The internet has had a profound effect on the financial services industry, changing business models, infrastructure and opening access to multiple platforms in every time zone. This shift has driven the development of specialised networks due to the demand by the financial services industry to meet stringent specifications and standards.

Edward Lawrence, Director of Business Development for specialized terrestrial network service provider Workonline Communications explains that while the Internet has allowed the industry to deliver services to its clients on a 24/7 basis, however the choice of network and infrastructure provider is vital to ensure that the requirements set by the industry are met.

Velocity Trade, a global provider of foreign exchange trading services and a client of Workonline Communications, is a perfect example of a company within the financial services industry with extremely stringent network requirements. The company provides direct-to-customer FX and equity trading services, partner channel trading services for leveraged securities and Contracts For Difference. It operates in various countries around the world, including South Africa.

Ed Tuohy, non-executive Director at Velocity Trade (previously with Macquarie Securities for 10 years), explains that as with all companies operating within the financial services industry, constant uptime is imperative to the business’ success and client service.

“Through our networks, we provide our clients with the ability to invest in a range of products, both locally and globally. One of our key requirements is 99.999% uptime during trading hours, which is almost 24 hours a day.”

While the service that Velocity Trade provides is niche, Tuohy foresees that the need for these types of products and services is set to grow in Africa. “Twenty years ago in Australia, only 5% of the population had stock investments. Five years later, 82% of Australians had investments in equities. This change was due entirely to these types of services going online, and being trusted by consumers,” he explains.

“The big difference in Africa is that many people are still not educated about investments, nor have they had access to reliable financial services due to lower rates of internet penetration, but this will change as more people become comfortable with educating themselves using online platforms. As this trend gains momentum, more businesses will move the majority of their interactions online, and these developments will not be limited to the financial services industry.”

He explains that clients using this type of service and product offering constantly require access to data on their device of choice – either PC’s, phones or tablets.

Workonline Communications is responsible for the management of Velocity Trade’s South African network and the colocation of its local platform. “In order to ensure the success of Velocity Trade and its local platform, we provide a highly specialised network service, providing the extreme uptime and high-quality connectivity required by the business,” explains Lawrence.

Meanwhile, Tuohy explains that the required uptime can only be achieved if the company provides a service that is neutral in terms of their choice of transits and data centre providers. “We achieve this through our partnership with Workonline Communications, as the company ensures we have access to two separately owned and operated data centres. Workonline also provide us with multiple physical fibre optic cables between those two data centres, and multiple transits our access to each platform from each of the sites” he explains. “Should anything happen to one data centre, we have a real-time failover from another, totally independent, data centre. The flexibility and agility that Workonline gives our business is paramount in our industry, and ensures that we, and in turn our clients, do not experience any downtime.”

Workonline Communications’ network is heavily peered access Europe and Africa and makes use of cable systems with the lowest latency possible, which Lawrence explains allows the company to provide the lowest latency transit and connectivity services to clients wishing to connect to the Velocity Trade platform in South Africa regardless of the clients’ ISP. This places the business in a prime position to provide the required services to the financial services industry.

In the event that losses do occur due to forces beyond their control, disaster recovery processes have to be implemented. Tuohy states that it is important that a service provider is then able to provide a strong service in this regard.

“Workonline assist us with ensuring data security, and fulfilling the legal obligations that are so inherent to operating in the financial services industry, aside from providing a highly secure network. This is very important to a business such as ours that is based largely on technology, which allows us to service over 60 000 clients with only 30 employees,” says Tuohy.

“Keeping staff numbers down with the aid of online customer education and technological advances increases the viability of businesses such as ours. It means that we do not employ the technical expertise or highly skilled engineers that major industry players, such as the banks, would have.”

He states that Workonline Communications is an excellent choice for entrepreneurs who are trying to bring new, innovative products to market. “Much of the growth in the economy in the coming years will come from small businesses that position themselves to outgrow the bigger ones. Without the likes of Workonline Communications in the market, it would be extremely difficult for entrepreneurs to develop new products and ideas and bring them to fruition online.”

In conclusion, Tuohy explains that if South Africa really aims for financial transformation, it is important that new products entering the market accommodate lower income groups. “The only way to achieve that is through online technology.”