FactSet, OpenFin Pairing Marks Major Step in Interoperability Movement

FactSet's deployment on top of OpenFin and vote of confidence in the FDC3 standards paves the way for next evolution of desktop interoperability.

FactSet and OpenFin have come together on the FactSet Workstation in a move that will allow FactSet users to integrate and leverage its data and workflows alongside their own internally developed and third-party applications.

The FactSet Workstation is built on web parts, which have been modified to work in the OpenFin operating system. It offers services such as in-depth portfolio monitoring with the ability to understand that portfolio in context through data feeds that offer news, real-time alerts and fundamental data. The decision to deploy the OpenFin OS on top was the result of intense client interest, says Gene Fernandez, chief technology and product officer at FactSet.

“We’re increasingly trying to augment what our clients do,” Fernandez says. “We’ve got so much data in the Workstation, and that’s only increasing. So we’re putting a lot of energy into personalizing it so that the user can see what’s important to them at the forefront and go from there.”

OpenFin’s snapping, docking and screen-saving features were a key demand from users, but behind the scenes, FactSet is also leveraging the Finos-developed Financial Objects, a program focused on identifying standardized structured objects that support industry workflows. So, for example, if you’re monitoring a watchlist on FactSet using certain tickers, Fernandez says, you can click on a ticker, and that identifier will be broadcast to all other open windows, and all FactSet windows will render in context.

“If you have a news window up, and you click on one of your companies—let’s say Apple—related news comes up in the other window. Same thing with third-party applications [and] internal applications,” Fernandez says. “They can listen in on the broadcast, and then they can change in context as well. It gives the user an experience that’s connected despite the applications being built by different companies.”

  • READ MORE: WatersTechnology spent several weeks with RBC Capital Markets and OpenFin to see how desktop app interoperability works in motion. Click here to read more.

Mazy Dar, co-founder and CEO of OpenFin, is hoping that FactSet’s involvement will serve as something of a tipping point for the desktop-interoperability movement, as FactSet is the first major market data provider to adopt the OpenFin and FDC3 interoperability standards. (Dar notes that Refinitiv and IHS Markit have “been very involved in helping to create the specifications” but that his understanding is that they’re going to be implementing the standard in their own applications “in the coming months.”)

The theme of interoperability, and by extension the standards needed to ensure it functions properly, is near the top of a lot of firms’ lists across the board, from banks to asset managers to vendors. Currently, the FDC3 standards have been adopted by more than 100 participants since its inception. But Dar compares FactSet throwing its hat into the ring to the adoption of the FIX protocol for equity trading by Salomon Brothers and Fidelity Investments in 1992.

“[FIX] is a protocol that’s really server-side. A lot of people who are familiar with it think of FDC3 as the analog—it’s FIX for desktop applications. So whereas FIX is for the server side, FDC3 is for the client side,” Dar says. “Those two firms implementing that standard—it took that first step to start to make it real. And now it’s very widely used in both equities and fixed income for systems to communicate to other systems. It takes market leaders to take that step.”

For financial services, broader interoperability is still very much crawling before it can run. There’s just so much that’s possible, Dar says. He offers a simple example of what can be achieved today: clicking an equities ticker inside a trade blotter and invoking a third-party chart or historical data in FactSet for that ticker.

“Now imagine in the future, you have lots of different applications who have implemented FDC3, and imagine you have an AI application that’s running an algorithm of some kind. The same algorithm is invoking different applications and then workflows to get to a final answer that may be a trading decision,” Dar says. “It’s the kind of thing that a human might have done in the past by literally bringing up each application and typing information in, and it could take hours—who knows, maybe days—of working all the different applications to get to an answer. And in the future we can have an AI application that can get to that same answer in a matter of seconds. Those kinds of things only become possible once there are a meaningful number of applications that are important, that people use, that implement the standard.”

Still to Come

With the future in mind, both companies are going full steam ahead. On OpenFin’s radar are two big initiatives.

The first is all around real-time alerting and notifications, and though the vendor has had a function for this, Dar’s developers are working to extend that ability beyond the desktop so that whatever type of system an application is running on, end users can still see and access need-to-know information.

The second project centers on the private app store offering, which was announced earlier this year, but the firm has been working with a large bank and a large asset manager to refine it for the 2.0-version release.

FactSet is equally as busy. Over the last year, the data company has invested in an internal team, comprised of data scientists and engineers who have joined financial services from other areas—some from Stanford University Research, some from the so-called Big Tech companies of Silicon Valley, and some who worked on self-driving cars—in order to leverage what’s available in the broader open-source community, and customize it for financial services.

In addition to that, Fernandez says he’s most excited about the company beginning to develop its own proprietary cognitive and machine-learning models, which will allow the firm to do predictions on data and offer another layer of insights.

As an example, they’re able to predict activism, when a company might want to do a secondary debt offering, or secondary equity offerings. Increasingly, that will be embedded into multiple FactSet products beyond the WorkStation. And lastly, for the purposes of maintaining agility and developing new engagement models, FactSet is diving deep into the public cloud, beginning with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

“It’s an exciting time,” Fernandez says. “And I think we’re on Chapter One of a very long book.”

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