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April 30, 2004

A Vendor's Push Into Europe

By Peter Chapman

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  • A Vendor's Push Into Europe

An OMS and Routing Supplier on the Road to Recovery

Tradeware Systems, struck by the tragic loss of its young founder over a year ago, is back on its feet.

The supplier of order management and routing technology has embarked on a major expansion that has nearly doubled its size and includes work on a slew of new products and a push into Europe.

Most recently, Tradeware bought Britain's troubled Omiris Networks, giving

it connectivity to 22 stock exchanges in 16 European countries. The deal is the latest in a string of similar transactions in the past year by vendors jostling to provide direct market access to foreign marts.

Tradeware plans to market its newfound reach to its traditional client base of small and mid-sized U.S. broker dealers. "With one FIX connection we became a global entity," says Tradeware Chairman John Marino. "We can now offer cross-border execution and settlement at very low cost."

Driving Force

The European push is part of the recovery of Tradeware, a small firm that, in October 2002, found itself without its leader and driving force. Will Smithers, the co-founder and chief executive, crashed his new helicopter into the waters off New York's Long Island. He was just 33. His body was never found.

The loss was devastating. The firm was, in many respects, a one-man show, according to Marino, who was also Smithers' father-in-law. "Handing off responsibilities can be difficult for entrepreneurs," says Marino. "Will was like that. He did a lot of things for this company."

In the early1990s, Smithers started Tradeware with his wife, Kerrie, catering to the connectivity needs of program traders. Kerrie, in fact, is credited with writing nearly every line of code of Tradeware's technology. In addition, she is considered a genius with FIX, the equity trading world's standard communications protocol, according to several sources.

But Will Smithers' death meant management had to be enlarged for the company to survive. "We had to hire three or four people just to do the job Will was doing," says Marino.

Marino, an entrepreneur himself, as well as a professor of entrepreneurship at Boston College, stepped in as chairman of the privately-held firm. Kerrie Smithers became chief executive.

Clay Stobaugh was hired from outside as president. (He is now simply "managing director.") Stacey Marino, John's other daughter, was promoted to chief financial officer. Cody Callihan became head of sales. And Chuck Giessen, formerly president of Omiris, became head of Tradeware Global (U.K.).

The firm also boosted its rank-and-file. All told, Tradeware has grown from 37 employees since October 2002 to 64 today. The headquarters is on two floors in Donald Trump's plush 40 Wall Street building.

Much of the expansion was earmarked for the launch of new products. Some was for rebuilding its data centers. The Omiris deal added another 10 employees to Tradware's headcount.

Omiris, which was founded in 2000, spent about three years establishing its network but then ran out of money last year. The firm originally was 40 percent-owned by telecom Energis, which became Britain's largest bankruptcy. "They almost took us down with them," Giessen winced.

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