At the close of 2016, ICAP completed the transfer of its voice brokering business to rival Tullett Prebon, now doing business as TP ICAP. The old ICAP, which was the world's biggest interdealer brokerage, was reborn as NEX Group, fulfilling a long-held, technology-centric vision of CEO Michael Spencer. NEX says it "empowers markets" with products and services that "underpin the entire trade life cycle pre-, during, and post-execution." NEX Optimisation, the division formerly known as posttrade risk and information (PTRI) and headed by Jenny Knott, is a £245 million ($305 million)-in-revenue business smaller than that of NEX's EBS BrokerTec trading platforms but growing faster, by 7 percent year-over-year versus 1 percent on a reported basis.
Roughly half of the £145 million in annual technology spending across NEX Group, which employs about 1,800 worldwide, goes toward new developments, as opposed to "business as usual" core functions and maintenance. Knott says that "Optimisation" speaks to NEX's goals of helping clients to simplify processes and workflows and maximize resources as they navigate the complexities of market structure, regulation, and risk management; and to making it easy to access NEX's offerings through a single point of connection, master services agreement, user interface, and marketplace of services. "We combine a talented group of technologists engineers, data scientists, computer scientists with business skills and expertise, and that makes us uniquely positioned," says Knott, who joined ICAP as PTRI chief executive in the summer of 2015. Euclid Opportunities, which reports to the 48-year-old CEO, has made several strategic financial technology investments. Two of them in 2016 became wholly owned NEX Optimisation businesses: ENSO Financial Analytics, a data platform for hedge funds and prime brokers; and regulatory reporting hub Abide Financial. Current portfolio company Axoni is collaborating with NEX in developing blockchain, or distributed ledger, technology; Euclid also has in that field an investment in Digital Asset Holdings.
A former CEO of Standard Bank in London, part of South Africa's Standard Bank Group, and with UBS and Nomura International among her previous affiliations, Knott says she is not wedded to any single blockchain standard or approach, focusing instead on arriving at solutions that benefit clients and improve business processes. "Distributed ledger really goes together with cloud technology," she says. "Looking at distributed ledger, artificial intelligence, cloud, big data it's the convergence of these technologies that is exciting."
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