Archive for the 'finance' Category

Modern Databases for Finance 2023

We just announced a unique event that gathers 4 of the newest, most advanced databases for Finance into 1 hour:

If you work on big data in Finance, this is your chance to get an overview of the rapidly changing database landscape. TimeStored will be organizing a free online presentation, each database company will present 10 minutes on what is unique to their solution. Bringing together the top new technologies together in one place.

Tuesday 24th October – 2-3PM UK



New Streaming Order Book Depth-map

We want to be the best finance streaming visualization solution. To achieve that, we can’t just use off the shelf parts, we have built our own market data order book visualization component from scratch, it’s only dependency is webgl. We call it DepthMap. It plots price levels over time, with the shading being the amount of liquidity at that level. It’s experimental right now but we are already receiving a lot of great feedback and ideas.

Faster Streaming Data
A lot of our users were capturing crypto data to a database, then polling that database. We want to remove that step so Pulse is faster and simpler. The first step is releasing our Binance Streaming Connection. In addition to our existing kdb streaming connection, we are trialling Websockets and Kafka. If this is something that interests you , please get in touch.

2018 – The Future of Tech in Banks – Solutions here now (part 2)

This article is (part 2) of a series. See the previous post on “2018 – The Future of Tech in Banks, particularly within Market Data“.

The previous article described a few problems with the current tech/finance structure in most banks. In the words of Jim Barksdale:

“there are two ways to make money. You can bundle, or you can unbundle.”

In this case we can see two possible solutions:

  • Horizontal Integration – Providing a bundled reliable layer e.g. AWS to solve your hardware needs
  • Vertical Integration – Providing a front to back solution, SAAS – Software-As-A-Service e.g. github hosting, third-party trading platform.

Horizontal Integration AWS – To Solve hardware layer

Consider the example of outsourcing: “AWS for hardware”, it makes 100% sense, there is very little customization or unknown capability with 95%+ of servers for application use within a bank being fairly standard. The area where this currently becomes problematic is high-performance and co-location, to cover those needs hybrid-cloud could help. The benefits and savings in other areas, security/reliability/costs can often out weight the drawbacks. In my opinion most internal cloud solutions will dissapear within the next few years.

Benefits of Bundling/Outsourcing

Solutions rely on the problem being well known/understood and that all inputs/outputs to the bound box can be well defined. They work by:

  • Preventing duplication of effort – Designed to be re-used
  • Reducing communication overhead – Everything within their box is a service with APIs or configurable. No meetings/Change tickets required (OK less. There will always be change tickets!).
  • Preventing misalignment and Misalignment of incentives -One entity is responsible for full delivery and if outsourced can be scaled up or down at little overhead/risk to the bank.

Vertical Integration – Outsourced Market Data-As-A-Service

An example of vertical integration would be “Market Data-As-A-Service”. If every bank has the same market data problem and we can get the benefits of buying that bundle, should we?
The danger is that it takes years to evolve to an “API” that covers 95% of the needs and even then you have to be careful that you don’t over allocate resources on something that the user actually has little value for. This is harder to know as an external entity as you don’t sit with the customer.

So given that banks have 3 options:
– Keep separate teams
– Use horizontal solutions
– Use vertical solutions
What should they do? When?

Ultimately it will be a combination of parts that evolve over time but if the problem is shared by all banks the solution is using off-the-shelf software eventually.

The market-data/feeds team should at all times be asking:

  • Should we build this?
  • Is this a problem specific to this bank that will add value?
  • Or is it a general problem where we can take advantage of economies of scale?


Outsourced Solutions for Market Data – currently make less sense. As:
– Even if we can outsource storage of market data, we need a way to store our own trade date and other internal data sets.
Column Oriented Storage  – is becoming a commoditized technology. A number of firms including the major ones such as AWS are bringing user friendliness, reliability and general availability of what used to be a niche technology.
– Over recent years, firms including HFT have captured a lot of value by having in-depth market data knowledge.

