Trading-Atrium: Niche co-working space for traders

/ EdgeProp
December 23, 2018 12:00 PM SGT
In most shared workspaces, the main attraction is usually the lounge or communal area. Eric Neo, CEO and chief information officer of Neo & Partners Global, the founder of Trading-Atrium, is eager to show off his server room, which has a “state-of-the-art, purpose-built, 24x7 low-latency hub with high-speed, 10GB ethernet cables as well as secure WiFi connectivity throughout the area”.
Says Neo: “Traditionally, many offices have the server room tucked away in one corner, but we decided to bring it to the front to show our clients and investors.”
Beyond the server room, there is a lounge for guests, and a breakout area for those who work there. “This whole space is very fluid and open,” he adds.
Unlike most co-working operators who seek to attract a wide spectrum of business enterprises, Trading-Atrium caters for a very niche clientele: electronic trading firms, including proprietary trading firms focused on algorithm trading, multi-asset trading and cryptocurrency. It has also expanded its reach to include fintech firms as well as big data and blockchain firms.
The office suites can be configured into trading rooms fitted with four to six trading desks. Large panelled screens are also provided if they are required. The 6,000 sq ft space can fit up to nine firms and a total of 52 trading desks. There are also 52 lockers for those who need to use them.
Neo: We are a different breed of co-working space provider (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
War rooms
Entering the area where the trading rooms are situated requires security access. “Because of the nature of their business and the sensitivity of their trading strategies, we designed the trading rooms as war rooms,” says Neo. “Controlled access also means the traders will not be disturbed while they are working. But once they step out of the two sliding glass doors to the lounge and pantry, the zone is neutral. They can talk about the trading day, chit-chat or have lunch together.”
Neo understands the needs of his clientele as he was a senior vice-president of commodities, derivatives and securities at FlexTrade Systems. The US-based software firm specialises in providing and managing broker-neutral trading systems for a range of assets, such as equities, foreign currencies, options, futures and fixed-income securities, as well as algorithmic trading.
“It was the era of globalisation, and trading firms were trading across different markets and multiple assets,” recalls Neo. “In Singapore, I realised there were a few gaps in the industry. Back then, the trading platforms were linked to the brokerage firms.” Not only were there hardly any broker-neutral trading platforms, but software trading platforms were also costly, especially for assets that were not as commonly traded, he adds.
The entrance to Trading-Atrium at One Raffles Place (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Technology infrastructure
That resulted in his setting up Neo & Partners Global in January 2014, with a paid-up capital of $2.5 million. A large part of the money was invested in the technological infrastructure, he says. It enabled the firm to offer services ranging from data connection to trading platforms. “The early years were a bit interesting, because the model we came up with didn’t exist,” Neo recounts. “So, the first two years were spent on marketing to the public, close friends and customers that I knew. I believe we are the first to provide such a shared workspace in Singapore, and perhaps in Asia.”
The trading facility he created, Trading-Atrium, is specifically targeted at high-growth, private international financial firms and trading professionals. The broker-neutral platform currently covers all aspects of the trading ecosystem and asset classes such as equities, futures, foreign currencies and options. The asset managers and traders at Trading-Atrium are provided with access to the Singapore Exchange and other major global market exchanges, for example, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, “through customised automated trading applications”, Neo says.
To facilitate electronic or high-speed trading, trading firms would need to invest in a high-speed connectivity, low-latency line, explains Neo. They must also have a back-up power source that kicks in the moment there is a power outage in the building. A trading firm operating out of its own premises would have to pay for the full cost of installing such a cable and for a back-up power generator, he adds. However, by choosing to operate at Trading-Atrium, these costs can be shared with other firms that require that same high-speed connectivity, and that leads to tremendous cost savings, as the cost is pro-rated according to the demand or usage, explains Neo.
Beyond being a facility and technology infrastructure service provider, Trading-Atrium is a partner for these companies when they enter Singapore, says Neo. The firm helps facilitate introductory meetings with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and other relevant government authorities, SGX and some of the financial institutions or professional consultancy firms, especially if the companies are setting up business in Singapore for the first time, he explains.
Expansion plans
Clients located within Trading-Atrium include Mako, a London-headquartered derivatives firm that has made Singapore its Asian hub with a team of 16; Apostar Pte Ltd (formerly Arctos Investment), a multi-asset investment firm that focuses on deal making, investments and trading; and Quant House, which provides systematic trading solutions.
The latest to take up space at Trading-Atrium is Noble Vici Group, a company whose business includes fintech, e-commerce and cryptocurrency trading. It joined the facility in July. Noble Vici intends to use Trading-Atrium’s facility as a platform to build its “fintech in big data and next-gen blockchain ecosystem”, Neo says.
Of late, Neo says, fund managers and private-equity firms have also expressed interest in taking up space at Trading-Atrium. “While the initial focus was on proprietary trading firms, we are now reaching out to fund management companies by way of providing a fund platform service,” he adds. “We are uniquely positioned, as we host a complete range of clientele in the electronic trading ecosystem under one roof. We are a different breed of co-working space provider.”
He has plans to expand overseas, starting with Thailand. “It has a very vibrant market; the y-o-y growth in the Thai stock exchange is strong,” he adds. “Cost of trading is not too high, and technology spend is not too high [either]. There’s also strong fintech growth and growth in cryptocurrency trading.”