have the ability to communicate and control multiple different applications from different providers making the technology more desirable and interaction more simple. The trading floor if anything is more demanding than that of the consumer, and in order to be viable we would need a single medium into data and information across the entire landscape – which is obviously secure and compliant. In times when the trading community are being asphyxiated by increased regulation and pressure to cut costs the onus to turn revenue has never been more real. Combining data aggregation or a single risk data warehouse platform with voice control could be a compelling technology solution to not only revolutionise but streamline and simplify the trading environment.

Alexa: Yes, we can do this together, let’s go.