Build vs Buy: Determining the Best Solution for Your Foreign Exchange Business

June 10, 2024
Steve Smith

Discover whether building an in-house FX solution or buying software is the best choice for your business. Explore real-world examples and expert insights to make an informed decision. Stay compliant and competitive in the global market.

Build vs Buy: Determining the Best Solution for Your Foreign Exchange Business

As business continues to go global, with total exports exceeding $25 trillion, managing FX exposure and making global payments has become integral for most businesses. Are you doing business with customers in other countries? Do you have employees abroad? Do your customers do business internationally? These scenarios create FX exposure for a company, increasing demand for FX services and cross border payments. 

It is crucial to manage FX (foreign exchange) execution and settlement efficiently and compliantly. It’s highly complex and highly regulated. Institutions providing these FX services face a pivotal decision: Should they build an in-house solution or buy a software solution to manage their FX business? 

To help you make an informed decision, we will explore the advantages and drawbacks of each option, drawing on real-world examples of financial institutions we’ve worked with.

Things to consider when building an in-house FX solution

Implementation Time

Building a custom FX management solution in-house can be lengthy, taking months or even years. This involves extensive development with an internal team, requiring significant time investment before the system is operational.


Custom software development involves high initial costs. The institution must invest in skilled developers, project managers, and ongoing maintenance. Additionally, with the market constantly evolving, the total cost includes the salaries of the employees needed to maintain and iterate on the software continuously.


An in-house solution offers the highest level of flexibility. Proprietary software is built specifically to match the institution's business requirements, tailored precisely to fit those needs. However, this flexibility comes at a high overall cost.


The quality of an in-house solution can be unpredictable. Since developing FX management software might not be the institution's core competency, the final product may need more robustness and reliability found in industry-standard solutions. 

Things to consider when you buy FX software

Implementation Time

In general, purchasing a software product will result in faster implementation. However, not all products are created equal. Many legacy solutions can take 6-24+ months to implement. 

As a cloud-native product, Kooltra offers a significantly quicker implementation timeline than legacy solutions. Fintechs can go live with Kooltra within weeks, as the platform is pre-built and ready to deploy with minimal customization required. Large institutions typically go live in half the time compared to legacy solutions.


Again, generally speaking, purchasing a product purpose-built for FX is more cost-effective than building and maintaining your own proprietary system. 

FX software vendors have already invested the time and resources to build a comprehensive FX management platform, and they regularly enhance the product to meet the evolving needs of their customers and regulators. As a result, institutions face lower upfront costs and lower long-term change management and maintenance costs. 

Kooltra’s cloud-native infrastructure also allows us to provide a more cost-effective solution than many of our peers, often 3x less expensive than legacy systems. 


In general, any turnkey FX software will offer some flexibility and customization. However, a proprietary system will usually offer the greatest level of customization. 

Legacy solutions are often feature rich with many configuration options, but can be expensive to extend and customize due to the use of legacy technology and outdated programming languages and databases.

Modern solutions are often API-first, offering building blocks to build a completely custom solution. This can be very flexible, but still requires an in-house development team to build it and manage it indefinitely.

The Kooltra platform is a modern technology platform that offers the best of both worlds. The solution is highly configurable, allowing institutions to tailor workflows and reporting to their unique needs. The product is built on Salesforce, so we leverage their existing flexibility to enable business users to create custom fields, build complex workflows, and setup advanced reporting. For those more technically inclined, our modern and easy to use APIs make it easy to extend our solution to completely customize your internal or client facing workflows. This approach enables you to achieve the right balance of customization, requiring less development resources, and using proven workflows where more appropriate.


Subject matter experts who deeply understand the business and compliance requirements have developed industry-standard FX software solutions. They also understand the intricacies of foreign exchange execution, regulations, and settlement. 

Kooltra was developed by former FX operations leaders and world-class software engineers. Our platform adheres to industry best practices, ensuring high quality, reliability, and continuous improvement. This dedication to quality often surpasses what can be achieved with an in-house development team balancing other business priorities. 

In Conclusion

Financial institutions must decide whether to build or buy software to manage their FX business. An in-house solution offers unmatched flexibility and customization but has a high total cost of ownership, unpredictable quality, and long development times. 

Buying a legacy solution is expensive and has long deployment timelines, but is often feature-rich. That being said, there is often minimal ongoing development on these products and poor APIs, so you need to consider if it will stand the test of time because the cost to change solutions again in the future is high and disruptive to your business. 

On the other hand, buying a solution like Kooltra provides a quicker, cost-effective implementation with high-quality, reliable software that remains flexible enough to meet most business needs and can be extended where you need it most.

Institutions must weigh these factors carefully to determine the best approach for their circumstances. For many, the advantages of buying a proven solution like Kooltra— with quick deployment, lower costs, high quality, and ease of extension—make it the preferred choice.

Want to learn more about Kooltra? Book a strategy call with our team.