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StreetsTalksTo QuantHouse

In this episode of StreetsTalksTo we are joined by Stephane Leroy, Chief Revenue Officer of Quanthouse and Emmanuel Carjat, Chief Operating Officer. Quanthouse provides end-to-end systematic trading solutions. This includes ultra-low latency and consolidated market data solutions, algo-trading development framework and proximity hosting and order routing services. They help hedge funds, market makers, investment banks, brokers and trading venues achieve optimal trading performance, develop and integrate new trading strategies, comply with regulatory requirements, test existing and new trading infrastructure tools and rationalise operating costs.

In this fascinating conversation we cover many topics including technology infrastructure, data, trading strategies and the ability to self permission. We touch upon the current geopolitical climate and of course we ask what is their favourite piece of regulation! 

Stephane Leroy

Stephane Leroy is Chief Revenue Officer at QuantHouse, a well established Fintech providing algo and AI trading solutions to hedge funds, market makers, investment banks, brokers and trading venues. Stephane co-founded QuantHouse in 2005 and sold the business to IRESS (ASX:IRE), an Australian-based listed company in 2019. Stephane is a serial, successful entrepreneur, business and growth strategist, startup expert and visionary for technologies that are set to power the next-gen of Enterprise IT such as AI, ML and cloud-based solutions. Stephane has a proven track record of continuous success in turning innovative ideas into profitable businesses and is well known for building high-performing teams to enable swift business wins. Stephane has been instrumental in turning QuantHouse, the startup, into a successful and recognized Fintech provider with more than 500 global clients spread across all G20 countries. Prior to QuantHouse, Stephane served in a number of key roles at Standard & Poor's where he was Global Vice President and Radianz (a British Telecom company) as Managing Director and, AT&T as Global Head of Sales.

Emmanuel Carjat

Emmanuel Carjat is Chief Operating Officer, QuantHouse. Prior to QuantHouse, Emmanuel was Chairman and Managing director of TMX Atrium. Emmanuel is a successful entrepreneur experienced at developing and executing strategies in growth-stage and turn-around companies. Emmanuel has strong experience in investors relations, general management and building operational excellence and has a proven track record of building, growing, acquiring and selling businesses. Emmanuel joined QuantHouse in 2018 as Chief Operating Officer to help restore the profitability, growth and innovation of the business. Under his guidance, QuantHouse has seen its profit margin significantly increase while retaining a leading position as the market data supplier of choice for quants and exchanges. In a constant quest for talent, Emmanuel led the creation of the QuantHouse Tunisian team, where the company now employs over a third of its workforce allowing for further investment in automation and product development. QuantHouse was sold to Iress (ASX:IRE) in 2019. Prior to joining QuantHouse, Emmanuel was the co-founder, Chairman and Managing Director of TMX Atrium (previously Atrium Network) where he led the global growth of the company since its inception in 2006 serving more than 200 customers in 12 countries. In 2011 Emmanuel sold Atrium to TMX group (TSE:X). Emmanuel holds a Master in Telecommunications from Pierre and Marie Curie University (LIP6). An experienced sailor, Emmanuel circumnavigated the world between 2016 and 2018.

Transcript

Julia: Hello. My name is Julia Streets and welcome to the podcast series, StreetsTalksTo, and in each episode, I interview leaders from some of the most influential firms, bodies, and initiatives in the financial services industry. On each episode, we explore what’s at the very forefront of innovation and change. We think about the challenges facing their clients and also the industry at large, and we uncover the opportunities that exist both today and as we look ahead, particularly as we all navigate through these extraordinary times. We hope you enjoy the series, which you can find on all good podcast channels and all the episodes are listed on our website, streetsconsulting.com. You can find the episodes using the hashtag #StreetsTalksTo. Thank you for listening and welcome to StreetsTalksTo QuantHouse.

