A next-generation trading platform built for traders by traders

Spark Systems is building a trading platform that promises to be fast, stable, secure and also priced reasonably

Spark Systems has created next-generation trading platforms that are faster, more stable, more secure and cost-effective. PHOTO: SPARK SYSTEMS

Having spent more than a decade of his career as a trader in foreign exchange and precious metal derivatives, Mr Wong Joo Seng has an industry knowledge of both product and trading intricacies.

He tapped on his comprehensive financial background to become founding chief executive of GK Goh Financial Services – a derivative trading subsidiary of the GK Goh Group of companies – in 1998, and co-founded M-DAQ, that focuses on cross-border trades, in 2010. 

By the time he launched his third start-up Spark Systems in 2016, alongside co-founders Ye Ting Song, chief technology officer, and chief operations officer Jason Wang, the 58-year-old serial entrepreneur was very familiar with problems faced by the industry.

Mr Wong explains: “Many trading platforms were ageing, with core engines designed and built almost two decades ago... Often slow and unstable, they are also costly to maintain and use.”

To address this shortcoming in the foreign exchange (FX) ecosystem, Spark Systems created next-generation trading platforms that are faster, more stable, more secure and cost-effective. These are “built for traders by traders”, adds its founder and chief executive.

Spark Systems has an in-built “digital brain” that uses a complex events processor to better understand market liquidity conditions and analyse transaction costs, allowing traders to trade more efficiently.

The company offers three main products – a hedge fund platform, a platform for banks as well as a platform for brokerages – and has drawn attention and investments from Goldman Sachs, Citibank, HSBC and top-tier venture capital firms.

Since inception, Spark Systems’ business has grown on average 50 per cent year on year. Trading volumes are now between US$4 billion (S$5.4 billion) and US$5 billion each day, on target to reach US$10 billion by 2023. 

A “phenomenal” team

With fintech professionals in high demand, Mr Wong knows that it is crucial to not only offer competitive remuneration, but also a workplace where innovation and growth are part of the journey. 

“Talent is crucial and non-negotiable,” he says. “Whether you beat the world, or the world beats you, is largely dependent on talent.”

Spark Systems' co-founder and chief executive officer, Mr Wong Joo Seng (standing, in the middle), along with his “phenomenal” team. PHOTO (TAKEN BEFORE COVID-19): SPARK SYSTEMS

From a staff strength of just seven five years ago, Spark Systems now has 50.

“We have a phenomenal team of IT programmers and developers, QA and infrastructure specialists, a dedicated client services team as well as a world-class management team for our finance and operations.”

For its efforts to push boundaries in the fintech sector, the company won the Monetary Authority of Singapore Fintech Award (Singapore Founder) at the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) in 2017, and was named a Fintech Employer of the Year at the SFF Global FinTech Awards last year.  

Scaling up for the world

In the long term, Mr Wong sees Spark Systems growing to a scale where it can plant the Singapore flag on the global FX trading map. It also seeks to be one of the main platforms for banks, hedge funds and brokerages around the world.

“FX platforms are global in nature. Hence, the incumbents we face are giants and fierce competitors,” he notes. “There are risks, and this is not a walk in the park.”

It helps that Singapore is a major start-up incubator where talent, capital and innovation can come together to help SMEs flourish.

“To come out ahead, we will need to be smarter and more nimble than the competition,” he stresses. “We may succeed or we may fail, but this is a worthy challenge to undertake.”

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