By Andy Hoffman and Agnieszka de Sousa
(Bloomberg)– The former head of metals at Trafigura Group is planning a new online commodities service to bring buyers and sellers together.
Simon Collins, who left Trafigura in 2015, intends to start the portal called TradeCloud to help connect producers, consumers and traders and allow them to share information and strike deals. He’ll demonstrate the service in London next week, when the metals industry gathers for the city’s annual LME Week. While financial technology has been transforming other markets, physical metals traders still conduct most deals by phone or e-mail, Collins said. At the same time, increased regulatory scrutiny has prompted major trading houses including Trafigura, Vitol Group and Gunvor Group to take steps to better record transactions to ensure traders don’t violate restrictions.
“We are trying to provide a service for people to connect,” Collins, 50, said in an interview from Geneva. “There will be an audit trail all the way through.”
Parts of the commodities world have been slow to adapt to new technology. The industry scrambled to find alternatives to Yahoo! Inc.’s legacy chat service when the company stopped supporting it earlier this year. Until then, many traders conducted deals and agreed prices using the Messenger service which debuted in the late 1990s.
Tech Shakeup A report this week from consultancy Oliver Wyman said the industry will see major changes in how it uses technology to manage shipments and trading. Fewer workers will be needed because more sophisticated systems will manage a bigger share of deals.
Former Trafigura executive Matthew Botell, who oversaw I.T. development at the firm’s metals division, is also involved in the venture. Collins said that he, Botell and other backers won’t be trading themselves. They’ll seek regulatory approval if needed, he said.
Users will be able to make bids and offers, record conversations and upload and share client and shipping documents, which may help cut transaction costs, Collins said. The platform, which is expected to also be available through a mobile app, won’t support futures and options trading. The backers will seek industry views before selecting a software developer to design the platform and plan to start the service in mid-2017. It will initially focus on metals and may expand to oil and other commodities, Collins said. “In a startup, you need to have liquidity to make it work,” said Collins, who spent almost a decade at the second-biggest metals trader. He has also worked for Gerald Metals LLC and Mitsubishi Corp., including stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.