From Fintern to Software Developer – Amelia lee

The American author Doug Cooper once said: “a major life decision is never a choice but rather a realisation that the decision has already been made.” When I applied to a software development internship in August 2018, I certainly didn’t realise what a major decision I was making! I joined FinoComp in their first intake of “Finterns” over the summer of 2018-2019. That’s a story of happy coincidences and following my gut even when my head said: “Amelia, you know nothing about finance and you barely know how to code.” If you want to read the full story of how a Mathematics student stumbled into a careers exposition and landed an internship, it can be found here: 

Maths, bugs and groovy code – Amelia Lee | The FinoComp Blog
I met Ray and Leanne at the UOW Careers Expo in August 2018. I had just one and a half Java subjects up my sleeve and the world of programming was a mysterious dark cloud in my mind. They didn’t yet have an internship program set up, but they clearly had a vision and a… finocompblog.com

When the internship finished I was buzzing with excitement about software. I’d gotten a taste of what it was like to see code come alive in real-time and I was hooked. The thought of scrapping my maths degree and asking to stay on full time was tempting

I never had an affinity with computers so I was surprised to find out how much I like coding. I think it’s because mathematics and computer science have more in common than the people in either field would have you believe. The thing I like most about both is that they provide a rigid, logical framework that you can creatively apply to a huge variety of problems. Unfortunately, not many people get excited about slick number theory proofs. On the other hand, everyone loves apps that make life easier!

Work gave me the two things I liked best about studying: learning new things and problem-solving. What I still find most rewarding about software development is that there’s a new challenge every day but you’re also building something lasting. It’s like woodwork for nerds. 

I didn’t drop out of university, but I did stay on at FinoComp part-time. No longer a Fintern, I was now a Junior Software Developer. At the end of the internship, I wrote about feelings of imposter syndrome. Those feelings resurfaced when I signed a contract with that title on it. In my head, I was still very under-qualified. After all, I was just a maths student who did an internship! Thankfully that isn’t how the team at work saw it and they helped me to wade further out of my comfort zone. I still jump at any opportunity to do the number-crunching tasks, but I’ve learnt to love the whole land of backend development.

I was still studying full time when the pandemic hit and everything went remote overnight. While the universitystruggled to restructure its courses, work transitioned quite seamlessly. FinoComp has always had a flexible working policy, so we all knew the drill. Physical whiteboards were replaced with virtual ones, coffee-break chats with Slack calls and the meeting room table with Google Hangouts. Our group trainer Steve hasn’t let our fitness slide either – we’re still working up a sweat from our living rooms! 

I miss seeing the familiar faces of my co-workers and little routines like walking down to the Jamberoo park for lunch. However, cutting out the daily commute and being able to spend more time with family have been big positives for all of us.

For me, the fear of being trapped in my apartment for months lured me back to my parent’s farm. Without all my usual activities, I rekindled my love for handstands (and for being upside down in general!) A physical hobby is a must when work is mentally challenging! 

I’ve been impressed by how the company culture has survived remote work. Everyone has put in a massive effort to check in with each other and keep communication strong. Activities like trivia and charades have kept us together even though we’ve been physically apart for almost six months.

Two other original interns and I graduated at the end of last semester. Like many of life’s big achievements, submitting that final assignment was anticlimactic, made more so by the fact that we couldn’t celebrate with our peers. Our graduations were cancelled, and we were emailed pdfs proving our new qualifications. On the day those pdfs were sent, a lovely package arrived at my doorstep. The graduation present from work was a very thoughtful, generous reminder that our achievement hadn’t gone unnoticed. 

What drew me to FinoComp originally was the people. Every developer takes pride in his or her work and is genuinely happy to help out at any opportunity. The leadership team has a passion for the industry and a strong vision. Most of all, there is mutual trust and respect that comes from building things as a team. 

I ended my last blog by writing “I can’t wait to find out where my future with FinoComp leads.” Eighteen months later I feel the same way! I’m so excited to keep following this path and to keep learning and creating new things.

Amelia Lee – Junior Software Developer, FinoComp

Agile and the remote worker: David Dodds

How do you believe the business has adapted during Covid? Have you implemented many structural changes to pivot to this new reality ? 

FinoComp has adapted brilliantly despite the impacts of Covid. Senior leadership made the call on a Monday to take the team fully remote, and it was implemented on the Tuesday. This all happened the day I returned from a UK trip. 

Without skipping a beat, the teams were up and working remotely on the Tuesday morning. We allowed staff to take their equipment home with them to ensure their home working environment was as similar as possible to the office working environment. Manty of the team picked up their office chairs and 43” monitors, maintaining their productivity, and ensuring their ergonomic health and safety. 

