Summer C-Level Series: Brian Sentance, Xenomorph
What have been the main themes of your business so far this year?
Data Quality. Management and quality of data have been some of the main business themes from our clients. It is no news to anyone that all clients are subject to regulatory and risk reporting pressures at the moment, and there is a big focus around minimizing “garbage in/garbage out” in relation to data used throughout client systems and processes. Risk management in particular cuts across all asset classes and all types of data, from market data to reference data and through to more complex derived or model-specific datasets like curves, volatility surfaces and swaption cubes.
Front/Middle/Back. Xenomorph has been active across both sell-side and buy-side projects for clients, mainly in relation to risk management but also in supporting back office operations and trade decision support. Our TimeScape solution cuts across analytics and data management in all of front, middle and back office, so I think we are now seeing that more fully reflected in the projects we are being asked to undertake. Having a solution that can deal with any data type or asset class seems to be a main point of value in our solution for many of our clients.
Workflow and Validation. Tied to all of this client work, we have also had two major product development initiatives. The first follows on from the data quality work above, with the recent release of a thin-client data quality dashboard for TimeScape, that includes all of the potentially complex workflows and audit information that a client needs. For example, a single piece of market or reference data might get used in many different contexts by many different departments and users, and sometimes it is the context of data usage that determines how it should be validated, not just the data value itself in isolation.
Cloud and Market Places. The second initiative has been in relation to using our existing software assets in relation to deployment in the Cloud and the creation of new software and service offerings. We now have TimeScape available for use on the Microsoft Azure cloud and this is already in use with two clients, with more trialing it. We have also taken time to consider how best to use the components within TimeScape to offer a cloud-based market place for publishing, consuming and partnering around data and analytics. We are very excited by the potential of this solution, and whilst it is early days the reaction so far from those that have seen it has been extremely positive.
What has surprised you in 2014?
Market Exit and Market Entry. One business surprise for me has been how some of the second tier and smaller firms are trying to expand into some of the market gaps vacated by the tier one players. Maybe I should have expected this, but even in the face of regulation then financial markets continues to be about reinvention and opportunity, however complex the regulators make things (or maybe even because of this!).
Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same. Something that I am also surprised about but by now should not be maybe, is how badly data is managed at some (not all!) institutions, where even the basics are not followed. Obviously things like the advent of the Chief Data Officer, data governance and regulation/guidance such as BCBS 239 is forcing this to change. And whilst BCBS 239 deals directly with data management, other regulations such as those relating to CVA are indirectly driving better data management, given that the calculations involved are pre-trade and relate to economically important capital requirements – you simply can’t operate now in certain markets without a much more fundamental handle on the data you have and how to access it.
What are your expectations for the duration of 2014?
Data, Cloud and Crowd. I think the types of client projects we will work on will be similar in nature and there seems to be no lack of them around. Data quality rules! I really think that the cloud offerings we have are a key business development for Xenomorph and for our partners, a real opportunity for us to take full advantage of some of things that are only possible with a virtual infrastructure, covering both technical issues such global availability and more business focused initiatives such as crowd sourcing.