The Environment Today

Today, most clients are quite sophisticated; they know where the market is and what bid-offer spreads to expect for the foreign exchange deals. Banks and brokers who are uncompetitive in their pricing don't even leave the starting blocks in the race to win foreign exchange business. What distinguishes the best from the rest is the provision of high-quality information, in the way of charting and flows of relevant market information. In addition, clients are looking for systems that are Internet enabled, scalable across regions, reliable and safeguarded against crashes. Clients are also looking for Internet platforms, which offer real-time risk management systems, among other demands.

Access to price information is, today, widely available. Institutional investors and retail investors can now gain live access to multi-contributor price feeds, which can be downloaded directly into spreadsheets, if necessary. In addition, up-to-the-minute political and economic developments are widely available through news sources such as MMS and CNBC. As a result of these developments, however, bid-offer spreads have collapsed, as have profit margins and this, in turn, has hampered the growth of direct investor participation.

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