There is a lot of talk, particularly in mature industries like financial services, about the need to reinvent. Michael Spencer has done it. At the end of last year, he completed the £1.3 billion ($1.67 billion) sale of the voice brokerage business of ICAP, the London-based interdealer firm he founded in 1986, to Tullett Prebon. The part of ICAP that he kept, NEX Group, is "not an interdealer broker," he stresses, but "a fintech company with world-class assets." NEX Group consists of NEX Markets, the electronic trading unit formerly called EBS BrokerTec; and NEX Optimisation, which includes Traiana, TriOptima, and other post-trade risk and information services offerings. With 1,800 employees worldwide, NEX is hardly the typical fintech start-up, and it has been quick to produce results: Revenue from continuing operations increased 18 percent for the year ended March 31, to £543 million ($695 million), with the operating profit margin slipping 3 percentage points, to 27 percent. NEX's share price has climbed from, £4.97 on January 3 to £6.46 on July 13. "The results were well received, and in fact the whole transformation to NEX has been well received, and now it is important to look forward," says Spencer, 62, who describes the process of letting ICAP go as "emotionally and commercially difficult." A sign of how different NEX culture is: "We have hackathons," Spencer says. "I didn't know that was a word five years ago." Whereas the old ICAP was known for its sponsorship of the record-holding racing yacht Leopard, NEX has signed on as global sponsor of the XBlades now NEXXBlades drone-racing team. Spencer says drone technology is "exciting and cutting-edge" and will tie in nicely with the "slightly futuristic" connotation of the NEX brand name. NEX does tap into a cutting-edge start-up pipeline via the strategic investment portfolio of NEX Optimisation's Euclid Opportunities. Two Euclid holdings, regulatory reporting company Abide Financial and ENSO Financial Analytics, were acquired by NEX (then ICAP) last year. The current portfolio includes blockchain developers Axoni and Digital Asset Holdings, financial software desktop innovator OpenFin, and financial research management platform RSRCHXchange.
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