Asterisk Networks is a fintech platform operating in the global security finance marketplace. Their mission is to allow the world's largest financial institutions like banks, broker-dealers, asset managers, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and hedge funds to connect and negotiate trading opportunities with any other participant in an electronic format.

Asterisk Networks works with the world's largest financial institutions, so they're currently focusing on a pretty narrow market. Their platform essentially works like a financial dating app with an extensive rolodex of companies to deal with. Its goal is to widen the user's spread, increase revenue, and provide more opportunities to trade.

Negotiation details screen

The Challenge

Asterisk Networks' clients want to connect directly with like-minded peers to negotiate securities financing transactions. Their non-bank clients, such as pension funds, hedge funds, and asset managers, can face a host of challenges in the securities lending process:

  • Electronic trading platforms are very expensive and tend to be restricted to banks and broker-dealers.
  • This means they don't see the flow of business that runs through the systems and they lose out on what's happening.
  • Without access to an electronic trading platform, negotiations typically take place through a much less efficient channel, like over the phone, email, or Bloomberg.
  • The reconciliation process, which is meant to ensure accuracy of trade terms, takes up a lot of time, money, and energy, and is often unreliable and tedious.

So the company set out to create a peer-to-peer marketplace that would enable participants to connect to their app and negotiate in an electronic format, digitally record their transactions, and eliminate some of the lengthy reconciliation processes they would have to go through.

To do that, they wanted to create a completely open platform for financial institutions to decide who they want to trade with.

They needed the app to be clear, easy to edit, and very familiar. They knew from the beginning that a spreadsheet would form the foundation of the app and considered writing their own grid. But they realized it would never be as good as one that was developed by people committed to specializing in such a tool. On top of all this, using a ready-made JavaScript data grid would save them a significant amount of time.

Which is why they decided to go with Handsontable.

The Solution

Dave Stewart, lead front-end developer of the app, tested out many options before going with Handsontable. It was visually appealing, less complicated than the other grids, and had an amazing API.

What's more, it integrated nicely with other libraries used in the app. Handsontable's out-of-the-box functionality allowed them to get started immediately, and its customizability made it easy for them to build whatever feature they needed. The two basically sealed the deal.

Table displaying securities' data

The app's implementation of Handsontable is very sophisticated, with extensive functionality including:

  • A custom-built lifecycle wrapper, presets, and tools around Handsontable
  • Multiple custom editor and renderer components
  • Extensive styling of the table (row and column colors, etc.)
  • In-cell and cross-cell validation and post-processing
  • Context menus and additional tools

They used the grid to build an easy-to-use, flexible tool, with features including:

  • Client onboarding and storage of their contractual agreements
  • Publishing availability and demand
  • Live ticker showing every single transaction that goes through the platform as soon as it's made
  • Electronic negotiation and recording of transactions
  • Smart updating of transactions, preventing a counterparty from negotiating with multiple different participants on the platform at the same time
  • Integrating with their clients' order management systems

Beyond the features and functionality, the unsung hero in the development process was Handsontable's customer support. To Dave, it was huge:

Quote The next bit I always come back to is the support and the forums and getting answers quickly. That was key for us. Whenever we had a question, we always got an answer. It was brilliant.

The Result: An efficient tool with a familiar user experience

Implementing Handsontable meant that Asterisk Networks was able to build a prototype that was ready and out to market within three months. They estimate that it saved them nine months of total work on the front end, as well as the ongoing costs of documentation, development, and testing of building a data grid in-house.

The platform's flexibility allows clients to continue following well-established security financing protocols while providing direct trading routes and making the whole process more efficient.

In addition, the lengthy reconciliation process has been removed entirely. By negotiating directly on the Asterisk Networks platform, clients record information there instead of on their own platforms, preventing divergence in the data. And if there is no divergence in the data, there is no need for reconciliation.

Loan search and filter screen

The value of the UX that Handsontable brings to the app is something Dave calls "immeasurable", and users confirm their experience with the app is smooth and familiar. Throughout a transaction, the app suggests the next steps, and all the user has to do is press a button. And Handsontable provides an Excel look and feel that creates a sense of recognition and trust in knowing how to work with the app.

Quote The business couldn't exist the way it does without Handsontable. It's the core of the communication between counterparties, and it provides a familiar tool that people already know, making it more attractive to potential clients.

In a broader context, the app has given Asterisk Networks the ability to go out and show clients what they're doing. This comes in handy, especially if their clients are not familiar with how an API works. They can also connect with best-in-breed providers in the market and are now planning to expand their product range and keep growing their app based on their clients' needs.

Fill-down table functionality
Tammy Phillips

Tammy Phillips


Dave Stewart

Dave Stewart

Lead Front-End Developer

at Asterisk Networks