The market data teams should begin to learn redshift/google/AWS solutions for as they scale to all firms everywhere the savings are massive.

Open Solutions

So far we mostly considered outsourced commercial solutions to solve the common problems. That however is not the only approach. It would be possible to reap the same, if not more benefits from an open core model. e.g. An open source trading system, that every bank makes commits to improve only keeping closed source the parts that are uniquely valuable to their business. Unfortunately in practice so far this seems to be less viable as any entity that pushes adoption of the platform, realizes costs pushing it while not capturing much value. Whereas closed source, the company incurs the marketing costs but can get this back in licensing fees.

What skills does a financial software developer need?

The below network diagram is intended as an outline of the skill set required for a financial software developer.

  • Most individuals should aim to have a strong core. Think of it like a pyramid, where the height is the strength of a skill. Core skills like general computing principles, probability, communication should be built “tall” and very strong.  peripheral skills such as python/monitoring will be weaker. An individual will typically only learn 1 or 2 niche areas strongly (T shaped)
  • Notice the rough relative sizes of the areas. 55% computing, 10% math, 15% soft skills, 20% finance. This is intended to represent the rough allocation of effort.
    • If you only bring 95% techinical skills, you are going to waste time building the wrong thing, build something no one wants or build something useful but no one will know as you haven’t the soft skills to sell it.
  • The management branch on the bottom left is optional.

Financial Software Developer Skill Mindmap


Skill Topic Sub-Topic Links Requirement
linux surrey Change Directories, edit config files, kill processes, copy/move files, check disk space.
bash Write a script to periodically sync a directory between servers and schedule it using cron.
git git-scm Checkout, branch, commit, push code.
Common Tools: jira/jenkins user-stories Write a good jira, assign owner. Kick off a build on a common CD platform.
Programming Language Knowledge of 2 different programming paradigms.
kdb kdb-tree Write efficient selects for pulling back a subset of data.
python Download data from a REST api, calculate average/mean/median for certain metrics.
java book Write a java program to count the number  of words in a file.
Databases Be aware of the major types of database available and when to use each.
kdb kdb-tree
mysql/postgresql/oracle/ms Know standard SQL.
Software Engineeering peopleware How to grow good software.
Good Software Properties of good software with examples.
Architecture Common Enterprise software patterns.
Distributed Systems Difficulties with distributed systems and common patterns to solve them.
Data Processing Pipelines Common processing Pipeline Patterns
Site Reliability Engineering SRE How reliable should software be?
Metrics Ccommon metrics used to measure reliability and when to use each
Monitoring What monitoring systems/tools are available? What are monitoring best practices?
Releases Accelerate
Support Handling outages. Engaging with users.
Software Concepts Testing Testing Methods and knowledge of one test framework
User Interfaces dont-think What makes a good user interface?
Networking How computers connect. Expected latency/bandwidth.
TCP/IP ports, switches, racks, data centres, windows.
Middleware Messaging midddleware: solace/JMS/kafka/MQ.
Software Development
scrum book Sprints, iterations, standups, restrospectives, story-time.
Lean Development lean-startup When, why and how to develop lean.
Code Reviews pragma Code review best practices.

Soft Skills

Skill Topic Sub-Topic Links Requirement
IT Skills
excel Create a table with conditional formatting, calculate sum/average of column, use vlookup
outlook Filter emails, create meetings.
Emails How to write an email to users, team mates, managers, senior management.
Meetings atlassian What is a meeting meant to accomplish? How to achieve that.
powerpoint Prepare a presentation for management.
visio Draw an architectural diagram of your system.
Marketing Traction How to get your software used and appreciate by more users.
Networking Building a network to get things done.
Management Grove
Building a Team Dysfunctions
One to Ones What makes a good one-to-one
Interviews How to evaluate cnadidates effectively.
Quality How to ensure quality of product.
Organizational Structures phoenix Different structures for management.
Project Management
Decision Making Which approach to decision making to  use when.