QuantHouse provides end-to-end systematic trading solutions. When you think about ultra-low latency and consolidated market data solutions, algo-trading development frameworks, and proximity hosting, and order routing services, think of QuantHouse. They help hedge funds, market-makers, investment banks, brokers, and trading venues achieve optimal trading performance, develop and integrate new trading strategies and comply with their regulatory requirements. And a really important part of what they do is they help firms test existing and new trading infrastructure tools all to rationalise operating costs.

One key feature and offering that QuantHouse give the industry is the QuantHouse API ecosystem. Think of it as a store, a unique global initiative with the objective to provide the framework within which capital markets participants can quickly and easily gain access to multiple trading venues, technologies, or applications through standard APIs.

In terms of the corporate structure contents, QuantHouse is part of Iress, a global technology company, providing software to the financial services industry, used by more than half a million users around the world.

I’m delighted today to be joined by Emmanuel Carjat, Chief Operating Officer, and Stephane Leroy, Chief Revenue Officer. Let me just tell you a little bit about each of them. Emmanuel Carjat is the Chief Operating Officer at QuantHouse and prior to QuantHouse, he was the Chairman and Managing Director of a firm called TMX Atrium. A successful entrepreneur, experienced at developing and executing strategies in growth stage and turnaround companies. Emmanuel, it is wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Emmanuel: Thank you very much, Julia. It’s wonderful to be here.

Julia: Joining you Emmanuel today is Stephane Leroy, who is the Chief Revenue Officer at QuantHouse. He also is a serial successful entrepreneur. He’s a business and growth strategist, a start-up expert, and a visionary for technologies that are set to power the next gen of enterprise IT. And of course, there we think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a cloud based solution. Stephane, great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Stephane: Thank you, Julia. Thank you for having me.

Julia: Pleasure, wonderful to see you. I’m really looking forward to this conversation, actually, because it feels to me when we talk about the ecosystem, the API ecosystem, that it is very much of its time. But, we’ll get into that a little bit further on. Where I’d like to start the discussion today is very much thinking, not so much about QuantHouse, but actually thinking about the industry, thinking about your clients and what essentially is keeping them awake at night. Emmanuel, let me come to you first of all. Looking, as we sit here at the beginning of 2021, what are the big things that your clients are thinking about?

Emmanuel: Really what happened in 2020 was the pandemic. If you want to think about what is keeping them awake at night today, it’s still from an operation perspective, how do we cope with the extremely significant disruption this has meant for all the lines of businesses. As you know, this is an industry that is heavily electronic, heavily relies on computers. We tend to think that this works on its own in data centers, but actually it needs a lot of people to keep those machines running, to keep the code running. As 2020 disrupted all of those lines of communication or infrastructure, one of the things that was very critical was maintaining the infrastructure running so that the financial system industry could continue to run. I think as we continue in that complex environment, making sure that all of the people that power the financial service industry are able to deliver the service day in, day out, 24/7. It’s certainly something that keeps me awake.

Julia: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think this year, in particular, we went into lock down and the markets were incredibly volatile, so, the imperative to keep the infrastructure working was higher than ever before. I’m wondering, Stephane, you spend all of your time talking to the clients in the industry. If we think about how has their expectations and their requirements changed or are they changing? What’s shifting at the moment?

Stephane: There’s a short-term and long-term view here. I think all our clients, as they are really connected with the robots on the market, they are really, very quick to react, but they also have in mind this fundamental shift happening in this market from, let’s put it this way, the speed trading, which is now taking off. In fact, 15 years ago, 10/15 years ago, towards smart trading, where speed trading was really a challenge for all of those clients, dealing with infrastructure, with the technology issues such as FPGA. We have lens, fiber optics, and so on and so forth. But now, smart trading is a very different, complex challenge for them because all of a sudden, they are now looking for knowledge. This is a very challenging time for all of them because knowledge and talents are in shortage now, globally.

Julia: It’s going to be fascinating thinking about how that’s going to evolve, particularly this year in 2021, as well. One of the things that I ask all our guests is because we have had to shift focus so radically in 2020, are there some things we’re at risk of overlooking? Are there some elements that have been put on the back burner that shouldn’t have been? What would you particularly call out as important that we should definitely be talking about right now? Emmanuel, let me come to you, first of all.

