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Better Together: Driving Community, Collaboration and Interoperability at FinJS

Traders Magazine Online News, April 10, 2019

Mitra Roknabadi

Collaboration and community are key to success. They accelerate innovation, connecting an incredible number of talented people from across the industry to improve our workflows and our ability to interact with the market.

It was in this spirit that we launched FinJS, an annual series of conferences in the U.S. and Europe that brings together product managers, CTOs, development managers and technologists from some of the most groundbreaking firms in our space. Together, we are achieving truly transformative work, delivering (rather than simply demanding) sophisticated, secure software solutions for the financial services industry.

The latest incarnation of FinJS, now in its fourth year, was held in New York on Tuesday, March 19. All presenters were industry leaders who are passionate about their work, and it was clear they understood the importance of collaboration.

“Everybody’s heard me say it before, but it bears repeating: community is where it’s at,” said Kim Prado, Global Head of Fixed Income Credit and Sales Technology at RBC Capital Markets. “Partners, let’s work together to drive efficiencies and leapfrog to the next level.”

Prado’s team has worked directly with a number of firms to develop new solutions; for example, they connected RBC’s trading desk to AllianceBernstein’s, with the IT departments from both firms working closely together.

But direct, bilateral arrangements aren’t the only way to realize the benefits of collaboration. Open-source software allows the broader community to take advantage of new capabilities, moving the entire industry forward.

Shane Carroll, Senior Software Engineer at Adaptive Financial Consulting, explained how open-source not only sustains community, but makes for a more streamlined experience for developers as well. In his presentation, he cited a study that tracked multiple projects to find the effects of open-source development.

“The software that was open-source from the start has, what they call, a propagation cost of 8%. This  means that if I change a given file, there is an 8% chance that I have to touch another file in my software database,” Carroll said. “But on the closed-source projects, which involve fewer developers, without community, the propagation cost is 42%. It’s five times more costly to make changes in the software that was written in a smaller, more closed off environment.”

Zayne Turner, Lead Developer Evangelist at Salesforce, also touted the importance of bringing internally-developed software to as many people as possible. Many firms choose to build on Salesforce, and with the introduction of the firm’s Lightning Web Components model, introduced last December, it’s easier than ever for developers to make the most of the platform.

“With our new programming model, we hope to offer firms developing on Salesforce increased productivity because it’s going to look like versions of JavaScript you’re used to,” Turner said. “It’s going to be built for better performance because we’re using the web engine more – and specialized logic less. Another priority was making it compatible and easy to use. It needs to work with other frameworks, things you like to build with. It needs to play nice.”

Firms creating software with other developers in mind is exactly the kind of practice we hoped to foster when we teamed up with major industry participants like Barclays, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley to launch the Financial Desktop Connectivity and Collaboration Consortium, or FDC3, in 2017. Now hosted within FINOS, FDC3 seeks to develop protocols and taxonomies to facilitate the deployment of new technology solutions to major banks and fintech firms. The consortiumreleased the first major version of its standard on March 28.

“Shared values and shared language enable so much of what we do,” said Charlie Samuels, an engineer at Giant Machines. “Interoperability and building community are incredibly important. Just like HTTP forever changed how resources interact on the web, FDC3 centralizes the domain-specific language that we use across apps and allows you to leverage communications from any app at large in the ecosystem. You don’t need to build out any costly integrations.”

Performance, cost efficiency, security – the reasons for collaboration within our industry are endless, and every firm will be drawn to these principles for their own reasons. One thing seems clear: you can’t go it alone in this day and age. Contribute to the community and share in its resources, or you may be left behind.

That community, on full display at FinJS, is a big part of what makes it such a privilege to do what we do. We are proud to play a role in bringing together so many talented individuals, especially when there remains so much work to be done in terms of making interoperability an industry standard. Be sure to mark your calendars next month – FinJS London happens on May 21.


Mitra Roknabadi is VP of Community and Head of Strategic Partnerships


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