KX/FD Shares Fall 30%

First Derivatives Shares have fell back to a price last seen in February 2017:

One cause of the fall has been a damning article by ShadowFall. Their main arguments are:

  • First Derivatives was being priced highly as a software company
  • It is not a software company but a consultancy.
  • Previously good years were due to outside factors (property prices and government grants)
  • They have made a significant investment in KX which may itself have stopped growing

The 47 page report goes into a lot of detail, to give an idea here’s one of the charts:

He shows numerous statistics for FD compared to it’s peers, operating margin, gross margin, revenue, headcount. It’s worth a read if you have an interest in kdb/KX/FD.

Related Links: Shadowfall tweet,

2018 – The Future of Tech in Banks, particularly Market Data (Part 1)

The structure of banks and finance firms are constantly changing as they evolve towards the structure best for todays environment. The trend over recent years has been for less traders and more engineers as expanded in this (article. (thanks Zak). In these posts I’ll describe the current state and where I think fintech, in particular market data capture and kdb are going.
big-fish eats little-fish

(Newer firms that are) “Tech savvy, led by quants and data engineers rather than the expensive traders sitting on the scrap heap of most banks’ inferior tech, the new entrants now just need people with the skills to win over large numbers of customers.”

Banks as a Stack

Think of banks as a stack of services sitting ontop of each other [1]:

Communication within the system is mostly between the layers. Top layers rely on all the services of the layers beneath. e.g. A trader relies on a trading application, that relies on an internal web framework, that relies on a database, that relies on hardware. If we get more traders that need additional software changes, that could transmit down the stack into a request for more hardware. Communication outside the layer model, e.g. Sales asking for additional SAN storage is exceedingly rare.

Within the stack, I’ve highlighted in bold where market data capture sits. I believe most the points I’ll make can be applied wider to other areas within the stack but I’ll stick to examples within the area I know. Sometimes the “market data” team will include responsibility for Feeds, sometimes there will be a core team responsible for the database software they use, sometimes there won’t, but it captures the general structure.

Issues with the current Stack

Note each box on the diagram I refer to as a silo. A silo may be one team, multiple teams or a part of a team but generally it’s a group responsible for one area, looking after it’s own goals.

  • Communication between silos is slow – Currently communication between silos consist of meetings, phone calls and change tickets. Getting anything done quickly is a nightmare. [2]
  • Duplication of Effort – The simplified model above can often be heavily duplicated. e.g. FX, Equities, Fixed income may have separate teams responsible for delivering very similar goals. e.g. An FX Web GUI team, An equities Web GUI team. Losing all benefit of scale. [3]
  • Misalignment of Incentives – Each silo has it’s own goals which often do not align with the overall goals of the layers above or below. e.g. The database team
    may be experts in Oracle, even if an application team thinks MongoDB is the solution for their problem, the database team are not incentivised to supply/suggest/support that solution.[4]
  • Incorrectly Sized Layers – At any time, certain silos or layers within the stack will have too many or too few resources. The article linked at the top of this post suggests the layers should be a pyramid shape, i.e. Very few sales/traders to meet todays electronic market needs. We should be able to contract/expand silos dynamically as required.

Possible Solutions coming in 2018

There are a number of possible solutions to the issues above available today, unfortunately I will have to expand on that in a future post. I am very interested in hearing others views.
Do you believe the stack and issues highlighted are an accurate representation? Solutions you see coming up? Either comment below or drop me an email.

I will hopefully post [part 2] shortly, if you want notified when that happens, sign up to our mailing list.


  1. For some reason this reminds me of the OSI 7 layer model.
  2. Amazon try to escape this communication overhead by making everything an API
  3. Customers may prefer a bank that supplies all services but divisions within banks are too big to enforce conformity. Both limitations likely due to Dunbar Number
  4. Even within a single team, the modern workplace may create conflicting loyalties.