Case Study: Interactive Brokers Automates Confirmation Responses and Gets Back to Business

How Interactive Brokers, a giant in the online broker space, uses an API to enable instant, automatic confirmation replies

Banks and financial institutions all want to work more efficiently, better enforce data security, and understand the latest technologies. It's an ongoing need that may seem daunting. But there's one process - confirmation responses - that you can make faster and more secure right now.

Confirmation’s platform has a clear purpose: Streamline and reduce the risk of audit and credit confirmations.

Today, our API integration takes this vision a step further, allowing financial institutions like Interactive Brokers Group, Inc., to fully automate audit confirmation replies —  and get back to bigger business.

Challenge

IB Group is an online brokerage firm with consolidated equity capital of more than $6 billion. A trailblazer in making electronic trading tech more user-friendly, IB Group is constantly seeking ways to innovate and work smarter. In 2017, they became one of the first brokers to offer client access to Bitcoin futures trading on the Cboe Futures Exchange (CFE) and the CME. IB Group has also earned top ratings from Barron's for the past eight years, with a 4.5-star rating.

Even with their fiercely positive momentum and hunger for offering clients the absolute best online trading experience, the behind-the-scenes process of audit confirmations at IB Group was just like everyone else’s: at the mercy of how requests are sent and received.

With Confirmation, every day our audit requests close out, and we can clearly see what's done or not. It's very organized.

Craig Thompson, Internal Auditor, Interactive Brokers Group

Before IB Group started using the Confirmation platform in 2012, an internal audit team of three to four people processed every audit confirmation request manually. Some requests arrived via postal mail, some via email, and some via fax. Confirmation brought a new efficiency to this dated, but common, scenario. It also introduced a new sense of confidence at IB Group, as it was far more secure than the old process. With data and security breaches grabbing headlines almost every day, this was a key reason IB Group switched to Confirmation's platform.

Even though their process was improved, it still needed work. Every confirmation, verification, and authorization was hand-entered into the broker dealer's own internal confirmations system, then entered again into the Confirmation platform. Even for a best-case scenario with zero authorization issues, this could take up to one hour per confirmation. Plus, the team was doing double the work, entering the information twice.

As a small team tackling every audit request on top of other responsibilities, constant management of pending or incomplete requests presented yet another time-consuming issue. On top of that, IB Group receives audit requests from all over the world, meaning time zone differences can automatically add an entire day to their response time, even in best-case scenarios.

Opportunity

Above and beyond audit confirmations, the IB Group internal audit team has higher priority responsibilities that relate more directly to the company's business initiatives. "Audit confirmations are not our main responsibility, so any time we save on those allows us to focus on more important tasks for the company," said Craig Thompson, an Internal Auditor with IB Group.

The team needed to further refine their confirmation process, eliminate the double work, continue increasing client data security, and get back to the business that really counts.

With their IT team at their side, the internal audit team at IB Group spearheaded one of the first implementations of the Confirmation API (Application Programming Interface) - a tool that allowed them to completely automate some of the most tedious, time-consuming elements of confirmation responses. And, a tool that would eliminate the double work.

Results

With the API in place, processing multiple confirmations per hour is no sweat. The API connects the Confirmation platform directly with IB Group's internal database. Now, the team mandates that every request come in via Confirmation, and when a request is received, because their internal system and Confirmation communicate directly, readily available information (think balances, etc.) is confirmed instantly and automatically.

As of Q3, we've processed more confirmations than we did in all of last year. And with less manpower.

Denies McLaughlin, Internal Auditor, Interactive Brokers Group 

Even when a request is flagged for a team member's input before it can be processed, the work is largely already done and 100 percent online. Plus, every request automatically lives in the Confirmation platform and IB Group's internal system. No more double work. No more double-checking to see what's pending. "With Confirmation, every day our audit requests close out, and we can clearly see what's done or not. It's very organized," said Craig Thompson.

The overall time savings was so positive that the company was able to grow their annual confirmation volumes without hiring additional staff. "As of last week [mid-Q3], we've processed as many confirmations as we did in all of last year. And with less manpower," said Denies McLaughlin, Internal Auditor at IB Group.

More efficiency for the internal audit team plus lower overhead for IB Group is an absolute win-win.

Results by the numbers

Current volume of annual confirmations completed through Confirmation: 30x higher than in 2015 

2017 
2,883 completed responses 
67% auto-processed  
10x more requests confirmed than in 2016

2018 (as of Q3) 
3,626 completed responses
87% auto-processed 
27% more confirmation requests completed than in all of 2017 (with a quarter still to go)

Other improvements since implementing Confirmation and the API integration

  • Account numbers? Always accounted for. Requestors must enter the account numbers themselves, eliminating time-consuming follow-up communication. 
  • Requestors think twice. Because they have to organize and enter the information they need themselves, audit requests have become more judicious. 
  • One at a time. Each Confirmation request relates only to a single account number, so multi-account requests are streamlined, reducing human error and manual input. 
  • Fewer do-overs. Because of the clarity Confirmation provides for both audit requestors and receivers, fewer re-confirmations are necessary. 
  • Efficiency achieved. More confirmations are completed in less time with 30 times more annual confirmations being completed than in 2015.