Case study: ETX Capital

Globalising financial trading

Project duration
3 months
Research & strategy
User experience design
User interface design
Front end development
Technical build & implementation

It’s always nice to be asked back by a long standing client to work on a new project, and we were chuffed to bits when ETX Capital tasked us with our biggest project for them to date - bringing their UK site and a variety of other sites spanning 8 languages together - creating one centralised and standardised site. It pushed us to balance existing and new technologies; turn the complex into the comprehensible; whilst bringing it into a new era and upholding their reputation as a trustworthy financial business. All in the space of 3 months.

A long-lasting relationship


TS “We started working with ETX Capital in 2003 when they were called TradIndex. What they were offering back then was a new product that hadn’t really been seen before. Financial spread betting was in its infancy and it was simply an obscure derivative hedging product, but it's since become much more mainstream.”

DM “Initially TradIndex wanted us to applying branding to an existing system and build a website for them. At the time what they had was limited, so we built a website around it and then redeveloped the system as we got to know them over the subsequent years. We've taken them through rebrandings, renamings, evolutions and revolutions, until they've become what they are today. Most recently, we've worked on a large project that enabled them to scale up their offering into global markets, quickly and simply.”

The initial TradIndex site we designed in 2003

Germany: The 1st step to going global

Having worked with ETX Capital on an ongoing basis, we were first port of call when they started to focus on new markets around the world. Their initial global offering was to Germany, in 2011. This was the first time they really moved away from a UK focused site and was the first step towards globalisation.

AJ “It was their first foray into expanding their offering into a market that was expanding fast, and we realised early on in our discussions with ETX that the one existing UK based site we had in place couldn’t cater to two markets. Among other considerations, the German site needed to:”

  • Have the key language as German so you can tailor it in ads and for SEO
  • Adhere to the business rules and laws about betting in Germany
  • Display the EURO as the key depositing currency
  • Integrate a separate German specific ID service provider to run different ID checks to the UK site (which is based on UK postcodes and wouldn’t work in Germany)

TS “Because of the variety of changes and nuances we were going to be implementing for the German site, our only option at that time was to build a new site from scratch.”

AJ “So prior to 2011 there was just one big site UK site, which had general marketing information and client functionality - the ability to add and withdraw funds. It was one site for whoever, wherever they were, but focused on the UK market.”

BW “As part of the second iteration when we took them into Germany, we separated out the client information from the marketing, creating a brand new website as we did so.”

etxcapital-old-uk etxcapital-old-de
2011's websites for the UK and Germany

Reviewing legacy code

When the German site was introduced we undertook a code review, as a lot of legacy code still existed within the current website at that time.

AJ “We had to review what we had, what needed to be brought over to the new site and what could be dropped entirely. Fortunately, this project coincided with me joining Pretty so I could look at it with fresh eyes. I needed to understand the system and I was in a good place to question it."

“We had to review what we had, what needed to be brought over to the new site and what could be dropped entirely. We needed to streamline it because you want the code to be simple as possible. Fortunately, this project coincided with me joining Pretty so I could look at it with fresh eyes"
  • etxcapital-collaboration
  • etxcapital-collaboration

BW "Germany would want different content and would need different things and we anticipated that these would change every time ETX wanted to move into a new country or market. We needed to be able to add in a new country without breaking what already exists."

TS "We had to be careful because it was about building flexibly into the site where you think you’ll need it, without making too many assumptions. We needed to anticipate future needs without making the present situation more complicated."

AJ "Which can lead to over engineering - if what you build isn’t used it is a waste of time and money. The key was to identify which bits would need to change on a country by country basis and stay focused.

“We needed to anticipate future needs without making the present situation more complicated…. which can lead to over engineering”

TS "Some of the key things that do change country by country are ID checks, currencies, formatting of things such as dates and also which of ETX’s products is used by the users. What they can offer in terms of spread betting based on each country’s legal requirements changes."

AJ “Some of those things are really obvious before you start and some aren’t until you start to develop it."