FinoComp has always offered staff a flexible work from home policy, so remote access to key resources was already in place prior to our decision to move to remote working. Communication options were already well established with Slack for Instant Messaging, and Google Meets for audio and video conference calling. 

Having colleagues spread across the UK and Australia, with odd times for conference calls, this also meant that FinoComp was well and truly ready to go fully remote for all staff. 

What do you feel have been the benefits of remote working ? ( for you and for the business) 

Remote working has provided a range of benefits personally and corporately. One of the first advantages is the elimination of commute time, meaning that extra bit of time to be with family, or that ability to fit that extra bit of work in, in the absence of a commute. 

Prior to full remote working, we often had some colleagues dialling into meetings from home, while the rest of the team were physically at the office. This can sometimes produce odd dynamics with a mix of presence (onsite and remote), where remote people can’t hear someone away from the microphone, or can’t see what is being drawn on the whiteboard. With all colleagues remote, those odd dynamics have been eliminated, as everyone now has a microphone, and the electronic whiteboard (or Powerpoint or Excel) is now only 30cm away from everyone’s face. 

100% remote working has improved the productivity of meetings. 

Feedback from the team suggests that productivity has not been impacted by the move to remote working. 

Personally, it means the ability to have lunch with my wife on a more regular basis, and be home when deliveries arrive 😊 

How can new business planning or brainstorming new projects/ products  continue to work effectively when being done remotely?  How is the culture kept alive? 

FinoComp culture has been kept well and truly alive. We are a close knit family, and staff generally reach out to each other on a daily basis, if just for a ‘good morning’ greeting. Our HR lead has been extremely conscientious about our culture and has arranged trivia competitions, including a live trivia event via Google Meets. We continue to hold our monthly RUMBA sessions for Recognition, Updates, Milestones, Birthdays, Anniversaries. The only thing we don’t get to do at RUMBA is to enjoy food together at the end. We still celebrate the Birthdays and Anniversaries with someone spinning the birthday chocolate wheel. 

In terms of brainstorming or planning new projects, all of our existing tools provide exactly what we need to respond to and win proposals. Because our customer base is global, we are ideally placed to be able to collaborate to propose and win a range of new deals. 

This has been evidenced through multiple wins over the last few months, which has required us to increase the size of the team. In a time when many people are losing their work, it is extremely gratifying that we are growing and providing opportunities to a range of folks who are able to join the FinoComp family. 

What communication tools have you been using and how have they helped during lockdown? 

As mentioned above, FinoComp has been using a range of communication tools for many years, given our forethought to allow people to be productive from anywhere on the planet. FinoComp uses Slack for instant messaging, Google Meets for online meetings, Google Suite for Mail and Calendar. We also uses a wide range of collaboration tools, for example, Microsoft Sharepoint for document collaboration, Atlassian Confluence for content collaboration, and Jira for work definition, tracking and allocation. 

Developers are also able to use a virtual private network (VPN) connection to gain access to development and build servers located within our facilities. 

What else has kept you busy during lockdown? 

Work has been tremendously busy with a range of new and exciting projects, so I’ve not had a lot of time for new hobbies. I have been able to find time to delve into books and recently read a great book titled A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles; a story of a man who was confined to the Metropole Hotel for political reasons. I think we can all relate to being confined lately, and I found this to be a fascinating read, and found myself sipping a snifter of Brandy/Cognac or Scotch as I read a few chapters before heading to bed. 

Life in Lockdown: The New Starter

Meet Cornelis, our new starter who joined us in April.

Cornelis was lucky enough to get on a plane before all the borders were shut, to arrive in Australia and join the FinoComp team. Not only was this a new job for Cornelis, but a new country for both him and his family; all in the midst of a global pandemic lockdown.

So with lockdown in place, and being our first employee to go through our virtual on-boarding experience, we caught up with Cornelis to find out more about him…

Tell us about your experience of joining a new business as well as moving continents whilst the world was in lockdown?

As a family we had decided to make the move from South Africa to Australia over a year ago and the plan had been set for September 2019. Once the FinoComp interviews were complete, the offer accepted and all processes were sorted out we had to move quickly. Whilst the lockdown was not yet in place, people were aware of COVID and flights were beginning to be grounded. The travel process was actually seamless – travelling through an empty airport with our temperature being checked regularly, until we arrived and were shuttled to our Airbnb. We were one of the last flights to arrive, as the next day quarantine was introduced across the country!
The time spent in self isolation went quickly and friends bought us starter packs and that took us through a week or so until our online order arrived.
The process of joining FinoComp was amazing and all done remotely, with the only thing having to do was delivering my Macbook which was all set up ready for me to start. Within the first week I had remote sessions and calls, and I couldn’t think of a better way to be introduced to the business as each person explained their position and I was able to put names to faces. I was also introduced to the development team, familiarising myself with the environment and how projects works – it’s crazy to believe that I haven’t been into the office yet as I really feel part of the team already!

