Lessons of Bondcube
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We have been following the development of Bondcube since early 2013 after its foundation in 2012. Founded by CEO Paul Reynolds and CTO Mark Germain, Bondcube had a unique vision to support trader workflow in fixed income to support greater liquidity in the market. While many FinTech start-ups focus on B2C and the client experience, Bondcube was squarely focused on B2B and workflow support for traders. While Bondcube leveraged new Web 2.0 capabilities such as chat and tracking, it was essentially a new tool for an existing audience with the vision created from former industry insiders trying to create something new. The central idea was that Bondcube could revive large order execution, minimize the market impact of search, and be disruptive to existing marketplaces like MarketAxess, Bloomberg and Tradeweb. It planned to optimize trading via chat and by leveraging historical inquiries. We understand it was marketed at zero cost to buyside and (relatively) cheap connectivity for dealers. Bondcube decided to focus on both the Europe and the US, like existing competitors. An investment by Deutsche Boerse AG suggested that Bondcube might have some legs to build traction, but today’s news on liquidation suggests that further funding was needed and the shareholders declined to do so. Brad Bailey is compiling an updated report on the platforms in the market today, but this is clearly a sign that the market is still sorting through the various ideas and that incumbency (and inertia?) still has great value. Also, sometimes the market asks for change but then does not actually adopt the change it’s clamoring for. All too often the buy side says “Yes! Yes!” but does not adopt new options rapidly, but only after long trials and testing. Capital (and patience) can disappear before the testing and optimization process is complete.
Bondcube was trying to solve the illiquidity of the fixed income cash market through helping the buyside find potential matches via IOIs and intermediating brokers. In my current update of Celent's annual European fixed income market sizing report, the feedback the street provides is that the buyside is still not committing liquidity, still not ready to participate directly into the market.
We are looking for change to know what is coming and work on how to adapt to it. At Celent we get asked to forecast changing trading methods, electronification trends, which platform is going to gather more interest. But change is sometimes slower than we all think. This year it seems the fixed income market in Europe is nearly flat YoY, and that trading methods have overall not changed.
But you will see when you all come back from your holidays that if the big picture is stable so far, there are still some interesting micro-trends such as how many buy-side have gone from 10 to 80 dealers to execute their business, which has in turn triggered big opportunities for tier3 and tier4 niche dealers to start working with them.
To be continued. Enjoy the beach in the mean time...