TS "That’s all about communication with the client - collaborating with them, talking to them about what needs to change and discovering how each user needs to be catered for in each new location."

Configuration management

"When we introduced Germany, we introduced configuration management as a way of managing all the variables and everything that can change on a website."

AJ "Because of the structure of ETX’s website, they had multiple servers. When you put changes across multiple servers simultaneously you need to handle the process and wrap it up in a nice interface that's easy to view and use. That’s why we created a bespoke configuration management system to handle that process at this stage."

“…all the web servers report back to one central place and it shows you where the error is exactly and you can cross reference it with the other sites.”

BW "For example it helps cope with various bits of error reporting and general maintenance. If someone says the website is broken you need to know exactly which website because although ETX is one big ecosystem it’s actually over 8 sites now, but to the user they just think there’s only one - the one they’re using. So all the web servers report back to one central place and it shows you where the error is exactly and you can cross reference it with the other sites."

SM "What about ensuring the code base was built for their third party apps? Did configuration management help with that?"

AJ "As per all big websites these days - it’s really little bits of other websites glued together. No website stands alone and what we’re doing is using third party services such as APIs to get extra functionality on a site.

Updating to new technologies

AJ "Updating the tech is all part of a code review. From a technical point of view, it makes your life easier going forward developing this work."

TS "It's part of any 10 year old website update. Technologies change all the time - they get faster, lighter and better. By upgrading the tech during the Germany project we built the basis for us to go forward and globalise it for other locations."

BW "We moved away from the old Web Forms approach and introduced MVC. Microsoft provides an MVC framework for ASP.NET, which separates the concerns between the database and the front end and essentially becomes the middle bit that is the bridge between the two. With MVC you have one place for defining how things relate, another for how things work, another for how it looks."

AJ "The key thing is building in a level of flexibility in the code base and this was most of the work which was required. It’s about building another layer to the system. Whereas before it was the main website talking straight to 3rd party apps… moving forwards we had to move it down a level and add in a layer in between - the abstracted interface layer"

ETX Capital's new structure

BW "In terms of the configuration manager itself you have settings which are environmental based. We had not just 4 production servers, a dev server, a local development machines. Certain things would change whether you were using the site live or testing. The configuration manager had to cope with that. If you were testing internally it didn’t necessarily work as it would live."

TS "Text resources was one of the key tech updates we made, because with the original text resources cachng system you could change the values in the files but it wouldn’t reflect immediately on the live site which causes some problems."

BW "That was my first project with Pretty. The out of the box text resource manager didn’t quite meet our needs so we had to customise it to make it work. This new, slightly customised, caching mechanism allowed us to implement the text resources the way we wanted."

Uniting ETX’s global sites

SM “Then subsequently ETX introduced 8 more country specific sites over a period of a few years. We were helping them through this process but it became apparent when there were 8 different sites, they needed to be brought under one umbrella, which brought about the latest project for ETX.”

TS "Country number 5 was South Africa, which is an English speaking country. That was when ETX Capital realised we couldn’t call the UK site ‘English’ anymore. It may be the same language but they use different words, different slang etc and it was going to get confusing the more locales you added to ETX’s business."

AJ "It was most apparent with the website’s text files which define the language and copy displayed on the sites based on location. I think the question that came up initially here was “Can we use this same language file in different country?” You could, but only if tax laws and all those little nuances are exactly same in both countries. Invariably they’re not so at that point there’s no point using that text file. You have to write a new one, although we did try and define a sensible level of inheritance, because there’s a base value for it."

TS "There were also some other bigger business strategy changes for ETX as well at that time that led to them deciding an umbrella site was the best route forward. The spread betting market had changed significantly since the first site we built for them. ETX Capital were pretty much recognised as a high street provider of spread betting and betting had become much more mainstream which changes the whole consumer approach."

“Initially they were talking to people who were 'in-the-know' day traders and now they’re talking to average Joe's who fancy trying their hand at financial trading. That’s a big branding change and that understanding of spread betting is being trickled down to other places around the world.”