Emmanuel: I think one other thing that we’ve seen in 2020, and that is certainly guaranteed to continue this year, is geopolitical change and Brexit. I think we’re seeing a lot of things shifting in the world and maybe we’ll come back later to it, but the way data is being used effectively, something that the various blocks or trying to get hold of, is definitely something that I think we need to actually look at during this year.

Julia: We will definitely come back to that later because I know that there are some kind of shifting considerations around sovereignty of data and also not only the capability of processing data, as well, so, we’ll definitely come back to that in a while. Stephane, when you were talking earlier, you just sort of alluded to the point about talent, as well. Is that something that we should be talking about more or are there other aspects, as well?

Stephane: I think talent is really crucial for this industry, going forward, because as you will understand that when we talk about machine learning, AI, cloud, all these kinds of new technologies, it requires talent. Just to talk about Europe alone, we’ll have to understand how this geopolitical change will affect the mobility of talents and without even mentioning the Brexit process ongoing.

Julia: It’s a weird thing, is it? We don’t want to work Brexit too much, but we know we have to talk about it, but the implications of how it unwinds and presents itself is going to be really, really interesting. I think where we’re talking very much about trade deals, actually, there is the human capital dynamic, as well, which is incredibly important. I think that answer has kind of set the scene beautifully, in terms of, what clients are thinking about and what’s shifting, and then also what we should be paying attention to, as well. But, I’m very keen just to now return to the question of QuantHouse. Listeners are probably wondering. I explained at the beginning, all the different services that you offer, as well. Let me ask you the question about how are you helping clients address those challenges you talked about? Again, Stephane, let me start with you. When you’re out there talking to clients, what solutions are you presenting to them that matter right now?

Stephane: Well, the API ecosystem is here to really help clients deal with the increasing complexity of algo-trading technologies, because now you have to understand, identify, and implement very rapidly, in fact, those innovations, otherwise you will not be able to even stay in the markets. In fact, the API ecosystem is a way to reduce or hide the complexity of this new world of technology from the client to make sure that he’s able to use the end result without dealing with the integration of all these APIs and C# classes and all these kinds of technical based type of concepts.

Julia: As I said earlier, because the ultimate objective is to reduce the total cost of ownership and to reduce those operating and to optimise the trading infrastructures, as well. And as you said, I think you brought this in a couple of years ago, which has made it very timely, it feels incredibly timely right now. When we think about the API ecosystem and the API fabric, as Emmanuel was describing it, and the complexities of and the nuances of fabrics like this and ecosystems and infrastructures, as well. Emmanuel, what are you particularly doing when you help clients think about addressing the changes that lay ahead of them as well?

Emmanuel: I think that one of the things, going back to what Stephane  was just saying, the way QuantHouse positions its services is by listening to the clients. It’s listening to what the client needs and delivering on this. However, when you have that, then you want to bring operational efficiencies. One of the key things is the technology that you use in the background to ensure that those diverse clients will sit on the same stream of technology. Because one of the things that’s fairly easy to do is develop a technology for every new client. Obviously, that wouldn’t achieve the type of operational efficiencies that we’re looking to bring to our clients. One of the things that at QuantHouse we’ve been doing for a long time and we keep on doing as we launch our new products and make up on demand, is leverage technologies that are enabled to give us an advantage for the long term.

If you look specifically at that product, what we’ve been doing is leveraging big data technology that has been developed by the likes of Google, so that our customers can benefit from an extremely large set of data at scale and still cater to every different needs of those clients. I think that’s really key in what we offer to them. It’s both the underlying technology that’s sufficiently wide and well understood and built by the giants of this industry. At the end of the day, if you compare the financial industry to the cloud giants, like Google and Facebook, they are manipulating vastly more data than the financial industries is manipulating. So, the technology that they bring to the table is very well-suited to the problems that we’re trying to tackle. However, it needs to be assembled so that it can be used by our clients.

