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How Saxo Bank used open APIs to transform its business model and develop a ground-breaking trading platform

Tom Macaulay | Dec. 15, 2016
SaxoTraderGo - which was built on an open API - has transformed how the company does business.

Open API and trading platform functions

Foremost priorities for the trading platform were a slick user experience and ensuring low latency despite the immense number of events requiring immediate responses. Saxo chose HTML5 as the core technology for all the displays under the belief that optimisation would benefit from developers using a single language.

A centralised screening service reads the architecture, which is accessed entirely through a message bus. Users see a snapshot when they load the page and screening updates on whatever they request.

"You only need to have one connection, and all these service groups can reach out and push data to you," says Andr.

"Speed has been important for us, and that might stand in contrast with making a pure, simple, normal interface and end-user application experience. Balancing all of these three has been driving a lot of the delivery decisions."

The application includes a range of data that could be found in other places, such as trading details, currency, format and description.

Saxo was founded almost 25 years ago with a digital business model as its core, a strong foundation for a long-term strategy requiring executive support. The API was inevitably complex as it serves Saxo's UI and needs to have all its functionality.

"It's not an API for machines," Andr explains. "It's an API to be able to build UI platforms."

A flexible security model was also essential to ensure widespread use of the API while retaining a degree of control. The end-user and their login credentials, the application the end-user is accessing, and whether that's a Saxo or a third-party application all need to be accounted for.

Saxo's developers used a single sign-on and third record sign-on with certificates to seamlessly transfer the session for a banking portal to the application. Application authorisation determines individual usage rights.

Looking forwards

In the canteen of Saxo Bank's Copenhagen headquarters workers dine in the formidable shadow of a life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. The overhanging bones are a constant reminder of the ominous warning to the financial sector that Bill Gates delivered two decades ago.

"Banks are dinosaurs," he told Newsweek in 1994. "We can bypass them."

The developers who dine beneath him are thankfully far more forward-thinking than their Jurassic colleague. Saxo Bank's successful adoption of open APIs has helped it not only survive extinction, but evolve to succeed in a digital future.


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