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Software Via Junk Mail?!

Prices of derivatives software have been dropping faster than you can say "leptokurosis," but here's a new price barrier: software that comes free in the mail. MB Risk Management has recently begun applying mass-marketing techniques traditionally used for fabric softener and Easter Seals to options pricing models.

In February, thousands of people on derivatives mailing lists were mailed a CD-ROM in a clear plastic envelope containing a 30-day license for a full collection of MB Risk Management's Universal derivatives software tool kit, including full documentation and modules compatible with both Windows 95 and Windows NT.

"We've already seen a phenomenal response from this marketing initiative," gushes Mamdouh Barakat, the firm's founder. "Instead of having to see a demo and pay high fees just to find out if people like a product, we put a full, complete version of the product into their mailboxes.

Barakat says the free 30 days start when users call in for a temporary license. Rather than charging a set fee per machine, he considers patterns of use, and charges different amounts for heavy, medium and light users.

But what about all the recipients of the software who have no real use for it? "If users really don't like the software," advises Barakat, "they can always use it as a beer coaster."

For more information, see www.mbrm.com.

FENICS on Excel

The FENICS option pricing module, a fixture on option trading desks around the world, will be even more accessible. This February, New York City-based Inventure (formerly Astrogamma), announced that FENICS market standard pricing methodologies will be available through Microsoft Excel. According to Inventure literature, reconciliation between the FENICS mathematics used within Excel spreadsheets and the FENICS system itself is guaranteed.

For information, see www.inventure.com.

MathSoft Offers Lucent

For fans of MathSoft's data-analysis and modeling software, the news that MathSoft has received exclusive rights to the newest version of the object-oriented S programming language from Lucent Technologies is good, if somewhat predictable, news. For finance users in particular, the latest version of the S-language should prove a boon, as it will help MathSoft to roll out its next generation of products-many of which will be targeted at the risk management and derivatives communities.

For more information, see www.mathsoft.com.

Merging Energy Physicals and Derivatives

One of the constant complaints in the energy industry is the difficulty of managing both physical (that is, spot and forward) and financial energy deals within the same front-office and risk-management software package.

Rowatyn, Conn.-based TriplePoint Technologies says it has just solved that problem. Its newly released Tempest Trader claims to be the only front-office system to support both physicals and derivative trading instruments. The system also covers a range of energy products, including crude oil, refined petroleum products, fuel oil, feedstocks and petrochemicals.

The new version of Tempest Trader can process fixed- and floating-priced cargo, barge and pipeline purchases, and sales. It can also process futures, paper forwards, listed options, average price options, spread options, strip options, knockouts, swaps and swaptions.

Tempest Trader, a 32-bit Windows system, includes real-time position management, risk management and the ability to provide integrated access to global trading data. According to one industry consultant, the latest Tempest system is likely to be particularly robust as a result of "new development directions" that may be a side effect of TriplePoint's ongoing work for Morgan Stanley's sophisticated energy trading operations.

TriplePoint's current clients say they are looking forward to Tempest Trader. Stephano Sacchi, a senior trader in Galaxy SA's Houston office, says: "We have offices in Singapore, Houston and Rome that all need to be connected via a common technological platform. We need to see our global exposures and positions in real time."

Galaxy trades a variety of oil-related products including crude oil, "light" oil and industrial fuel. Implemented early last year, Galaxy uses Tempest for both front- and middle-office functions for all three of its trading outposts. In particular, Sacchi explains that he likes the fact that Tempest can provide global position data, allowing users to "slice and dice" positions according to location, trading desk, trader and so on. "Right now, we can only see one position report at a time. With the next version, we will be able to run multiple database queries from several onscreen windows at a time."

For more information, see www.tpi.com.

FNX Adds Hull & White Models

FNX, which boasts a fully integrated front-through-back-office system capable of handling foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity products, has just beefed up its interest rate offerings. The company has added Hull & White pricing models for advanced derivatives, including American-, European- and Bermuda-style swaptions and bond options, index amortizing notes and swaptions, CMS and CMT swaps, average rate swaps, quantos, and barriers. Users will also have the option of valuing these instruments through Monte Carlo simulation. These new capabilities will be available through the "Hull and White Advanced Derivatives" module, due for release in the second half of 1997.

In addition, FNX has arranged a consulting partnership with Hull and White, who are both professors at the University of Toronto and are well-known for their ground-breaking work on term structure models. Says Jim Denelly, head of interest rate product development for FNX, "Dr. Hull and Dr. White will not only be supplying us with the most sophisticated term structure models available, but they are also working with us on the valuation of option positions and developing hedging and risk analysis functionality for those instruments." Projects underway include bringing the Hull and White trinomial tree model and a lognormally distributed model online. Next at bat are various two-factor models including the Heath-Morton-Jarrow model, and the Brace-Gatarek and Musiela models.

For more information, see www.fnx.com.