This is I think, is what QuantHouse brings to the table. If you layer on top of that, the services provided by our partners in the API ecosystem, you have something that our clients can use almost plug in play. They can use the value services that are available in the API store, take the underlying technology that we supply, that’s built on building blocks used by the biggest in the industry, and deliver the service. I think this is really what we try to bring to the table.

Julia: It’s literally the entire top to bottom stack right the way through, even down into the handling of data in a kind of Google-esque, don’t just pick out one, but let’s call it a Google-esque kind of approach, which is really fascinating because presumably that involves quite a lot of investments, in terms of tackling data in such a large scale way.

Emmanuel: It does, but it does on two fronts. I think it does on the pure infrastructure front, and yes, there is investment involved with that. But, I think the second part that we often don’t talk about is the investment we make in people. In order to attract the talent that you need to manage those technologies, we need to significantly invest in people. I think one of the things that’s key in that, and we were talking about it earlier, is the mobility of those people and how do we manage the fact that the people that are really knowledgeable about this technology are also extremely mobile.

Julia: I think 2020 has certainly called that into sharper need for thinking about it. Well, what have we learned through a lockdown and clearly the mobility of people. And if you let me just take that a little bit further and come on to Stephane here, in terms of when you’re working with clients and thinking about what have you learned during the Coronavirus lockdown, in terms of how their needs are changing, or indeed how they want their services delivered, as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s really important and what have we learned from that.

Stephane: If I may say, I think we did not learn anything working with our clients in 2020. Why not? Because most of the time we had, and we never will meet our clients. Each time I’m telling that statement to anyone, people are really surprised like, “What? You signed with a client. You signed a contract with a client. You never meet him in person?” No, never. Why? Because we are just providing technology for robots. And most of the time from the moment the client has already identified you as someone you can trust because you have a track record.

The most important thing is not to shake hands and to see each other, with the stuff in the back. No. The most important thing is to check technology, to talk about technology, to make sure that you are able to understand this trading fabric I was talking about earlier on. And from that moment, you build this trust, but based on knowledge, not on human relationships. In fact, the confirmation of the business model we have now for more than 10/15 years with our clients is the fact that really clients wants from us, or expect from us technology, advanced leading technology to be delivered very rapidly and eventually, down the road, if we see each other, why not? But, this is not a key thing. By the way, we have grown in 2020 by a solid double digit growth. That’s also a confirmation of this business model.

Julia: It’s fascinating to hear people talk about how a lot of this is very much self-permissioned, it’s self-driven. And you talk about the robots and just to explain that, of course, we’re talking about trading technology, essentially, the automation of trading technology, as you call it, the robots. And thinking about the heads of the trading, how he or she is thinking about their strategies, as well, and the ability to self-control and have self permission to be able to feed into their trading strategies or return the performance that all their end investors are already looking for, as well. Part of that has been driven by the quest for performance. Part of it’s driven by the need for robust, resilient infrastructure, particularly during volatile markets, as we’ve been discussing. Part of it’s driven by the need to be able to continue to innovate and to be able to access new products and services, however they sit in the stack, as nimbly as you possibly can, as well.

But of course, there’s another piece as well, which is the driving change of regulation, the relentless change of regulation that’s going on at the moment. This is a question that I’m asking all senior leaders who come onto the podcast, as well. Slightly odd one, which is, so what’s your favourite piece of regulation right now? Stephane, let me stay with you for that. This is what your clients are thinking about every single day. It’s what you’re thinking about every single day. Is there a piece of regulation that particularly stands out for you?

Stephane: Yes, for sure. Maybe not in the way you would expect me to answer that question because most of the time, let’s be frank, when you start to talk about regulation, it’s not a sexy topic. Most of the time, it’s another layer of complexity on what you are doing day after day. Frankly, I think that this MiFID II, and the next flavour of this MiFID regulation is completely the opposite. I think this group of people at the European commission did a fantastic job in the sense that they are forcing this entire community to move on. MiFID I, remember MiFID I, it was a way to open this market by creating the concept of multi-listed instruments in different places. You know that Julia because at that time you were working for Chi-X, which was a creation allowed by the MiFID regulation.

