The Last Look…
Posted by Colin Lambert. Last updated: November 28, 2023
I was going to follow up on a recent column on AI, however that will have to wait following the unbelievably sad news I received this week about the passing of somebody who genuinely impacted the FX industry, Campbell Adams.
Cam was in many ways a reflection on how the FX market changed – he was a trader at Citi, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and BP, who left the market for a period around the turn of the century, before, inevitably, finding his way back in at EBS and embracing the e-trading era.
It was what happened next, however, where Campbell Adams really left his mark on our industry – with the furore growing almost daily over the impact of HFT firms of the FX market, he founded FX Pure and got the support of a dozen banks to develop a platform that featured randomisation, in other words, a mechanism to thwart latency arbitrage strategies that were threatening to send FX down the same spiral as equities market as speed became everything.
He recognised that FX was different and that there were a lot of “real world” participants who weren’t in it for profit alone, and these players needed a degree of protection. We can argue whether randomisation worked in the long run, but the fact is it was needed at the time and it did change the way people behaved in our market – not many can say that.
Sadly, what was a great idea also delivered a period of frustration for Campbell, that was to continue for some time. The Pure project prompted a step change at EBS, which meant effectively Pure was no longer needed – ironically, possibly the crowning achievement of Cam’s career was to make EBS better.
Pure was taken over by Tradition, and still runs to this day, but Cam wasn’t really involved past 2017, but his irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit saw him pivot the Pure business to digital assets – a project he was still working on up until his tragic death.
As a person Cam was always good fun to be with and he was a tremendously interesting conversation partner, as witnessed by the last video conversation I had with him just a few months ago for this publication. He had a natural spirit of adventure and thought deeply about how to make markets better, but did it all with a sense of humour. As a measure of the man and his achievements, there are not too many of us who would have featured in stories in both The Times and Financial Times, and probably even fewer of us who could point to ownership of an initiative that actually got people thinking – and reacting.
It hard to believe he is no longer with us, and I for one will miss our chats on market structure (sometimes in some strange places!) and my condolences go to his other friends and family.
As we like to say where I now live, the FX industry has lost a ‘good-un’. Vale Cam, you genuinely moved the needle in our industry and few can say that. You will be missed – RIP.