AFTAs 2017: Best IT Integration Initiative—Cowen

2017 AFTAs

When Cowen announced that it was acquiring Convergex in April 2017, it was looking for a swift close to the deal—in just three months, the agency broker would become a full part of its new parent, renamed and rebadged to reflect that change. For CIO Ann Neidenbach and her team, there was barely time to catch their breath before they set to work on integrating the technology of the two firms.

This was no small task. By what Cowen was calling “Day One,” on June 1 last year, the key objective was to move the Convergex sales and program trading desks, a task which would involve the migration of two trade desks, 400 clients, 2,200 FIX connections and 72,000 subaccounts in a period of just two months.

“The Day One roadmap needed to detail the interaction between our customers and the various trading desks, our soft-dollar and commission-management business, as well as our middle and back office, accounting systems and our websites and client portals,” says Neidenbach. “We also had to test workflows with over 30 different systems to ensure a seamless migration for Day One.”

Part of the complexity was helped by the fact that Fidessa was common to both firms, but there were a number of other considerations to take into account. Different systems existed inside Convergex for commission management, international trading, and various “algo racks” that operated on different platforms. The focus, therefore, had to be on integrating workflows. There were also issues in that Day One fell on a Thursday, meaning that Cowen had to coordinate with its customers to change settlement instructions and connectivity during the week. “Getting this done in a two-month period was a super aggressive timeframe,” Neidenbach recalls. “There was a lot of cooperation and team work, both internally and externally from our customers and vendors. The other complexity was doing this migration in the middle of the week. Not only was it a big change for our clients, but we physically moved two of our trading desks to a new building, new systems, and turrets.”

But the hard work paid off: Customers were trading with Cowen on June 1, and the firm successfully migrated 25 percent of its revenue from Convergex Execution Systems to Cowen. Traders were able to use their systems and their turrets from 7 a.m. and all end-of-day processes operated normally.

The job is far from over, though. Neidenbach and her team are now focusing on Day Two initiatives, which she estimates will continue into the second quarter of 2018. “We have to work closely with the customers and their order management system (OMS) vendors to move to new algo racks and clearing vendors. We are also building international workflows to enable legacy Cowen clients to trade internationally, requiring middle and back offices configuration and compliance approvals,” she says. 

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