Life after MF Global: Trading Up

It may be a well-worn cliche, but the saying "every cloud has a silver lining" could not be more true for one former employee of derivatives brokerage MF Global...

By Joe McGrath joe.mcgrath@information-partners.com July 30, 2015 10:30 AM GMT

When derivatives brokerage MF Global collapsed into administration in 2011, the staff that worked there was understandably distraught.

However, the career crossroads at which they found themselves as a result of the broker’s collapse could since be seen as a blessing for many. 

This is certainly the case for one individual who is currently riding the FinTech wave and whose talent has been recognised by some of the best-known names in the City of London.

Gareth Mann worked at MF Global between 2006 and 2011, latterly as head of digital strategy, but in 2011 he left to found his own FinTech business Digital Contact – a company focussed on Big Data analysis for trading.

His work at the start-up soon got the attention of some known investors including banker John Maltby – the former boss of Kensington Mortgages and chief executive officer of Williams & Glyn Bank.

In an interview with The TRADE, Mann said the Digital Contact Trading.co.uk brand was founded on the belief that making sense of Big Data could give all traders a competitive edge – not just the big institutions which have been working on their own solutions for some time.

He says: “We have developed our systems to process billions of messages a day.  The first product we are releasing is for the active trader – the trader that sits at home. At this stage, it is already quite busy in the institutional area so we have gone for a B2C model.”

While Mann is going for those running their own trading accounts, he acknowledges that the business has also done work with some of the City’s larger institutions.

That may not come as much of a surprise, given the focus that companies such as Goldman Sachs, State Street and BlackRock have placed on analysing big data in real time since the credit crisis.

But despite the demand that exists for these vendor services in the FinTech world from the big names of capital markets, Mann believes there is more that can be done for individual traders and this is the thinking behind the launch of his new service Trading.co.uk.

The idea behind the new service is that it can act as a personalised ‘warning system’ for traders as major market-moving events begin to be noticed both in social media and from traditional news sources.

The user can choose how sensitive they would like their tailored news feed to be based on their own risk levels and personal beliefs.

Mann explains: “This is purely an early warning system. The feedback that we had is that this is product that traders want to use to get the pulse of the market.  They want to know about an event as soon as possible so they can react to it.

“It is having data that as a human being, they can react to, having data that allows people to make decisions.”

So how reliable is the system? When asked to give a specific example of how the system has worked during its testing phase he points to when a White House social media feed was hacked some months ago.

He says: “About a year ago, someone hacked the White House Twitter account and made a comment about going to war.  People do make [trades] on that. Our system has an algo that also looks at WHO is talking and what is the likelihood that each of the voices are authentic and that they have value in the data.

“Our system may consume market data but it isn’t driven by it. It is driven by the market conversation.”

Read the full interview with Gareth Mann in the forthcoming edition of The TRADE.