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Q&A: Activ Financial’s Frank Piasecki on Growth in 2010 and 2011

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Activ Financial Systems had a busy year in 2010, adding customers, launching updated products and building out its internal network. IntelligentTradingTechnology.com talked to the company’s president and co-founder Frank Piasecki to find out more.

Q: Activ added 90+ customers in 2010. Can you clarify that, and point to any key growth areas?

A: Activ saw good growth across all of our client tiers from small to enterprise in 2010. North America was strong around options, FX and new market liquidity venues such as in Toronto. Also clients added services to provide more depth of content and analytics on existing markets they trade. North American client interest in Asia, and new business in that region, continued to grow at very high levels as firms tested trading strategies across that region.

Q: You’ve also added new data centres, and rolled out your ActivNet backbone. What new financial centres are you now reaching? And how does ActivNet help your expansion? What are the benefits to your customers?

A: Our website shows the global 20 data centres we currently operate that cover most major trading venues around the world. In 2010, we added a new site or capacity in NY, Toronto, London, Tokyo, Kong Kong and Singapore. ActivNet provides a low-latency managed network for our clients to receive fast exchange content to wherever their trading system is hosted. It supports a clients true global requirements via a “data cloud” like model.

Q: What new data sources have you added? What is the marketplace demanding in terms of coverage?

A: Activ added over a dozen new feeds or major upgrades in 2010. Demand areas included new trading equity venues, derivatives, futures and FX content. Asia and emerging markets like Brazil were the high growth areas for new exchange content, while matured markets like North America asked for deeper content or areas like combined book data.

Q: In relation to the hardware accelerated MPU ticker plant, what are the drivers for adoption – higher performance, or lower hardware footprint and costs? Is Activ deploying this technology in its hosted/managed solutions?

A: Activ sees MPU/FPGA as a solution to both the lower latency managed requirements, plus a reduction in foot print. We deployed aggressively the MPU technology across our own data centers and will continue this effort to improve services and keep per message costs as effective as possible for our clients.

Q: How much are your customers asking for an enterprise solution for market data, so that they might – for example – power their algos, their traders and their customer websites? How is Activ responding?

A: Activ as an example implemented one of the largest enterprise managed vendor solutions in 2010. The result has been a dramatic improvement in data quality, lower latency and costs while providing a leading edge platform to support new products.

This effort combined with the build out of specific project management teams at Activ is designed to support these enterprise models as that business grows. This includes low latency algo trading users to the largest websites, some who are customers today of Activ.

Q: What do you see as the key opportunities and challenges for your business in 2011?

A: Activ sees 2011 as a strong growth year as markets such as North American and Europe responds to new regulation and trade optimisation approaches that could create a number of new clients, while other firms switch over from their in-house built systems to the new FPGA technologies of Activ to help improve services and reduce costs.

Asia and other emerging markets are also continue on high growth paths so Activ expects these business areas to contribute even more in 2011 onward. With recent investments, Activ hopes its additional scale and reach will help better serve global clients around their market data needs.

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