August 23, 2021

All in One: How OpenFin’s Message Bus is Transforming the O/EMS Space

If you want to get a trader or portfolio manager talking, ask them how they feel about their firm’s O/EMS (order and execution management system). As essential as they are to the investment lifecycle, the industry has struggled to migrate these dense, feature-rich platforms to the web, which means the workflows they enable have been slower to modernize than other subsets of the trading technology space.

While traders spend much of their day using the EMS and portfolio managers work heavily in the OMS, both groups need to use both applications at various points throughout the day, often when completing administrative duties like compliance functions and approval processes. These tasks are small but vital, and the time spent switching between windows and rekeying information adds up. This challenge is amplified by the fact that OEMS apps must constantly interact with other crucial tools that support the trading process, such as pre-trade analytics, TCA, liquidity platforms and market data terminals.

“Even veteran traders are often surprised by just how complex an OEMS can be from a technological standpoint,” said Mark Badyra, CEO at Appital. “They are incredibly powerful, perform a wide range of functions and touch so many different parts of the trading and investment lifecycle, so refining their approach to these systems should be a top priority for every market participant.”

Complicating this issue is the fact that OEMS apps typically rely on rules-based engines and a massive tech stack. Rebuilding them is an especially onerous process; some providers are attempting to do this piecemeal, but the challenges in migrating this data and recreating mission-critical functionality in a new context are numerous. That’s where OpenFin comes in. By building with us, OEMS providers and trading firms can take a targeted approach to the challenges that have long limited their systems and disrupted user productivity.

One of the key benefits of building with OpenFin is interoperability. Through our message bus, apps within our ecosystem can communicate and share information with one another, eliminating many of the tedious manual processes that sap productivity. For traders, this means the OMS makes it easier to perform functions that complement recent actions taken within the EMS; the same is true of portfolio managers, but in reverse. This is similar to how smartphones work, such as when photo apps offer to post directly to social media apps, restaurant reservation apps sync directly with calendar apps and so on.

This method works for many clients, but in some cases, firms are reluctant to facilitate a workflow that involves jumping from app to app. Many OEMS providers want their end users to stay within a single window and continuously add functionalities that encourage them to do so. While this approach may provide a short-term fix in some cases, it is untenable. As these apps become more feature-rich, complexity skyrockets, deployment slows and providers are ultimately left with a difficult problem on their hands.

OpenFin provides a better way, as our users can take specific functionalities in one app and integrate them directly into another. In this case, there is no exchanging information between apps – instead, there is a single app that contains all necessary functionalities. We accomplish this through the versatility of our message bus, which can facilitate the exchange of actions in addition to information. This means end users who spend a majority of their time in one app but must use other tools for complementary actions throughout the day can access all necessary tools with minimal disruption.

Our work with FlexTrade, a provider of multi-asset OEMS solutions, exemplifies the power of this approach. In 2019, the firm enlisted us to refactor its FlexTRADER EMS and FlexNOW trading system to seamlessly integrate third-party apps. Using OpenFin’s message bus to enable users to take targeted actions within their primary apps streamlined workflows and increased productivity.

"Context switching across applications to complete discrete tasks is not a good use of time in an environment where every click matters," said Andy Mahoney, Managing Director at FlexTrade. "Consistency of user experience is also important, from theming to right-click context menus."

Both of these methods – enabling two disparate apps to communicate with one another and integrated targeted functionalities from one app directly into another – have transformative potential for the entire financial desktop, but it is with OEMS platforms where the effects are perhaps most pronounced. Their users face an incredibly high volume of tasks each day, and they typically work best when in a state of muscle memory-driven flow. The ability for traders and portfolio managers to spend so much time in their EMS and OMS, respectively, helps them get close to achieving this flow – yet a near-constant stream of complementary actions jolts them away and hampers productivity. By building with OpenFin, vendors and financial institutions alike can bring their systems across the finish line and maximize productivity.

This is similar to our Notification Center offering, in which clients can build customized notifications that enable users to resolve the alert without leaving their current window. It all boils down to our commitment to providing the central infrastructure that the entire industry can rely on – buy side or sell side, vendor or end user.

As mentioned, these efficiencies are not limited to switching between OEMS solutions. Every app deployed on OpenFin conforms with our interoperability standard, so clients can set up bespoke workflows that meet their exact needs and strategies. With a global ecosystem of over 3,500 applications across over 300,000 financial desktops, servicing over 2,400 Banks and Buy-side Firms, the power of this approach cannot be overstated.

This conversation has taken on a new urgency in the context of the pandemic. The need to switch between windows has always been a pain point for end users, but it was far more manageable when they had access to several monitors. In the remote work environments that have become the new normal, these inefficiencies are far more pronounced, making questions around the future of the OEMS space more relevant than ever.

With markets moving faster than ever before, industry firms literally cannot afford to equip their users with anything less than the most cutting-edge tools available – and today, that means leveraging our message bus to maximize access to functionalities while minimizing workflow inefficiencies. Our message to the industry is this: you’ve invested in the talent, the relationships and the tools. Now invest in the architectural approach that makes the most of them.

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