The fintech startup OpenFin, which offers a container of sorts that banks can use to plug in interoperable desktop applications, has won some new users and a new board member: Paul Walker, Goldman Sachs’ former global co-head of technology.
Forty banks, buy-side firms and software companies have now built desktop applications —mostly for trading — using OpenFin. Those applications have been deployed in 50 sell-side firms and more than 350 buy-side firms across 125,000 desktops, according to OpenFin CEO Mazy Dar.
“We now have most of the big banks using OpenFin,” Dar said, though he would name any. “Most of the big banks are using OpenFin either internally for trading apps they’re building for employees or for their single-dealer platforms they’re deploying to their buy-side customers.”
Walker said he was drawn to OpenFin’s openness. The company announced an open-source version of its software called Hadouken a couple of months ago. JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Microsoft are among the companies now adding code to it. Before this, OpenFin was getting thousands of requests from partners like these to add features to its software, then prioritizing them and delivering them as quickly as it could. Open source lets the engineers at the firms directly make the changes they need or want, and their changes are available to everybody.
“Open source is one of the most successful movements we’ve seen in the last 30 years,” Walker said. “It’s been an amazing creator of value in interactions between individual programmers and corporate organizations. Throughout my career, I’ve thought a lot about community standards, open standards, open source software, collaboration and platforms as being key to the way to build more effective technology.”
He added that applications written in OpenFin can work with one another in a collaborative way that’s otherwise difficult to do.
“This is enabling tech that allows banks, asset managers, and software providers to build innovative applications to be deployed more quickly, creating more or unlocking more value for their customers,” Walker said.
OpenFin’s mission is to be on every desktop on Wall Street — front office and middle office. But its ambitions don’t end with trading. According to Dar, the company started with trading because it’s “the hardest part of the problem.”
“Trading is an environment where an end user may be using 10 to 20 applications to do their work, where screen real estate is scarce, which is why often you’ll see traders with four, six or eight or more monitors just to cram in all the applications they’re using, where performance is critical and where the ability to make the trader more intelligent and enable the trader to make a trading decision quickly is critical,” Dar said.
“The stakes are higher. The pain points around security, performance and interoperability are the most acute when it comes to the trading desk.”
“Starting with the hardest problem is smart, because we now have a platform that can work for the entire spectrum of activities,” Walker said. “It’s become embedded in the most technically demanding part of the industry.”
One bank already uses OpenFin to run an in-house application across the entire bank, including the investment bank and commercial bank, Dar said. (Dar would not name the bank.)
To provide application security, OpenFin acts like a sandbox, keeping applications in an isolated environment. Applications that run within OpenFin canot access the computer’s main operating system, they can’t read files stored elsewhere on a computer, they can’t launch other apps, and they can’t download malware.
“Banks and buy side firms do a lot of analysis and security checking to make sure the software being installed on the desktop is safe,” Dar said. “In an OpenFin environment, we ensure security by default.”
Other directors on OpenFin’s board include Samuel Cole, former chief operating officer at BlueMountain Capital; Matt Harris at Bain Capital Ventures; Dinkar Jetley at Pivot Investment Partners; Dirk Manelski at JPMorgan; Michael McFadgen at Euclid Opportunities; and Thomas Miglis at Nyca Partners.
In February, OpenFin closed a $15 million Series B round of venture funding led by JPMorgan, Bain Capital Ventures and Euclid Opportunities.