In the latest installment of our Company Insights blog series, we caught up with Viliam Dzupin, director of ION Trading, leaders in the electronic trading industry.
We asked Viliam about the origins of ION, the acquisition of Ffastfill and what the future holds for the company.
1) Hi Viliam, thanks for joining us. First question, what was the inspiration for starting ION Trading in the first place?
ION trading was started in the late 1990s (1998) as a result of trading moving from telephones and papers to computers. In last decade of the 20th century there were many exchanges that went electronic which spawned lot of startups offering software for electronic trading. ION was started in Pisa and London.
2) For those who don’t know, could you explain the relationship between FFastFill and ION Trading?
FFastFill was similar to ION and started with the very same reason as ION and many others. However, over time, ION was more successful. This resulted in ION providing more and more services to customers. While ION at the time was a specialist in bond trading, customers started to request more services.
Thus ION logically decided to acquire companies to fill its portfolio of products and services to offer to its customers. FFastFill was acquired by ION in April 2013 and since then FFastFill has been part of the ION Group. In Prague there is another ION company which develops software – Wall Street Systems. It is located in the same building as FFastFill.
3) Have ION Trading had difficulties hiring developers and how do you see the situation generally when it comes to attracting the best talent? Can something like Techloop make a difference?
Finding new good developers was always a challenge, but these days it is much worse than anytime before.
It is not only about the quality of the people, but people are not even available for interviews. We are working with agencies and trying many ways to attract people, but without much success. We are also speaking to competitors as well as agencies and generally there is a view that that there is very small number of people available or willing to change jobs.
We are also quite specific in a sense – as we are developing specialist software for electronic trading – which is not something that you can write in few months, publish on the web and work on something else. Work with us is long term commitment.
Techloop has a great idea behind it – which is that people are worried to express themselves in public, but as soon as they feel sense of privacy and anonymity, they are more open to express what they want.
This allows us as customers to speak to people and people speak to us without worry that it will leak that they are thinking about changing jobs. I’m hoping that with the time there will be more activity and more candidates that we will be able to speak to and attract.
4) In your time with ION Trading, is there a project of which you are especially proud or that you particularly enjoyed? Perhaps a client you particularly enjoyed working with?
Yes, a few years back now. In 2003, as FFastFill, we developed Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for electronic trading which at the time was a complete breakthrough on the market.
At the time, term SaaS did not even exist and we used ASP (Application Services Provision). There were many people saying that no one will ever outsource trading software. As we have seen in the past and more and more every day, everyone is now moving to cloud, using Software as a Service event without thinking about it.
I’m proud that we had this vision and kept to it and time showed how true the vision was.
Since then, many competitors have moved in the same direction and some are still working on getting there. But trend is clear.
Over the years we’ve had many clients but I remember one smaller customer who has been with us for more than 10 years. We now know each other very well and there is great level of trust that was built between us. We helped them in their hard times and they help us in ours.
5) What would you say is unique about ION Trading and its culture?
ION trading, despite being a corporation of 2500 people is still nimble. In Prague we are really more of a startup than a corporation. We would like to keep the startup culture wherever possible and the ability to adopt new ideas.
We are trying to build culture of trust and nurture relationships. We always worked together – client services, developers, QA mainly due to the fact that if service had a problem, then everyone had a problem. This mindset has helped us all to understand that everyone can make a change.
6) What do you look for in a new colleague? Are there any particular skills or characteristics you value above others?
Over time we have found that knowledge is great to have, but attitude is an absolute must. We are putting more focus on fitting into the team than knowledge. I always look for curiosity, willingness to explore and remove obstacles.
Knowledge comes with the time, but personal abilities are given and are hard to change. Clearly, people have to have knowledge of programming if they apply for a job as a programmer, but they can learn it with the time.
7) And finally, what does the future hold for ION Trading?
ION Trading is still growing.
We are looking to double in size in Prague as our Prague office is one of the key development locations for ION Trading. With our growth there will be lot of new projects, technologies and problems to solve. All this will be extremely interesting.
However, this cannot be done without smart and skilled people. We are trying to change the way people work in financial business and be known as the most innovative company in the market.
So I believe our future is bright.