At $5 trillion a day, foreign exchange is the biggest financial market, and historically the most unruly. Regulators in recent years have sent disciplinary signals, fining major banks billions of dollars for manipulation and misconduct, and a Bank for International Settlements working group has drafted a code of conduct for wholesale forex trading. David Mercer believes that in LMAX Exchange he has the industrial-strength technology and market structure to bring to currencies the liquidity, transparency, and operational integrity associated with exchange trading. A multilateral trading facility regulated by the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority, LMAX has climbed into the top ten among foreign exchange platforms and "aspires to be No. 1," CEO Mercer, 46, says.
Founded in 2010, LMAX was not an overnight success in the big-bank-dominated forex world. Mercer, a 25-year financial markets veteran formerly associated with Credit Suisse Financial Products and Credit Suisse First Boston, came in as CEO in 2011, was part of a management buyout in 2012, and then embarked on a three-year plan to reach breakeven while building out the global infrastructure that currently serves banks, funds, proprietary traders, and other customers in more than 90 countries. Rising to prominence in London's start-up scene LMAX was a Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 winner in 2015 and 2016 the company established data centers in the key trading hubs of London, Tokyo, and, as of September 2016, New York. It has about 110 employees, turned a profit last year, "and now it's all about distribution," Mercer says.
The technology is homegrown; Mercer notes that 70 percent of LMAX's spending and half its head count are tech-related. To avoid the hazards of aging systems and to maintain maximum reliability, "we rewrite a third of our code every year and release new software every two weeks," he says.
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