Redesigning The Trader's Desktop


Without doubt, traders have experienced one of the most challenging periods in the industry in recent years. Since global equity market capitalisation fell by 50 per cent in mid-2008, traders have been more focused than ever before on the age-old challenge of having to do more with less. In addition to putting cost reduction strategies in place, organisations have also had to absorb additional costs to improve risk management and fulfil new regulatory requirements.
Amber Stokes discovers how Avanade, Accenture and Microsoft are working together to re-imagine the trader’s workplace.
Amber Stokes discovers how Avanade, Accenture and Microsoft are working together to re-imagine the trader’s workplace.
Without doubt, traders have experienced one of the most challenging periods in the industry in recent years. Since global equity market capitalisation fell by 50 per cent in mid-2008, traders have been more focused than ever before on the age-old challenge of having to do more with less. In addition to putting cost reduction strategies in place, organisations have also had to absorb additional costs to improve risk management and fulfil new regulatory requirements.
“Not only do organisations have to drive new revenue streams to cover the cost of compliance and risk management solutions, but the pressure to trade faster than the competition is still increasing,” says Vincent Fily, Microsoft’s worldwide capital markets technology strategist.
Traders are expected to do more than they have ever done before and they need the right tools to help them be more profitable and efficient. “Historically, when they needed new tools, they simply added one more PC under their desk, which added clutter and made it harder to visualise, manage and act on the information in front of them,” adds Fily.
Microsoft, however, believes there is a better solution and is at the forefront of a technology-driven transformation that is taking place in the industry today, which is helping to drive automation, productivity and cost efficiency.
To drive this transformation, Microsoft has put a great deal of effort into understanding how traders work and discovering which innovative technology solutions can help them do a better job. “When working with customers in the industry, we have seen that many traders have managed an environment of four or five PCs, with four or five keyboards and mice,” describes Fily. “As a result, the trader constantly needs to move from one side of the desk to the other in order to get to the relevant information. This requires dexterity and precision to be able to see and act on different screens for different sets of information.”
Fily explains that Microsoft’s vision for the evolution of the trader’s workplace is based on supporting greater collaboration – with customers and brokers of course but also between colleagues – and it has developed three main pillars to address this:
Integration of the desktop
By leveraging technology such as virtual desktop infrastructure, traders can reduce the number of PCs under their desk. This can significantly improve user experience and also productivity and efficiency. Seamless integration between turret and PCs via Lync (or Skype) improves the traders’ experience, as well as ease compliance needs, by integrating every communication that leads to a trade with a specific customer.
Natural user interface
Adding touch-optimised tablets in the trading room can also transform the way they work. By using tablets that are integrated with their PCs, traders can gain some mobility and privacy and improve visibility into updates and notifications while away from their desk. A key aspect of Microsoft’s vision is to improve the experience for traders. By leveraging this technology, traders are no longer tied to their desks, giving them more privacy in the trading floor and improving their productivity.
Improved data visualisation
The human brain tends to react much more to images and visuals than words and digits, but a trader’s desktop is the opposite of this, providing constant streams of numbers. Rather than replacing the numbers, visualisation tools can make it easier to digest large amounts of data through the use of pie or bar charts and images.
Avanade, Accenture and Microsoft are committed to turning this vision into a reality and they have joined forces to develop a concept that re-imagines the trader’s workplace using Microsoft technology.
“Through the ‘power of three’ alliance, we want to build a conversation starter and illustrate what organisations can do to make the trading environment better,” says Ian Shanahan, Accenture alliance relationship director. “Using innovative products, screens and desks, we’ve developed the Trader Desktop Redesigned. The main principles of our initiative are: improving traders’ efficiency, reducing IT costs and improving trader engagement.”
Combining the latest Microsoft technologies with Samsung’s energy-efficient, innovative screens and desk technology from Technology Desking, the Trader Desktop Redesigned is set to transform the trader’s working environment.
Bruce McKee, Microsoft’s industry lead for the UK, explains that the solution has been developed to help financial organisations manage key challenges that they all share. “All organisations have different systems to each other as there is no standardisation in trading software in the industry,” he explains. “But they also experience similar challenges in that they have multiple screens and applications running that display important notifications, which can sometimes be missed because the trader is monitoring too many screens. Fundamentally, they all want to find better ways to handle data efficiently, while at the same time reduce risk.”
And so Microsoft, Accenture and Avanade have taken these endemic challenges into consideration when developing the Trader Desktop Redesigned. “Our concept allows organisations and traders to discover how they can maximise the IT investments they have already made and make the most of their existing software, while at the same time simplifying processes and giving them more capabilities,” McKee says. “By adding tablet functionality to the trader’s desktop, we can offer benefits that previously were unheard of in the industry.”
One major challenge the concept deals with is the desk-bound nature of a trader’s work style. “Traders largely work in isolation because they are tied to their desks,” says Mark Corley, CTO at Avanade UK. “While use of mobile devices doesn’t mean they can trade away from their desks, it does allow them to maintain visibility of notifications and any changes of your desktop remotely. A mobile-enabled trader means better collaboration within the organisation as they can take the information with them to a meeting, for example.”
The Trader Desktop Redesigned incorporates a comprehensive notifications and alerting engine. “The framework allows traders to access any app on a tablet or mobile,” says Corley. “So whether the trader views it on an application on their Windows Phone 8 device or a Windows tablet, they can see the information they need directly from the trading desktop. And this can cover everything from numbers and details of a trade to breaking news related to the market. All this can be consumed away from their desk.”
The context-sharing framework outlined in the initiative also improves the trader’s efficiency further. “It provides relevant information flows to surrounding apps, so if a trader is dealing with one particular interest rate or currency, this information is pushed into that app,” Corley explains. “The trader is more efficient because they don’t have to type in different information. It also reduces the risk of them putting in the wrong number or symbol and making costly mistakes.”
In order to free up more of their time, the concept also looks at replacing the trader’s turret with Microsoft Lync and tablets. This means that rather than having to search for relevant contacts, the system draws information from Microsoft Dynamics CRM and contacts are dynamically displayed on the tablet in front of them. Comprehensive information is also attached to the contacts, such as credit limits and their address, which further enhances efficiency.
The concept also combines the Microsoft Audio Video Indexing Service (MAVIS), which uses innovative speech recognition technology developed at Microsoft Research to enable searching of digitised spoken content. Used in this context, MAVIS could be used to analyse speech or video content on the trading floor so that all the trader has to do is access a text file of a conversation they’ve had, which can be stored in the customer relationship management system.
“Desks today don’t tend to be ergonomically friendly, especially when you consider the number of screens that can be in use,” adds Corley. “But we can improve these ergonomics and allow traders to be more productive. For one, the Trader Desktop Redesigned requires fewer screens. All screens that are used are energy efficient and this helps to keep the temperature on the trading floor down. And at the same time, the organisation can reduce its carbon footprint.” Corley also explains that by reducing the number of screens and replacing them with energy-efficient ones, organisations can increase the number of traders they have working on the trading floor.
The three technology leaders aren’t looking to compete with their application partners. Instead, they’re looking to present to organisations how they can enhance existing applications and achieve an innovative environment that ultimately allows traders to be move efficient. And while the three technology giants are currently showcasing the initiative to industry leaders in the UK, the concept is of global relevance today. The ‘power of three’ hope that companies around the world can learn from this and better understand how they can take advantage of cutting-edge technology to transform the way they operate. Looking ahead, Microsoft, Accenture and Avanade have plans to further develop the concept and add more functionality to future generations.
On Windows.