Challenges Facing DMA Support in Asia

When an incident occurs and you’re manning the phones it can be a challenge to keep your eye on what is important. Phones ringing, connection to several exchanges gone “red,” your company’s trading system melting down around you. Sales people yelling at you to “do something.” So how exactly do you prioritize in a case like this?

The simple answer has traditionally been “follow the money.” If an incident has a chance to impact PL, such as a position which a client claims isn’t theirs, as trade support staff you would ideally investigate, find evidence of whose trade it actually is and alert that client. If the client pushes back then you help the client’s sales representative put together a case and let them deal with the client. Under no circumstance do you leave the office with an issue like this unresolved.

So the one risk you have to be aware of is Impact to PL. The other two often-overlooked risks are:

  • Impact to Reputation
  • Impact to Ego

Yes, you have to be aware of hurting people’s egos. After all, these are often traders we are dealing with here, and way up there on the top of their Ivory Towers traders often have the most fragile egos of all. But more on this in a moment.

A quick search on Google will show that vast amounts of research has been done on managing Reputation Risk. And rightly so – nothing gets media outlets more excited than a scandal which could potentially destroy the reputation of a major firm.

The thing about damaging a company’s reputation is that oftentimes it is not due to a single mistake, but a corporate culture that encourages something bad (eg sexual harassment, cooking the books, etc), and often involve a systematic approach which spans months or years.

This does not mean you are safe to make mistakes while supporting DMA clients.

Each time you make a mistake, even if it has no impact on PL, it affects the reputation of your company. Over time, these mistakes add up, and your company can start to get a reputation for “bad service,” for example.

While this is probably not going to make front page news, don’t think for a moment that your clients don’t talk to each other. Whether it is two hedge fund managers catching up over beers and peanuts, or something more structured, people invariably get together and talk, and bitching about service is a favorite topic for people with money in Asia. All you need is one industry study on client satisfaction levels and if you have not been careful you may wake up one day embarrassed to find out that your company rated lowest in the region.

Of course, if you love making clients happy then I imagine this is not something you need to fix per se, rather something to keep in the back of your mind, especially in the heat of an incident.

Depending on your particular support model flavor you can sometimes find yourself forgetting that you are not in fact supporting machines, but the people who are invested in those machines. I don’t care how technical your role is, at the end of the day your job is to make someone happy.

The opposite of making someone happy is making them lose a lot of money, or as is especially important when working with clients in Asia, making them lose face.

Peoples’ egos can be fragile at the best of times. From your boss to your internal sales team, through to your external DMA clients, bruising the egos of those who directly or indirectly determine your bonus is not recommended.

Your boss, for example, should understand that his request for you to fill in your Performance Review documentation takes lower priority during a market-hours outage than making sure there are no outstanding positions. However there is a difference in terms of bruising his ego between snapping at him “Can’t you see I’m busy?!” in front of his peers, and telling him you will be with him shortly.

The same applies when dealing with clients. It sounds like common sense but you must do your best not to say anything to clients which may bruise their ego, even if they have started getting angry and insulting you. A bruised ego could see the client trade away to another broker for anything from a day to a lifetime.

Fortunately I would say that there is no-one else in the company better equipped to deal with clients under pressure than the DMA Support team. Additionally, “Ego Impact Risk” is the least direct of the three risks.

At the end of the day there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about what to prioritize when things are going nuts. I can’t be sitting there next to you to hold your hand, and your teammates may be busy with clients on other calls. However it is important to at least be cognizant of these three risks and their potential impact.

When it comes down to it, a lot of what you do when supporting external DMA clients is reducing the risk to which your company is exposed. You will learn from experience – after a while prioritizing will come naturally to you. In the worst case scenario, where there is actual damage to PL, reputation or someone’s ego, you should acknowledge the loss but be able to explain why you prioritized the way you did.

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