What's Hot at BST North America

Tim recaps this year's event.

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A number of new topics and perspectives arose at this year's BST North America, held yesterday in Midtown Manhattan. Tim wraps up another fine showing from the buy side.

We'll have a number of articles from the event for our readers to dig into rolling out in the next day or two (and here are a couple to start with). But I thought a quick recap was in order.

First of all, and as I noted during the cocktail hour with one CTO friend of Waters, the agenda really has evolved from my first BST North America three years ago, when it seemed like we were almost stretching out the traditional issue areas—trading platforms, portfolio management and accounting, performance reporting and data management—to fill up the day.

Now, we almost have the opposite problem: which hot topics to exclude?

Fresh Issues, Lawyer Up
I, for one, was very impressed—and congratulations to our conference producer, Victoria Murphy, on a very successful first effort—by the level of conversation around these new areas. Whether bitcoin and blockchain, the rise and limits of the chief data officer role, cybersecurity, or the emerging technologies highlighted in the sponsors' presentations, there was nothing elementary about what we heard.

Another interesting trend, though perhaps not an especially new one, showed forth in the types of panelists and presenters this year—and one type in particular: lawyers.

From BlackRock's Kfir Godrich kicking things off in the morning to audience questions throughout the day, it seems as though the open source idea has really gained across-the-board acceptance, where five years back or certainly a decade ago, the buy side was more cautious on allowing free code into its shops.

By my count, no fewer than four of them, if I'm including our afternoon keynote speaker (and also a CIO) Mary Kotch, were on hand, discussing everything from hedging against the price of bitcoin and CFTC priorities to cyber insurance.

Of course, it's always been the case that a buy-side firm's legal counsel is nearly as important as its investment team. It is also a natural outgrowth of emerging opportunities (like distributed ledgers) and threats (like cyber) coming to the fore. But I do think this serves to highlight the way technology and legal concerns are now flying at one another more than ever.

Seeing an Opening
Finally, if there's one tech trend that stood out on the more traditional dev-ops and infrastructure side of things, it was open source.

From BlackRock's Kfir Godrich kicking things off in the morning to audience questions throughout the day, it seems as though the open source idea has really gained across-the-board acceptance, where five years back or certainly a decade ago, the buy side was more cautious on allowing free code into its shops.

Given the topics mentioned above, this is really interesting. You have the blockchain community; you have FS-ISAC for cyber; and you have open source growing in popularity. All the while, there are concerns about a 'trust' system like blockchain and its usability beyond settlement for niche instruments like loan syndicates. Privacy issues remain a huge priority. And open source is, well, open.

It seems as if collaboration and using stuff off the street is en vogue — which is sensible given the cultural shift to a sharing economy more broadly — and yet firms are evermore careful about protecting themselves as well as distinguishing themselves by marketing proprietary technology. It's not the code so much as what you do with it, I suppose.

Some would call that a bit of a contradiction; others might more cautiously say it's just a new balance you have to maintain, and a reality of the world (and markets) we live in.

Either way, it should be fascinating to watch going forward.

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