Key parts of bond market electronification are still up for contention, with stiff competition across pre-trade, primary and secondary market services.

In 2024 The DESK has conducted its 10th annual Trading Intentions Survey, designed to help buy-side traders gauge consensus around which platforms are being used by other traders. The report was instigated at the behest of a trader who said he could not see how a specific platform was going to work, and he wanted to know what his peers thought of the market for data, analytics and trading services on offer.

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In the 2024 Trading Intentions Survey, 53% of respondents reported being users of Neptune’s electronic axe distribution platform, with 24% counting themselves ‘major users’, indicative that it is more a ‘must have’ than a ‘nice to have’. Given the firm only sits behind the big three trading platforms as larger providers of pre-trade data, it is punching above its weight as a platform with a single type of pre-trade information.


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The TRADE sits down with newly promoted chief executive officer at Neptune Networks, Byron Cooper-Fogarty, to explore the rapidly expanding world of fixed income data including cost in a high margin environment, the use of data in protocol selection, and the next stage of innovation for axes.

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Byron Cooper-Fogarty will become CEO Neptune Networks, the fixed income network for disseminating real-time axe data, and on 1 April 2024 with John Robinson will move to the role of executive chairman. Neptune currently reports supporting over 90 buy-side firms managing US$60 trillion in global AUM.

Robinson is currently CEO of Neptune, having joined the firm in November 2020. During his time in the role, he has moved Neptune to a more modern platform by partnering with Genesis Global. He has also used his network to raise the profile of Neptune in the US Credit and EM Credit markets.

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We are thrilled to be recognized once again in The DESK‘s annual Trading Intentions Survey. Neptune was found to be the most used standalone pre-trade data source in credit markets with half of the desks employing its streaming axe services. 50% of surveyed clients use Neptune, 22% ranked themselves as ‘major users’, Identifying Neptune as having the highest proportion of major users amongst its client base of any commercial data offering.

The Trading Intentions Survey also ranked Neptune as highly effective in finding liquidity out of all standalone pre-trade data sources for credit.
View the full report here:


New skills or new traders?

It has become commonplace for non-technology staff to learn at least the basics of coding in certain languages that can support trading, but this does not mean they are stepping in to manage technology directly.

“It really begins with buy side firms investing and committing to technology, because that’s going to determine what type of buy side traders they are really going to need and use,” says John Robinson, CEO of Neptune. “They are not necessarily data scientists, but they are very fluent in data. They need access to data, to centralise it, optimise it and then analyse it. Buy-side traders have to be able to do all four of those things. It gives them the resources for pre trade data to build portfolios, to access liquidity just in a timely and efficient manner. One client that I spoke with has now four buy side traders and eight quant’s on his team.”


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Pre-trade data

Pre-trade data provision has seen a rebalancing between the major providers, with leader Bloomberg overall use falling back slightly on 2021 – albeit with a slightly higher proportion of major users – while MarketAxess and Tradeweb both saw growth (see Fig 1).

The biggest story here is Neptune – 58% of buy-side firms reported using it up from 36% in 2021, and 30% now view themselves as major users, up from 17% in 2021. Other numbers were relatively stable, with fintechs including Symphony, BondCliQ, LumeAlfa (formerly Algomi) and Glimpse Markets showing positive expansion although still in single figures.


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Neptune Networks Ltd. (Neptune), the fixed income network for disseminating real-time axe data, today announced the addition of Flow Traders to its bond dealer community. Neptune delivers the highest quality axes from 30 of the leading dealers in global Fixed Income to over 80 buy-side firms managing $49.5 trillion in global AUM.

Flow Traders will distribute axes on Investment Grade and High Yield corporate credit as well as Emerging Markets Sovereign bonds via Neptune, with an initial focus on 5,000 ISINs in Euro-denominated corporate credit and Dollar-denominated Emerging Markets Sovereign Bonds.

Commenting on Flow Traders joining the network, Neptune CEO John Robinson said, “We are delighted to have Flow Traders join Neptune as the latest dealer to provide axes and inventory data to our buy-side community. This has been a client driven addition, as buy-side traders and portfolio managers continue to ask for high quality data from alternative liquidity providers such as Flow Traders.”

Ramon Balje, Head of Fixed Income EMEA at Flow Traders, said, “The corporate bond market continues to transform and innovate as a result of technology advancements and the availability of higher quality data. Flow Traders has been a longstanding supporter of this innovation and the transparency, cost reduction and efficiency gains it brings to the market. Therefore, we are delighted to become a sell-side contributor on the Neptune platform and provide axes and inventory data to their growing network of counterparties.”




About Flow Traders

Flow Traders is a leading global financial technology-enabled liquidity provider in financial products, historically specialized in Exchange Traded Products (ETPs), now expanding into other asset classes. Flow Traders ensures the provision of liquidity to support the uninterrupted functioning of financial markets. This allows investors to continue to buy or sell ETPs or other financial instruments under all market circumstances. We continuously grow our organization, ensuring that our trading desks in Europe, the Americas and Asia can provide liquidity across all major exchanges, globally, 24 hours a day. Founded in 2004, we continue to cultivate the entrepreneurial, innovative and team-oriented culture that has been with us since the beginning.

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About Neptune

Neptune supplies the highest quality bond pre-trade data (axes and inventory) from the sell-side to the buy-side via FIX. There are currently 30 banks on the platform. Neptune supplies data that is standardised, real-time and direct from sell-side risk systems, rather than periodic runs or manual spreadsheets with their high probability of errors and poor timeliness. Neptune data is delivered via several workflow efficient options, including direct to client OMS and/or EMS, or via a single API, providing 30 dealers’ data via one connection.

Neptune is uniquely governed by a collaboration of banks and the buy-side. Neptune’s working groups provide the industry an opportunity to work together to drive technological change. Neptune’s vision is to become the destination for all bond market stakeholders, enhancing reliable, relevant, insight-enabled relationships between the buy-side and the sell-side. The platform carries over 90,000 positions daily, around $600bn in notional liquidity, in asset classes such as Credit, Rates and Emerging Markets. Neptune is used by 80 buy-side firms globally, managing in excess of $49.5 trillion in AUM.

Neptune has consistently grown since inception in mid-2016 and was highlighted in The Desk’s 2021 Trading Intentions Survey of major buy-side customers as the most used independent pre-trade source. Neptune have bucked the trend for start-ups in Fixed Income, which have frequently struggled to compete with the large incumbent players.

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Sharpening the axe: Neptune sees expanding opportunity for buy- and sell-side.

Buy-side firms are consuming more data than ever and Neptune is well placed to ensure quality and reliability of axes are elevated.


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The Desk’s annual Trading Intentions Survey has demonstrated strong growth in Neptune adoption. This is a survey of global buy-side clients and the systems they use and intend to use in the near future. It is an endorsement of Neptune’s approach and encouraging given a challenging 2020. It is also an indication of the impact of the new hires to the firm over the past six-months.

Key quotes from the survey include:

“Neptune, as the most commonly used standalone pre-trade data source (i.e. being unconnected to a trading venue), saw its overall user base increase by seven percentage points.”

Under User confidence in platforms: “Neptune was the most successful platform outside of the big three.”

The full survey is available on The Desk’s site here.