What is MiFID II? MiFID II, I think, is a fantastic push towards innovation because the regulator in one way is saying “Now, the world is flat”. Forget about this silo concept, where you have a buy side dealing with a sell side and a sell side dealing with an exchange. No, it’s not vertical anymore. It’s completely flat. Everyone can deal with anyone. As long as, of course, you are able to keep the best interest of the end user, retailer, investor. And the concept of SI has been immediately created, like the concept of MTF was created, I think, 10 years back with the first flavour of MiFID I.

I think those SIs are really helping this industry to move forward and to open up. And they were one of the first, by the way, to react and to have a continental European book, by the way, following this Brexit, in fact, process. Maybe it was not the answer you expected because I am a great supporter of this MiFID 

and European, I would say, regulation. Hopefully one day they will tackle the big, big issue of data monopoly imposed by the exchange on everyone.

Julia: Exactly and I know a lot of people thinking about that already, in terms of the conversation around the consolidated tape and how that’s all going to reveal. And, as you say, the systematic internalisers, the multilateral trading facilities are really challenging the market to think very differently and to open it up, as well. Emmanuel, same question to you actually. In terms of data, obviously, being one of your favourite topics, any particular regulations stand out for you?

Emmanuel: I think it’s another European regulation. It’s the GDPR. Not only is the regulation interesting because of what it’s creating within the firms and the needs for the firms to better understand how they treat client data, how they store it, how they process it. But, I think what’s really interesting around the manipulation of client data, of your data, of my data is how the world is now starting to shift into buckets of data and essentially what we’re seeing and it’s initially driven by new, but we’re starting to see the American environment for data, the European environment for data, and soon the Asian/China environment for data. And we’re starting to see some very well delimited places where you can store this data.

I think as we go into 2021, we’re going to see more and more of that. We’re going to see more and more people trying to understand where is the data stored. What is the jurisdiction under which it comes? What are, exactly, the state power rules that are put in place? And, obviously, as during 2020, we’ve started to put a lot of data in the clouds. Well, as you know, a lot of times you don’t really know where the data is. You don’t really know whether the data is in Europe or it’s in the US or it’s somewhere else.

One thing that you don’t know is putting data in the clouds is relatively inexpensive. Most of the time, it’s actually free. Getting data out of the clouds or transferring data between clouds, when you’re talking about data at scale, and we’re talking terabytes or petabytes of data, can become significantly expensive. I think one of the probably intended consequences of GDPR and the label consequences that the EU is now enforcing on the companies is going to be the shift of data between the clouds. How effectively firms are, or will need to rethink the way they load data into the cloud and what’s the severity of that data within the cloud?

Julia: Wonderful. Just to remind listeners. This is Julia Streets talking to QuantHouse Stephane Leroy and Emmanuel Carjat. And of course, if you want to find any of our other episodes, you can find them at streetsconsulting.com. Just search for “StreetsTalksTo” and you can find us on social media, @streetsconsult, #streetstalksto.

It’s been a really fascinating discussion because if you think about how much we’ve covered, we’ve talked about what’s keeping clients awake today, what’s changing, what are we at risk of avoiding. We’ve looked at it from a technology infrastructure, data, thinking about trading strategies and different types of organisations where they’re thinking about whether speed matters to them or not, the ability to self permission, how the robots are basically driving demand for your services and therefore responding, and your corporate growth, as well. And then now getting into the subject of data, data on the cloud and data moving between clouds, which I think is going to be fascinating, and, of course, we never get away from MiFID II and your support for MiFID II and everything it’s trying to achieve.