TS "Initially they were talking to people who are day traders and now they’re talking to average Joe's. That’s a big branding change and that understanding of spread betting is being trickled down to other places around the world. London being a big financial institution was ahead of the financial curve but now there’s emerging markets and that’s where ETX wanted to go to. Their strategy is to be offering more languages to expand their possible client base - and more trading platforms as well as more forms of spread betting."

SM "The point was that this was a rapid change in business strategy that had to be done quickly, without throwing away 10 years of building these websites. So we had to figure out how can we adapt them?"

Cultural considerations

Creating a standardised global site was a 3 month project we undertook. We not only brought together all of the websites we had built so far, but we redesigned the centralised site to make the branding more sales-led, appealing to the new influx of users. We spent a lot of time taking into account cultural considerations across the different markets ETX Capital were emerging into.

BW "The site largely remained the same, we just split it into two areas - the client area and then the marketing side of the sites. Separately to these there are of course the trading platforms, which are separate sites embedded in the client site. At the time of globalising the ETX site, they were also introducing a different type of trading platform, the spread betting of its day called ETX Binary."

TS "Before, a user would register with ETX, login to their account and they never got a choice of trading platform to use, it was whichever one we’d assigned to their country/locale. Now you have a user registering and they get a choice of 4 platforms:"

ETX Capital's new platforms

ETX Binary

This platform is for traders who want fast trading on unique markets. The platform offers high profits with a limited risk - where only your stake is at risk. It’s mobile and tablet friendly with charts and timers to show a quick overview.

ETX Trader

ETX Trader is designed to help traders familiarise themselves with spread betting. Traders have mo minimum deposit and offers the assurance of fixed spreads, minimising risk whilst getting access to the most popular markets. This platform is fully mobile compatible.

ETX Trader Pro

This platform offers more advanced options such as advanced charts and a fully customisable dashboard. Traders get access to variable spreads and an extensive list of markets. It’s ideal for traders who want to use trailing stops, orders, alerts and need customisability and access via mobile or tablet.


ETX MT4 offers automated trading via Expert Advisors (EAs) so trading can happen even when away from the MT4 platform and users can automate parts of their trading. This platform has built in indicators and allows users to monitor open positions and key markets easily.

AJ "Prior to this particular project for ETX Capital we had two trading platforms. One was Ariel (Trader) and the other was MT4 - you could select between them in some countries but on the most part it was fixed. With this iteration we made it much more obvious that they had access to these extra trading platforms. There were two new platforms to introduce and we made the original two much more obvious as products."

TS "With the infrastructure we had to put in place previously, it was possible to do this. It was a tight deadline and timescale but having done the groundwork for the German site and because we had certain ideas and vision at the start we could accommodate changes more quickly."

AJ "By introducing certain regions like China, they use different payment gateways. And you’ve got things like datacash which works across Europe, but not in China. And things like firewalls - and overcoming the great firewall of China!"

BW "Exactly. Something that should be simple like integrating YouTube becomes that little bit harder because you have to run an equivalent Chinese approved one. There was lots of potential business in China for ETX Capital so we had to work around these issues and find a way through."

TS "It wasn’t just China. It’s also things like looking at Arabic and Hebrew as RTL languages, which are right to left reading. And the language might well be Arabic but the country is Arab Emirates so you have to bring in the cultural elements of the Emirates."

AJ "And then you’ve got things like phone numbers. That was a little project that came about because they went global: the users who register have different phone formats. So during the registration process when they enter their phone number we built in a way to validate it so that when that user calls ETX their customer record is pulled up immediately."

SM " How did we discover things like that that we need to consider?"

TS "A certain amount of it is documented, like currency for example. If it’s about which payment provider is more popular in a particular country then that comes down to a business decision made by ETX. ETX also knew a lot more than us about things like business laws and legal aspects to consider. We had an input if there were more web related cultural things to consider. So it’s our knowledge, ETX’s knowledge, combined with research, which makes sure everything is covered."

