Stephen Wise Blog

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Derivatives Trading


This engagement was based on a referral from a colleague. Stephen held a series of phone meetings with the London based Head, Funds Strategy & Global Fund products. The client described the International joint venture for management of funds on behalf of institutional clients. A $30 Million project to implement a new derivatives trading system was stalled. Unknown to the executive at the time, the project team had hit the wall. The subject matter expertise was highly specialised (Derivatives Trading) and staff were dropping everyone. Sick leave, quitting, and asking to be moved. Morale was at an all time low.  


First of all, within a few weeks Stephen’s recommendation to temporarily halt project work was accepted. Job postings were developed, previous team members were asked to return, the vendor was asked to bring additional full-time support, and leadership within the project was tweaked. The leadership team was in Toronto, London, Paris, and Luxembourg. Cultural awareness and communication skills were important for re-building team morale. Effectively taking the reins of the project required a hi degree of sensitivity and careful learning on the job. Stephen coached executives in advance of difficult meetings and eventually the differing norms of accountability, styles of communicating issues, and general leadership across the regions became less and less causes of impediments. The turning point was three months in. A built up team created a productive meeting cadence. Developers, testers, and the Executive identified and agreed on the priority work areas. Derivatives Workflow, Reporting, Trade capture, Pricing, and Accounting all had significant gaps or critical issues. Daily team meetings were held. Co-location was intensified, and team recognition events were held every two months. Accountability was still critical to forward progress – gaining everyone’s trust was a daily effort and this also meant that continuing to weed out poor performers or negative influences enabled the overall team to grow stronger and perform better.


Implementing the new system was critical to adding new products to the offerings and retaining existing customers. Based on the original business case, the objective met included:

  1. Improved competitive offering relative to BONY, J.P. Morgan and State Street;
  2. Improved reliability of pricing; and,
  3. Improved straight through processing.

However, the big win for the client was the re-building and assembly of a working team that would also transition to operational support once in production.  

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