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Microsoft Showcases Innovative Technologies Transforming the Securities Industry


The securities industry has reached a turning point following the dot-com boom, and subsequent bust, of late 90s. Inflation is now steady, interest rates are conducive to growth and merger and acquisition activity is at record highs. In other words, the outlook for the industry has not looked this positive in several years. In response, securities firms are turning to technology to fuel innovation, link the front/middle/back offices and provide tools for analytics and algorithmic trading.

Today, at one of the leading forums for the financial services industry, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Technology Management Conference & Exhibit, Microsoft and its partners are showcasing a number of innovative technologies that will help transform the securities industry to achieve greater efficiencies, and ultimately, greater profits. To learn more, PressPass spoke with Craig Saint-Amour, capital markets industry solutions director, U.S. Financial Services Group at Microsoft.

PressPass: What will Microsoft be announcing during SIFMA?

Saint-Amour: Several things. First, Microsoft will be launching its first-ever reference implementation to assist Wall Street with building trading solutions on the Microsoft platform. Called “.NET Stocktrader,” the framework provides prescriptive guidance, including a technical white paper posted to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), full source code and test scripts. .NET Stocktrader gives Wall Street firms a head start toward developing their own Windows-based trading solutions and supports interoperability with existing systems.

We’ll also be announcing the results of a recent study on High-Performance Computing (HPC) use in the financial services community. Findings focused on HPC trends and current market needs for multi-server environments. Respondents commented on the need for faster tools and increased server capacities to complete complex computations and enable quantitative analysis.

PressPass: Can you tell us more about the HPC survey?

Saint-Amour: The Microsoft High-Performance Computing Capital Markets Survey 2007 shows a trend toward capital markets firms implementing large capacity, high-performance computing environments to supplement Wall Street’s ever-increasing demand for more and more computational power. The research collected strongly enforces the need for increased computing capabilities for capital markets firms in order for their professionals to perform real-time analysis and decision-making on large amounts of data which in turn creates an opportunity to increase their scale of business.

Recent hardware and software advances, such as more powerful, lower-cost processors and the launch of Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, have made it easier for capital markets professionals to complete high-performance computing tasks. As a result, traders and portfolio managers can easily ascertain the relationship between risks and profitability and quickly perform high-value business functions such as algorithmic trading.

PressPass: What additional partner activities will Microsoft be exhibiting at the show?

Saint-Amour: Microsoft will be hosting a number of innovative demos to showcase the power of the Microsoft software platform, including:

• Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) demo – Microsoft, Linedata and Lab49 joined forces to build a trading demonstration showcasing the dazzling new features of WPF for the buy-side community.

• Real-time trading data in Office Excel 2007 – Microsoft and GigaSpaces demonstrate a high- volume market data application that uses Excel 2007 to display and process partitioned data. GigaSpaces technology provides low-latency data fetching to compute nodes that perform calculations on behalf of Excel, Excel Services or any .NET-based application.

• Complex event processing – Microsoft, StreamBase, and Lab49 will demonstrate a new solution that enables .NET applications to access very low-latency data streams as part of algorithmic trading solutions.

• Microsoft Office 2007/Windows Vista – demonstrations on how these products streamline business intelligence, collaboration and compliance within the securities industry.

Microsoft will also be releasing a white paper on how partners 4th Story, Digipede, and Xenomorph have collaborated to enable seamless product integration. The paper outlines their capabilities to provide out-of-the-box integration – combining strategy execution management system with grid-enabled trade order analytics and financial markets data management platform – and the cost-reducing benefits of the Microsoft platform.

PressPass: Last year, we heard a lot about Microsoft entering the high-performance computing space. How does Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 compare to Linux offerings?

Saint-Amour: We see Microsoft’s role as taking high-performance computing mainstream, and that is our primary focus in bringing Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 to market against a strong competitor such as Linux. We have optimized our approach to allow integration at the tools, infrastructure, and business process levels. And the most advanced and widely used development environment on the market – .NET – is also the development environment of choice for HPC solutions. Customers can write applications from within the powerful Microsoft Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and rely on parallel debugger, plug-in support for partner applications, and a host of unmatched features that only Visual Studio provides. New functionality can be developed, tested, and deployed with the same great software engineering tools that other Windows applications enjoy and that client’s programmers already know how to use.

PressPass: How have the recent launches of the 2007 Microsoft Office system and Windows Vista impacted the capital markets industry?

Saint-Amour: Customers within securities and the other financial services industries have shown strong interest in the release of Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system. Through research and collaborative development with industry partners and customers, Windows Vista and the 2007 Office System were designed to address the unique business challenges associated with financial services. Excel 2007 and Excel Services are the core products for the capital markets space. By combining Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) built upon a Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, capital markets firms can create a modeling platform utilizing the most widely used spreadsheet on Wall Street.

Finally, in an industry where security is of the utmost importance, Windows Vista provides multiple layers of protection. It begins with an operating system that is designed to be secure. On top of that, there are layers to protect businesses from external attacks, internal threats, and unauthorized access to specific information.

PressPass: How would you describe Microsoft’s current vision for the securities industry?

Saint-Amour: Investment management has become a new area of focus for Microsoft as we continue to develop technology for improving trade efficiency and effectiveness in the industry. Along with our partners, Microsoft is working to build out Microsoft- and partner-based solutions around:

• Investment analytics – Tools, applications and infrastructure that inform investors and advisors about proposed trades.

• Investment services – Providing middle and back office services to support the trade lifecycle.

• Trade compliance – Helping investors achieve best execution, best pricing and compliance with existing and future regulation frameworks.

PressPass: How will Microsoft continue to improve on the delivery of solutions to the capital markets industry?

Saint-Amour: Microsoft and its partners are committed to providing the capital markets industry with innovative tools that will not only help streamline businesses processes and improve operational efficiency, but will provide a significant competitive advantage to customers, which helps grow their scale of business.

Products such as Excel Services and Windows Compute Cluster Server are shining examples of how we are leading the charge to empower the capital markets industry with innovative tools. With Excel Services, Microsoft is furthering the value to the capital markets industry by giving organizations the ability to do everything from securely sharing spreadsheets to effortlessly creating web-based business intelligence dashboards and portals. In combination with Compute Cluster Server, computationally intensive workloads can be seamlessly distributed to compute nodes for unprecedented performance and scalability gains.

The eagerness to adopt and deploy new technologies will always differentiate the capital markets from other sectors. This reliance on software technology requires firms to continue to embrace software as a core competency that can be used to differentiate their offerings and improve brand recognition. Microsoft delivers performance metrics that exceed those of our competitors.


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