What was it about FinoComp that inspired you to become part of the team?

My first impression of FinoComp was that it was a real people centric company.  I immediately had the feeling that put their employees first and that was just the company culture I was looking for.  I had seen the video promoting the work/life balance and now being part of the team, I’m delighted that this new environment I’ve found myself in was just as I had hoped. People really do enjoy their work at FinoComp.
FinoComp uses Agile teams in software development with a huge emphasis placed on this.
Exercises classes are offered virtually twice a week if we wish, and whilst this is not something that would make me join the company, it definitely shows their work/life ethos and feels relaxed. It’s such a great place to be in with a lively open business culture.
From a developer side, they use a lot of the tools that I’m interested in, and I like the agile process that they use with small teams of five to eight people, prioritising tickets. For me, this is such a productive method of working.

What does the role “Full Stack Developer” involve and how does Software Engineering as a degree prepare you for this?

In the software world, the front end, normally a website, which is the user interface is connected to a backend server with code running to either the business or the cloud.  This in turn is connected to a datebase.  A full stack developer means experience in all three environments and was something I was always interested in. I like problem solving which is why Software Engineering was the ideal degree.   This degree I felt was not so much about what you learn, but how you approach and solve problems, which I believe is what engineering teaches you. It speaks for itself that in this job the background of being an engineer will help you to identify and solve problems.

What are some of the projects you have been involved with at FinoComp and how do you feel they will help shape the technology landscape in the investment management sector?

I have been involved in working on the Charge Definition micro-service, which is a service that defines how clients can be charged and run outside of the core system, making it very flexible for wealth management companies to use. Using this interface, they can clearly see what is costing their clients’ money, showing exactly what levels are being billed for certain services.
The product is certainly innovating and was exciting to be working on this as one of my first projects.
This service defines how clients can be charged and can be run outside of the core system making it very flexible for wealth management companies to use.  Using this interface they could clearly see what is costing their clients’ money and show exactly what levels they are being billed for certain services.  The product is certainly innovative and it was exciting to be working on this project.

And finally, what was the first thing you did arriving in Australia from South Africa?

I’m a passionate birder and from the day I arrived (literally driving out of the airport), I saw the first few birds that had been on my list. It made me want to go straight out to see more, but knew we needed to do the first couple of weeks in isolation so had to be content with observing from the unit where we were staying.  With windows on both sides, one to the mountains and one to the ocean I was certainly kept busy. It was really exciting to see the enormous variety of different species, so different from what I had seen in South Africa.

Maths, bugs and groovy code – Amelia Lee

Image from iOSI met Ray and Leanne at the UOW Careers Expo in August 2018. I had just one and a half Java subjects up my sleeve and the world of programming was a mysterious dark cloud in my mind. They didn’t yet have an internship program set up, but they clearly had a vision and a deep passion for their work. As a Mathematics student, microservices, financial platforms and software development were well out of my domain of knowledge. Nonetheless, FinoComp’s story captivated me. I applied immediately to a role that didn’t exist yet.

In a panel discussion after the expo, when asked what he looks for in applicants, Ray said that he goes with his gut instinct. After that first meeting, an informal interview a week later, and a tour around the beautiful town of Jamberoo, I had a very good gut feeling about FinoComp.

On November 19th, seven interns showed up to the old art gallery converted to an office space. Our task for the months ahead? To build a FinoComp microservice from scratch. Just a bit terrifying.

IMG_1944

In our first week of being Finterns, we shared with each other our feelings of “imposter syndrome.” From the jargon of the financial industry, to the software packages, to our job titles of ‘Software Engineer’, everything was overwhelmingly foreign. We definitely didn’t feel like the bright new recruits, full of millennial-style knowledge and creativity that we were expected to be.

Luckily for us we had Matt and Darren, two of FinoComp’s experienced developers, to ease us into it. In no time we were all merging code that we’d written into the main repository. And (most of the time) it did was it was supposed to.

As one of two mathematicians on the team, I primarily worked on coding the backend, mathematical logic of our performance reporting application “Insight”. I was tasked with designing and implementing the algorithms that would take the entire history of an investment portfolio and calculate its performance along a suite of different metrics.

Despite just finishing a semester of contour integrals and vector spaces, this was a surprisingly challenging and fun task. To understand how the components of Insight linked up, I got to dabble in database generation, REST interfaces, end-to-end testing, views and domain models. This, of course, required learning the technology used to facilitate the design and build process.

