Audris Siow, Head of Institutional Broker Sales, Europe at Virtu Financial speaks to Shanny Basar about her financial technology journey.
What are the most important trends you are seeing in electronic trading?
First, technological advancements. Workflow automation and API data analysis have increased efficiency in front office and trading desks by helping manage operational and regulatory risk in a real-time, scalable fashion and are underpinning several cost-cutting measures across investment firms.
Second, the need for greater transparency. Clients want to view, manipulate and analyse data to gain a better understanding of their investment decisions across asset classes.
Third, deep data analytics. Along with Machine Learning and AI techniques, deep data analytics are adapted for the trading frontier which seek to capitalise on technology advancement and its impact in electronic trading.
What differentiates Virtu?
At Virtu, we combine global market structure expertise and electronic execution solutions to deliver liquidity whilst creating more efficient and stable markets through our market making activities worldwide. We also develop tech-enabled solutions to streamline those efforts and our global footprint and critical mass ensure that these tools are tested and refined so that, in turn, clients may benefit from effective, scalable and resilient solutions.
As strong advocates for increased transparency, our products and services like the recently launched: Prism Frontier, Open Technology and FX TCA were created to furnish clients with insights to help them see what others cannot.
What are your objectives over the next 12 months?
Covid-19 and Brexit are two factors currently affecting the European market landscape. Our team’s objective is to continue partnering with clients to address their concerns like: sourcing liquidity, managing volatility and risk, and regulatory change and impact. Our multi-prong approach includes new trading tools, alternate sources of liquidity, regular “Virtu U” sessions for knowledge share of trends, products and new skill development.
Personally, working from home has brought to light the essential need for regular contact with people outside of my Covid bubble. As the Winter season nears, it’s important to regularly check in and maintain camaraderie and community. As clichéd as it sounds, we are all in this together.
You wrote your PhD thesis on exchanges. What made you interested in finance?
Whilst law and economics were the two streams I concentrated on at the start of university, a chance encounter is what drove me to specialise in the field of finance. During my honours’ year, I met Professor Michael Aitken, then chair of Capital Markets CRC Limited who offered me a fully sponsored PhD by Smarts Group (SG) at the end of my bachelor’s degree. My PhD thesis on maintaining market integrity, aligned perfectly with SG’s mission and so I traded traditional academia for the hands-on commercial experience of the trading world.
Why did you join Smarts Group? What did you learn from this role?
SG had revolutionary market surveillance software which assisted stock exchanges, national regulators and market participants in the real-time detection of market abuse practices.
I was eager to be part of a start-up where I could have opportunities to learn and make a meaningful impact. I took on many roles at SG: business analyst, project/programme manager, commercial director to global head of sales as part of their executive committee. It certainly did not come easy, but it made me more confident in my capabilities. As a subject matter expert, I published, pitched and negotiated with all-male panels, c-suites and board members winning, and losing, several business deals during those eight years. As I matured, I realized that if I remained flexible and adaptable I could create the opportunities I wanted for myself and help chart my own path.
Why did you join ITG?
In 2005, I relocated to London to help expand SG’s reach across Europe and the Americas. In 2007, MiFID I swept across Europe and transformed the trading landscape, forcing participants to rely on technology to meet new regulatory obligations. In 2008, I joined ITG because of the firm’s pioneering innovation in electronic trading coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit. Virtu Financial acquired ITG in March 2019.
What has made you successful?
Angela Duckworth says it best “Grit is the commitment to finish what you start, to rise from setbacks, to want to improve and succeed, and to undertake sustained and sometimes unpleasant practices in order to do so”.
I could not have been as resilient as I needed to be if it weren’t for my tremendous support network, who in their wisdom, have helped guide me throughout my life and career.
What advice would you give other women who want a career in finance?
Be true to yourself, you do not need to be “one of the boys” to succeed. Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize for whatever that may mean to you personally. You will feel like giving up and there will be distractions that will add extra turns and twists on your journey, but gather up what you can learn to make the miles ahead easier or helpful to you. Most importantly adopt a ‘why not?’ mindset, being thrown into the deep end of anything is never pleasant but the skills and confidence you’ll gain are immeasurable and will lead to the opening of more doors – the ones you create or ones that you are invited to walk through.
How can the financial industry increase diversity?
What I value most about technology is that it is a leveller – enabling diverse peoples to gain an equal footing for the first time in industrialized history. What’s needed now is more awareness, access to internship and coaching opportunities. At Virtu, we have Winterships (women only internships) and also recently launched two external programs aimed at financially challenged students who participate in a weekly work-based curriculum targeted at rewarding their keen sense of learning. Internally, we also have a robust mentoring program, which I am actively involved in.
The number of female role models across the financial industry is still not where it needs to be – this is not by choice but circumstance.
Recently, my nine-year-old daughter was cast in her school’s production of Peter Pan, as Captain Hook – a role typically reserved for boys. She correctly pointed out that we do not live in Neverland and being a pirate doesn’t equate to being male. Her ‘why not’ attitude in challenging social stereotypes inspires me to constantly create opportunities for every girl who believes there is a bit of Captain Hook in them and to help lead a movement that paves a brighter, equal future for all.