Interview with OSTC, Trading Participant at Eurex Exchange
Eschborn, 25-8-2015 — /EuropaWire/ — We spoke with Ian Firla, Chief Operations Officer at OSTC, about the company’s specific trading philosophy and how it breeds success. OSTC aims to maximize the potential of its traders, which is why Ian is also familiar with the Eurex Trader Development Program. In our interview he provides some insights in how a profound education supports our markets.
Eurex: OSTC is a leading trading company that specializes in exchange-traded products in a wide number of asset classes. You don’t employ algorithms, correct? How can you compete in today’s algorithmic world? What talents do human traders bring?
Ian Firla: That’s an easy one to answer: adaptability. Our traders can spot changes in market dynamics and be flexible and adapt to them faster than any machine. It’s not necessarily all about the speed of execution. Of course it has to be efficient but we chose many years ago not to compete in the arms race of latency. In our view it’s more about how quickly you can recognize changes in the market and adapt to them. We teach our traders to be dynamic and disciplined.
Eurex: You operate in 16 different locations, many of which aren’t global financial centers. Why? Does this disparate footprint give you an edge?
Ian Firla: It gives us an edge in so much as we’re interested in allowing our traders to develop their own trading styles. People talk about the difference in how various countries play football: German discipline, Brazilian flair, Italian theatrics, English heart… It’s the same with trading, we see a difference in the way our traders from different regions approach the markets and we allow them to learn from each other. It works.
Eurex: You run OSTC’s Polish operation in addition to your role as global COO of the firm. What’s special about Poland in terms of trading talent?
Ian Firla: We offer a great opportunity in a country where most roles in the financial sector are restricted to back office and Business Process Outsourcing. It’s rare in Poland to be a proprietary trader without having to leave the country. By giving people the opportunity trade in Poland, we’re getting to pick the best talent in the market.
Eurex: Why is market education so important to OSTC? And what differentiates OSTC market education from the rest?
Ian Firla: It’s critical to our growth. We invest heavily in developing and educating our traders. The markets are tough and it takes time to learn to trade them. It’s crucial to give our traders as much of a head start as possible which is why we invest so heavily in developing our trading labs in universities. It ensures that students are given an opportunity to get a feel for the markets and the nature of the job before they join OSTC or another capital markets participant.
What differentiates our training? I can’t speak to what others do but we commit staff time to our labs and weekly seminars. We take the time to provide the students with the same materials and trainers that they’d have with OSTC. This is time-consuming and expensive but we feel it’s worth it and the students are certainly very positive in their feedback even if they don’t ultimately end up with a job at OSTC.
Eurex: The Eurex Trader Development Program (TDP) has been well received by the markets. How has our program helped you to spark interest in European markets?
Ian Firla: The TDP is essential to allowing young traders to get to know the market. Courses are great. Simulators are critical but as we all know, there’s no better place to learn than the live markets. The reduced costs delivered by the TDP enable young traders to enter the markets and to gain confidence. Thereby it ensures that they become long-term participants that provide sustainable and quality liquidity to the market.
Eurex: Do you believe that programs like ours are a viable solution for growing liquidity in new products?
Ian Firla: Absolutely. It’s a question of economics. There’s only so much space on a trading screen and all products compete for real estate on those screens. If traders are offered the opportunity to learn a new product at reduced cost, they’re going to find place for those products on their screens. If they can learn to trade the product in a cost-effective way, they’re more likely to become a long term participant.
Eurex: Which asset classes are easier for fledging traders? And why?
Ian Firla: That’s difficult to answer. Seven or eight years ago, I would have said interest rates and government bonds because the depth and liquidity in the markets reduced risk for a new trader who might be a bit slower than someone more experienced in handling volatility. That changed during the crisis and we had to look elsewhere for stable products for our traders to learn on. The common denominator though is liquidity. Where there’s liquidity, it’s easier for a fledgling to learn how to trade.
Ian Firla was born in Poland and raised in the UK and Canada. He joined OSTC with the specific aim of setting up and running the Polish arm of the business. He has a background in IT and ran an IT consultancy for nearly 10 years managing projects in London, Oxford, Rome, Verona and Milan. Ian has degrees from the University of Toronto and Leicester University as well as extensive experience running a research project at St John’s College, Oxford. As Managing Director of OSTC Poland, Ian was responsible for day-to-day activity in Poland but has since moved up to take the Group COO role. He is based in Poland from where he manages operations for the whole group.
SOURCE: Eurex Group