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Mobile Innovation: tradeMONSTER Finalist in 3 SuperNova Award Categories

tradeMONSTER's new app built on HTML5 has helped earn the company recognition as an innovative firm. CTO Sanjib Sahoo reflects on the challenges.

TradeMONSTER, the online brokerage industry’s leader in user experience, has been selected as a 2013 SuperNova Award finalist for the categories Matrix Commerce, Next Generation Customer Experience, and Technology Optimization and Innovation. TradeMONSTER is the only trading company in those categories and competes against big companies like Dell, Prudential, T-Mobile and the New England Patriots.

"The SuperNova award is not just for a company, it's also for leadership," said TradeMONSTER CTO Sanjib Sahoo in an interview. He will be representing the brokerage at the awards ceremony. "It's not about the company being big or small, it's about being different."

Indeed, TradeMONSTER has differentiated itself with its mobile application, the first and only proprietary mobile trading application built on HTML5 that closely replicates the user experience on the desktop. That is naturally valuable to duplicate as the brokerage has also been awarded 4 1/2 stars in Barron's annual "Best Online Brokers" 2013 ranking — the highest overall rating.

The Innovator

"In the financial space, innovation is pretty dead with all the regulations and what's going on in the industry," said Sahoo. "Not a lot of people are innovating; budgets are tight."

But there are other companies — less established ones — that are trying to make it big in their industry; they entirely depend on that innovation. TradeMONSTER is one. "When I joined in 2006, it was a half-room startup," Sahoo said. "We built this company from scratch. We built by pure innovation and leapfrogged competition … Our mission has always been to create next level, next-generation user experience. We introduced [our app] for trading, and now we are the only open source trading platform in the industry."

Financial companies tend to be risk adverse when it comes to building out new technology; taking the opposite approach comes with its fair share of danger. Words to the wise, Sahoo consistently preaches that you don't just want to go for innovation because of the technology aspects. The project is only a success as long as it's also creating business value.

[For more on this Mobile First: TradeMONSTER Launches New iPad App, see Ivy Schmerken's related story.]

In a recent Harvard Business Review, he wrote that you have to take measured steps to innovate to ultimately create business value out of the innovation. Just going mobile, or to HTML5, is not innovation. "We all want to be blended executives," he says, "You have to have both business and IT skills, and that's how you become a differentiator. If a product does not have business value, it is a total failure."

HTML5 — Pain Points

TradeMONSTER offers the first HTML5 mobile platform. "People come to us for our desktop platform which is ranked highly," he explains. His goal was to have the same web experience, ease of use, and navigation available to customers on a mobile platform. "A lot of people have built mobile platforms with limited functionality but we created web experience from desktop to mobile. Then we went one step further with the iPad platform by giving user the ability to run 4 mobile apps in one iPad. Nowadays, you can stream from anywhere and it solves a lot of problems of connectivity, giving optimal user experience anywhere and anytime even on small iPad. This is next generation."

Business-wise, it is driving business for tradeMONSTER and appealing to the industry, setting an example for the industry, showing that you can stream data and create an optimal experience. "When Facebook and LinkedIn-type companies came out and said, 'HMTL5 is dead,' we came out and used it in a complex scenario in a mission critical trading application."

There was, of course, a reason these companies denounced HMTL5; it is very complicated. The markup language is not a true cross-platform technology. People might think that writing a code once will work everywhere, but that is not true in this case, and developers must be prepared for a lot of custom work. "We wrote a lot of patent-pending tech to handle the device optimization and data streaming and all of that, because one of the challenges is that the whole platform is patent pending. We wrote a lot of in-house code to solve problems." He adds that there is no standard out-of-the-box framework for HTML5 like you would have with Android or iOS. HTML5 is open source and nobody has standardized components that work across all platforms.

Adding to the frustrations of HTML5 is device fragmentation. For Android alone, there are almost 700 to 800 devices in the store because of different providers. "In each of them, HTML5 can behave differently, so a lot of time had to be spent in customizing code for Android challenges. HTML5 gets a lot of negative feedback because of that," says Sahoo, adding that it works well for iOS.

[To learn more about new opportunities in mobility in financial services, check out the agenda for the New Opportunities for Mobility: A Financial CIO/CTO Roundtablesession at the upcoming Interop event in NYC.] Becca Lipman is Senior Editor for Wall Street & Technology. She writes in-depth news articles with a focus on big data and compliance in the capital markets. She regularly meets with information technology leaders and innovators and writes about cloud computing, datacenters, ... View Full Bio

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