How Options Delivers For Customers On A Daily Basis

How Options Delivers For Customers On A Daily Basis

How Options Delivers For Customers On A Daily Basis

Many of our customers are aware that we run a daily operations call for an hour from 9am ET to 10am ET every morning. It is not unusual for 50 or more people to be on the call, albeit many of them are on mute. Key participants include myself, John Bryant (CTO), Max Brown (CIO), the various heads of networks, engineering, key delivery managers, business-line heads, regional heads (including Asia) and the sales team.

At first glance, outsiders think the approach is insane, “Who in their right mind has a global all-hands meeting every single day?”, and from time to time, people internally question the regularity of the call too.

Obviously, getting all the key decision makers together once a day is a commitment but it makes for an ultra-agile delivery model where decisions are discussed and actioned within seconds. This daily forum is one of the key reasons Options has been so effective at punching way above its weight when it comes to execution. That aside, it also underlines how seriously we take supporting our client firms’ business needs.

My views on trading infrastructure support crystallised around a couple of incidents in my formative years on Wall Street (several lifetimes ago) and one outage in particular.

Long before I joined Wombat, we were running the Kx field office and one of the key projects we secured was supporting a bond trading system in CIBC.

As is the norm for young guys getting their first sample of the city, one Thursday night we all hit an Irish Bar on West 58th Street, just down from the W-Hotel. It was a quiet night by New York standards but we were still out to 5am and were more than a little the worse for wear when we trundled back to the company apartment (which, at that time, also doubled as our office). The last task before bed was to decide who would cover the market open the next day and Ian, the youngest member of the team, drew the short straw.

Ian was fresh out of college but super sharp for a fella his age. He was a math wizard with a first class degree from Oxford and had a talent for online poker to boot. He was streets ahead of any job on offer in Belfast and headed for New York the minute he graduated.

At 9:25am ET the next morning a perfect storm of freak events hit the trading system in CIBC, triggering a latent bug in the in-memory database, which froze all the servers and crashed the system. While the entire trading floor melted down, Ian calmly appraised the situation, ran a couple of commands on the database replication file to reduce the size (a move only someone who could read bytes could even have considered and one I’m still in awe of to this day) and restarted the system. By 9:27am ET everything was back up, running and back to normal and the traders went on to make over half a million dollars in profit by the end of the day.

The incident highlights four golden rules of trading system support:

1) If a problem occurs, the goal is to get it resolved before market open. For US markets, 9:30am ET is the bell.

2) The highest risk period is in the half-hour before market open. For instance, if your morning checks identify a problem at 5:30am ET you have four hours to troubleshoot and fix. If it happens at 9:26am ET you have four minutes, and that’s a whole different thesis.

3) Just because everything was fine every morning for the past five years doesn’t mean something can’t blow up the very next day.

4) And lastly, as Livermore put it, support needs to be “Johnny on the Spot” at all times. Your very best engineers and troubleshooters need to be at their desks, logged on to the key infrastructure and focused at the open.

Therein lies the reason for the daily call. At 9:30am ET on any given morning we have well over a hundred customer firms waiting to trade at the bell. We have a very rigorous pre-market process that runs from 5am ET to make sure everything is fine, which generally means we run through open projects, key deliveries, sales opportunities, PO approvals, and dozens of other items that help our business run smoothly. Crucially though, the one day there is a problem around the open it’s escalated in seconds and all the best people are on it in a blink.

— Danny Moore

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