CEO Chat: Mazy Dar, OpenFin
The technology available on both the buy- and sell-side trader’s desktop today is staggering. But getting all these apps – EMS, OMS, messaging, news, charting, etc. – to interoperate seamlessly is no small task.
Leading the charge to facilitate this interoperability and workflow simplification by developing what it calls “the Operating System for Finance” is OpenFin, whose platform is used by over 1,500 companies across the buy side and sell side to connect nearly 1,000 apps. By standardizing the operating environment for financial applications on the trader desktop, the firm allows trading applications to share information in a permissioned manner, in the same way that Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android allows Uber to seamlessly leverage other apps on the device such as maps, chat, contacts, etc.
Traders Magazine editor John D’Antona Jr. recently sat down with OpenFin’s co-founder and CEO Mazy Dar to discuss his firm’s core mission and philosophy, the growth it’s seen among its buy side client base, the goals for the FDC3 consortium it launched, and more.
Tell us about OpenFin. What is your philosophy, and what sets you apart?
It’s no secret that as technology has advanced, the trader desktop has become increasingly cluttered. Today’s traders have access to thousands of apps designed to ease their workflow, but constantly switching between platforms and re-entering information can result in a one-step-forward, two-steps-back situation. At OpenFin, we believe interoperability is the solution to these administrative difficulties – just as Apple products allow for seamless maneuvering across programs from a wide variety of third-party developers, our operating system supports over 1,000 apps encompassing everything from EMS to market data to TCA. This allows firms or even individual traders to select the very best applications necessary for their specific workflow and make full use of the technology at their disposal without sacrificing any time to the inconveniences that so often come with it.
In addition to serving your clients, dealing with these all these third-party developers must be a major part of running your business. Tell us about the experience of working with such diverse and disparate firms.
While the developers we work with are often highly specialized, we pride ourselves on having flexible software capable of accommodating all sorts of applications. We enable firms to quickly and safely deploy their applications directly onto the trader desktop, creating more convenient alternative to other systems. In fact, the process often goes both ways – these firms know what works best on our platform, especially when it comes to integrating with other apps, so it’s usually a highly cooperative process. In this way, OpenFin is creating an ecosystem of firms that prize collaboration and innovation, which makes for an exciting workflow. Bringing such organizations together helps drive the digital transformation agenda, and we’re very proud to play a role in that.
Across the buy side, legacy systems have come under increasing scrutiny as technology improves and managers look to slash costs at every turn. How does OpenFin fit into this disruption?
One of the great things about our model is that buy siders don’t need to choose. With OpenFin, firms employing legacy systems are no longer forced to upend their entire technology infrastructure to make a change. Instead, our platform allows firms to continue using their legacy systems while giving them access to all sorts of new applications, allowing them to build a unique desktop environment that provides the best of both worlds – a kind of desktop unbundling, if you will. We’ve seen countless firms realize their digital strategy in this way, and it certainly beats a hard switch from one provider to another, both of which will be limited in their own way.
What are some of the other forces affecting the buy side today? How are vendors responding to them?
There are a couple of macro shifts that have occurred. With new regulations like MiFID II, transparency and accountability in decision-making processes are more important than ever, and numerous firms have developed solutions to meet this increased demand. Ensuring the secure and seamless integration of these applications into existing workflows and interoperability between applications is crucial to mitigating risks, which has been a big focus of ours at OpenFin. The other major change has been an acceleration of the electronification of asset classes outside of equities. We understand that buy-siders will always be on the hunt for new sources of alpha, and it’s our job to accommodate that need regardless of the direction it takes them. The collaborative spirit we have fostered with our fintech provider partners has allowed us to easily branch out into other asset classes such as fixed income and FX. Our platform’s customizability is one of its hallmarks, and as long as there is innovation on the buy side, we’ll be well positioned to help firms meet their ever-shifting needs.
Speaking of collaboration, we’ve seen a tremendous response to the Financial Desktop Connectivity and Collaboration Consortium (FDC3) initiative you launched, with firms like JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and many more signing up. What’s the latest on this?
Probably the easiest way to understand the aim of FDC3 is to think of it as a FIX Protocol for the trader desktop. Just as FIX standardized the exchange of information and data 20 years ago, FDC3 promotes standards to allow financial applications to interoperate and communicate with each other. Rather than waste time and money performing expensive bespoke integrations, firms can employ common operating standards to ensure smooth implementations for all parties involved. With a presence on the desktop of over 1,500 companies across the buy side and sell side and over 60 countries around the globe, we place a high value on using our reach to change the industry for the better. We’re very proud to have launched FDC3, and are excited to now be working with the FINOS membership to continue driving it forward.
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