Integrating tech

AJ "We knew ETX Capital use a vast array of systems internally to manage a variety of processes - from marketing to customer relationship management, to updating content. So integrating with their existing systems was key to minimising disruption to the business and to develop a site which was easy for their staff to understand and use."

“Integrating with their existing systems was key to minimising disruption to the business and to develop a site which was easy for their staff to understand and use.”

TS "Their existing technology was based on the .NET framework, so we carried this forward. It meant that we were easily able to integrate Salesforce, a system ETX were using at that time in order to manage customer relationships."

AJ "Previously, ETX had bespoke systems developed by us to manage their support sections of the site, and other areas such as events and education programmes. We moved these systems into Salesforce and integrated it all into the new marketing site. Consequently their customer relations are much more seamless, and ETX's workflows are simpler and faster."

TS "We also introduced Expression Engine, a new Content Management System. And we used the Foundation Framework for the same reason that it integrated with the existing systems. That ensured the new site was fully responsive for mobile and tablets."

BW "When it comes to talking about the tech side of the project I think it’s important to highlight that even seemingly minor elements had to be considered to maintain a seamless CRM and excellent customer service. So take their internal telephone system, which is intrinsically linked to Salesforce. For that to work on the global site, the telephone numbers had to be standardised with international dialling codes."

AJ "If that level of detail wasn’t considered before going live, the communications system of the whole business would have failed. Integrating with their existing technologies and ensuring we looked at all cultural and country specific variables meant we didn’t cause big business problems."

Financial security

TS "We had a real task on our hands with keeping the site secure - you have all the financial data, the user data and a vast amount of financial trading happening through the site 24 hours a day."

AJ "This is where we really had to start simplifying things from the existing sites. We made the application process more straightforward and easier for traders and users applying anywhere in the world. But whilst we were simplifying it for the end users, the process behind it still required some hefty security checks and technical implementation."

“…we had to bring a variety of security elements together… it reduces ETX’s risk to identity fraud”

BW "Yes we had to bring a variety of security elements together, from ID Lookups and URU security. 192 Business ID tracking was integrated into the application system for new customers. That verifies key information about individuals by checking official sources. URU is an automated, on-line identity-verification service for organisations that need to check their customers are who they say they are and live where they claim to live. Essentially it adds another layer of security as different countries require different checks. So if you fail one check, you are passed through another. It reduces ETX’s risk to identity fraud."

TS "And the new, MVC architecture that we used has built in security enhancements. All this amounted to a secure system and site that could be relied upon and trusted by ETX and their customers."

Mission critical

Deploying the new site was a challenge in itself. Catering for a wide variety of countries and timezones, there was no ‘ideal time’ to implement the changeover from the existing sites to the new site.

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TS "We had to deploy the site to multiple servers simultaneously and so we worked closely with ETX to develop a release plan with a detailed order of deployment and responsibilities at both our end and at theirs. As with all projects that’s why it’s so imperative that we test the product works before deployment, and this site was no different."

BW "We did all the testing before agreeing the changeover/deployment date. And it was rigorous. We tested in house at Pretty as well as getting individuals at ETX to test each element."

“It was mission critical… once ETX Capital had agreed that a Friday night, GMT, was the best time to deploy, we were set to go.”

TS "It was mission critical really. We had the release plan in place which detailed who was responsible for what and when. Once ETX Capital had agreed that a Friday night, GMT, was the best time to deploy, we were set to go."

A standardised, yet complex, global trading platform

Within a 3 month timeframe we delivered a rebranded centralised global site which serves eight languages and multiple countries around the world, and the potential to scale and expand as ETX Capital grows. We’ve had great feedback from ETX Capital not only on the new site but also the fast changeover - as there was minimal disruption to the business. It was a really great project for us to get our teeth stuck into as there were so many elements to consider - and we’re proud of the result and the fact that we’ve further strengthened our relationship with one of our most long standing clients.

Visit ETX Capital's site