Financial spread betting firm IG has a track record of successfully adapting to the various technological advances that have taken place during its 40 year history. With the rise of smartphones and tablets, the firm's 250-strong IT department is now busy making IG a "mobile first company".
"We've been very early adopters of mobile - too early as it turned out," head of IT Ivan Gowan told Computing.
"We had a native Java app about nine years ago - really cutting-edge stuff back then - but we didn't have many clients for it."
Now IG has applications running across all major mobile platforms, allowing users on iPhone and iPad, along with those using Android devices and some Windows models to trade while on the move. In fact, almost a third of all trading is now done on mobile devices.
"We're attempting to be a best-of-breed native trading platform that fits in with the rest of the ecosystem of the device," he said. "So our iPhone app looks very much like other iPhone apps in terms of how the menus work and how you interact with the app. We feel that's been quite a large part of our success and we now do more than 30 per cent of our trade coming in from mobile platforms."
After steady but unspectacular growth, mobile uptake "took a massive step up when we went fully native on the iPhone", Gowan said.
"Prior to that, we had web-based apps that were able to be used on iPhone styled in line with their look and feel guidelines, but when we went native that became a big driver of growth, and a lot of people moved onto trading from the iPhone."
Gowan is convinced that IG's mobile first strategy has helped it to increase its market share.
"The take-up of the app has proven we've got the big decisions right as far as we've maintained, and in some cases strengthened, our overall market share dominance," he said.
"And we know from research that mobile is a very important part of what we're offering and quite a big differentiator with customers."
However, in an industry where high speed transfer of information is key, latency is a huge issue.
"We have a number of challenges with latency because our infrastructure is based in London, but our offering is global and we have significant customer base in Australia, as far away as one can get in terms of latency," Gowan told Computing, as he explained how maintaining dataflow is key to IG's mobile strategy.
"We've focused a lot on data and have tried to optimise that for all of the key areas with the application. We also use a content distribution network that helps provide improvements with routing and acceleration because trades need to be transmitted over SSL.
"And sometimes connections need to be re-established if someone's not particularly active in the app," he continued, adding that testing is crucial to upkeep.
"In terms of tracking we have ways of measuring latency and it forms part of our regular progression and regression cycle. We release software every month and latency testing is a key part of our sets of requirements," said Gowan.
Looking to the future, Gowan believes that mobile will "continue to be the most important area and we've quite heavily invested in our mobile platforms and are committed to taking them forward.
"That's an increasing challenge as the mobile device landscape continues to balloon," Gowan concluded.