It’s been a fantastic conversation. To look ahead a little more, if you’ll may, I’d like to really hear your thoughts about, as you look at the road ahead, what are you particularly thinking about? Emmanuel, let me come to you, first of all, from a QuantHouse point of view. What are you really thinking about at the moment?

Emmanuel: I think as we go back to what I was saying earlier, as we’re putting our data onto technology that enables us to deliver it to climb that scale. What that’s been allowing us to do is leverage the AI and machine learning technology that’s almost embedded in the technologies that we’ve been using. So, one thing as we look ahead is providing those technologies to our clients. Essentially, just as we’ve been putting the data or providing the data to the clients, now I think is the time to provide our clients the environments where they can leverage machine learning tools. Essentially transforming what, probably, the very high-end of our clients are already doing, and make it available to clients that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure, but certainly have the knowledge. They may not have all of the infrastructure that’s needed and leveraging the technologies that have been in place, leveraging cloud technology, so that they can benefit from the data we’ve been storing for dozens of years and put it to work in a smart way for their trading strategies.

Julia: Making it available for all, which is incredibly important. I know that, Stephane, you’re out there talking to all. You’re talking to all your clients. Although, Emmanuel has to be seeing them face-to-face, but, certainly I know you’re thinking about what their future strategies may look like. What advice are you giving those clients and what are you thinking about as you plan the road ahead?

Stephane: Well, frankly, we have a lot of very open discussion with clients, as I told you. In fact, we are very rarely talking about our technology with clients. In fact, we are more talking about their challenges and the way their trading fabric works and how they see this trading fabric evolving in the future, in line with the type of algo-trading strategy they would like to develop. So in fact, one of the key topics, really, and theme is this need for innovation, the speed of innovation they are facing every day. Frankly, we very rapidly understand that what used to be very important for the decision making process of any clients selecting a provider, size. Size doesn’t matter anymore because most of the time, when you think about any big provider of technology or market, and I’m sure you have plenty of names coming to mind, most of the time, those companies have massive legacies to handle.

This is obviously not a good way to provide speed of innovation for any clients. Most of the time when our clients talk to those so-called leaders from those big firms, those so-called leaders talk the walk, most of the time. Here at QuantHouse, what we do is we walk the talk and we are agile enough to be able to understand rapidly what is needed by our clients, I would say on a month to month, quarter to quarter basis. And we deliver this because, as we are walking this talk, we really understand what’s going on in this global picture that I was talking about earlier on, at the beginning of this podcast, this evolution from speed trading to smart trading.

Julia: Well, I think the evolution from speed trading to smart trading is a beautiful way to end the conversation. As I was saying earlier, we’ve covered an enormous amount. I just wanted to just let everybody know how you can find QuantHouse. The website is quanthouse.com and of course you can find them on LinkedIn and Twitter, @quanthouse. Let me just say, I have really enjoyed the discussion. It feels, as I said at the beginning, that QuantHouse is absolutely of its time. I think 2020 has proved the API ecosystem and the infrastructure in which you have invested have certainly paid off. It’s great to hear you’re doing incredibly well. I wish you every success for 2021. Emmanuel, thank you very much for joining us and for all your thoughts today.

Emmanuel: Thank you very much, Julia. It’s been great being here and I actually enjoy talking to you.

Julia: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Stephane Leroy, our Chief Revenue Officer, thanks so much for joining us and, again, for all your thoughts.

Stephane: Thank you, Julia. It was a pleasure as usual.

Julia: Wonderful. As always, to all our listeners to StreetsTalksTo. I’ve been Julia Streets. Thanks for listening. Tune in again, as we talk to other innovators in the industry.

Kieron: This episode of StreetsTalksTo was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Streets Consulting Limited. Streets Consulting is a business development, marketing, communications consultancy that’s focused on helping Fintechs from the smallest startup companies to some of the world’s largest global organisations. Everybody’s trying to innovate and everybody’s trying to grow. You can find this episode on Streetsconsulting.com and using the hashtag #StreetsTalksTo. We can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @StreetsConsult. Thanks for listening.