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How a small firm from Enniskillen grew to become a vital player in global oil trading.
The world’s energy mix may be transitioning to low-carbon fuels, but oil remains essential to our everyday lives. Sophisticated markets trade various crude and refined oil products at millisecond intervals. Enniskillen firm, The Oil Market Journal (The OMJ), helps its customers—from the local service station to the head offices of oil majors—make sense of energy markets in real-time using advanced algorithms and customisable platforms.
“We started The OMJ back in 1999. We faxed our customers a snapshot of oil prices and the news driving markets at 11 am each day,” explains Ian Moore, The OMJ’s founder and managing director. The OMJ soon began delivering its bulletin by email, but the real change came in the early 2000s. Rising market volatility and widespread internet adoption meant customers expected more detailed information available over the web. “We built the UK and Ireland’s first intra-day refined product oil price system. We wrote the specification on the back of an envelope and built it at high speed.”
That was the first in a series of innovations that have led to The OMJ’s current success. Throughout, The OMJ has revisited the four steps of the Innovation Framework to push their technology forward—ideation, selection, development, and commercialisation.
The OMJ began its migration to a web-based platform by hosting spreadsheets online. The original offering was a two-page website, but new challenges meant that this swiftly evolved into more advanced solutions.
“We tailor our products to our client’s needs,” explains Ian. “I started as an oil trader. We were in the downstream oil industry, trading refined oil products. Unfortunately, major data providers didn’t provide the information the market needed. We built a spreadsheet that was specific to our trading needs, but we discovered that it had potential for others. So, we spun it off as a new company.” The OMJ has followed a similar pattern ever since—developing solutions that fill gaps in the market.
The OMJ works closely with its customers to identify the ideas that have the most potential. Each choice follows a “suitability, acceptability, feasibility” assessment, considering the information they want to convey, the audience, and the available technology.
“We’ve taken that simple, two-page website and developed a very flexible, real-time platform,” says Ian. “There’s many an instance where we have gone down a road from an IT point of view and then—several years later—had to backtrack. Sometimes technology emerged that wasn’t available when we had taken the decision.”
Development & testing
The OMJ develops and tests its platform on an ongoing basis to stay relevant in a fast-paced market. Its developers work closely with clients to ensure the product meets their needs.
“Earlier this week, we had a shipper in Denmark email to say, 'I need x, y, and z. Can you do it?' We developed a customised dashboard in just a few minutes," explains Ian. “I think it’s important to have a can-do attitude. When you try your best for your customers, you often end up in a different position from the one you thought you’d be. Ten years ago, we had no idea that the system we were building would be able to handle ten thousand different commodity and foreign exchange products and futures. We had to re-engineer things to allow that kind of capacity. We’ve had to rebuild the system several times to handle the markets’ speeds.”
The OMJ’s first customers were in the UK and Ireland, but it has since extended its reach across Europe and around the world. Ian recalls travelling around Scandinavia in the 2000s, going from one port to another and selling their platform directly to oil distributors. “We looked at each port on Google Maps. If there was an oil tank, we headed there.”
Today, The OMJ pursues leads from the Americas to Southeast Asia. “One of our sales team has just returned from Panama selling our services. He was at Portugal Shipping Week and in Dubai earlier in the year. Each month they head off to a new or existing market.”
The OMJ’s trading screens now feature on trading floors in New York, London, Dubai, and Singapore.
Your idea could be just as successful as The OMJ’s. Visit InnovateNI.com, take our innovation assessment, and discover where you are on the Innovation Framework. You'll find the best way to take your idea from imagination to commercialisation.