AFTAs 2020: Best Use of the Agile Methodology—MarketAxess


In the category of best use of the agile methodology, a new name has emerged victorious every year since 2016. This year is no different; it’s MarketAxess’s turn. Fixed-income trading platform provider MarketAxess has been working on an organization-wide transition to agile methodology for two years, with the objective to work client feedback more quickly into its solutions. 

In 2020, the firm completed its first major project using agile methodology: the development of Live Markets, an institutional live order book for the credit markets that accompanies the firm’s growing suite of fixed-income solutions. 

Nick Themelis, CIO of MarketAxess, says one of the firm’s biggest structural changes involved creating 15 scrum teams and giving them the autonomy to create solutions with fewer barriers. He says the exercise’s aims were to teach the scrums to be self-sufficient and let them design, build, deliver, and manage technology to support each business line. 

The decision to create many small teams sprung from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s “two pizza rule,” which dictates that if members of a team or meeting cannot be fed with two pizzas, it’s too big. “I think it’s important to mention that this was not viewed as purely a tech project, but rather a firm-wide initiative, and there was certainly involvement from the board,” Themelis says.

At MarketAxess, two days of each business quarter are set aside for technology and product teams to gather, debate priorities, and outline roadmaps. “Everyone had to understand and embrace this more autonomous structure with more direct responsibilities for their business,” Themelis says. 

The creation of Live Markets presented a task for MarketAxess’ developers to learn new technologies to build the product. The team decided to design an entirely separate architecture for Live Markets so that it could be supported outside of the main trading system, enabling updates to be made with more dexterity and reducing dependencies on existing architecture.

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