I cannot begin to describe the volume and quality of information I absorbed over the three and a half months. For example, it turns out that variable names matter. A lot. And so does documentation, automated testing, code review, and countless other things that aren’t taught in uni. And I learnt all this in the Illawarra countryside, surrounded by cows and Marvel merchandise.

The relaxed environment, that encourages surfing and table tennis at lunchtimes, was perfect for fostering creativity. From day one we were treated as part of the team. From lunches at the bowlo, to the twice-weekly fitness sessions in the park, we got the full experience. The last thing I expected from a programming internship was to gain fitness!

FJBq4xQRQJqvRzRycPA_thumb_443

Thousands of lines of code, dozens of impromptu white-board discussions and several major refactors flew by. By the time we finished the internship, Insight was ready to be demonstrated to clients overseas. To see the product come together in the final weeks was immensely rewarding.

For software developers, the staff at FinoComp made damn good teachers. In particular, I can’t thank our mentors, Matt and Darren, enough. Without their guidance and patience, we would have been absolutely lost. Of course, there would have been no Finternship without Ray, Peter and Leanne seeing potential and investing in us, despite our lack of experience. Taking on seven students for the inaugural Finternship was a massive venture, especially for a small company. I’ve been blown away by their generosity and belief in our abilities.

I’m excited that my time with FinoComp isn’t over – I’ll be staying on part-time while I finish my degree. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that I still know close to nothing. It’s been a great experience so far and I can’t wait to find out where my future with FinoComp leads.

How a summer in the hinterland reaffirmed my career change – Andrea Burazor

IMG_20190308_195519Hi, I’m Andrea. I’m a first year Bachelor of Computer Science student at UOW and a 29 year old intern. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s okay, there’s really no need to be jealous. Ahem. But, jokes aside, let me lay a few truths on you.

You might not like working in your field of study…

You’re 17 years old, you’ve completed your HSC, and your Balkan parents are pushing you to “go to uni, make good career, be smart girl”. OK, that might not strictly be the case in your experience, but it’s likely that you have/had no idea what you want to be “when you grow up”.

Yeah, me neither. I chose a degree based on job opportunities and adult persuasion. I didn’t do too badly, either. I enjoyed some of my classes, I made a lot of friends, and then in 2011 we all gathered in our navy robes and threw our tasselled caps in the air.

I graduated, I found work, and guess what? It was deeply unsatisfying, and I had absolutely no passion for it. Uh oh.

BUT, too late is never really too late…

I worked in industry for around 7 years trying my hand at different sectors and a variety of roles. What I found was that my feet were always itching to keep moving, no one workplace seemed quite right or project challenging enough. I was utterly uninspired, so I did what any reasonable late twenties person would do – I decided to go back to uni.

The hardest part of making a choice like that is the unknown. Your boring, uninspired career is all too familiar. You know how to do this. Any change you make now might be a massive step in the wrong direction. What if the new thing turns out to be worse than the old thing? #hyperventilation

AND, interning is just about the smartest thing you can do.

So, remember when I said you might not like your field of study? Now, while you really should be researching and learning all you can about any career you pursue, there’s another really cool thing you can do to help you figure that out early on.

Internships are traditionally thought of as stepping stones into industry for fresh grads, but they also make for an amazing transitioning tool for anyone considering a career change! You get a crash course in what it’s like to work for a particular company, in a particular role, which makes it a valuable learning opportunity if you’re contemplating, or partway through a move. Not to mention, a really good one might save you 7 years in the wrong job!

// The Finternship

I knew right from the hiring process that interning with financial software developers FinoComp was not going to be your run of the mill, coffee run, mindless busywork internship. When your drive to work takes you down winding country roads along cow-dotted paddocks, lunch hour has you saying g’day to every local you bump into on the street, and your interview is an honest, laid back chat with CEO and Jamberoo local, Ray Tubman – well, you know things are going to be just a little bit different. Here’s how:

You are going to feel welcome.

FinoComp has a really unique culture. I felt encouraged to speak up and that my opinion was respected and valued despite being an intern/first year! As an intern you expect a degree of separation from the company, but FinoComp put their full faith in us as interns and each of us was treated exactly the same way a permanent employee would be.

Regular catch ups with mentors and HR let the interns know that our opinion and feedback was really important to the company and guidance and advice were readily handed out to us throughout the program.

The mentoring is second to none.

The Finternship was assigned two FinoComp veterans to help us newbies along our path to computing success. Matt Smith looked after the front end, and Darren Collins took care of us on the server-side – and they were with us full-time! They were invaluable to the experience, the project and to every intern. No question was too small or too silly, breakout sessions were regularly organised around the white board, and a variety of resources were made available to us to accelerate our learning.

You’re not just gonna “get it” – you’re going to be learning every single day!

On that note, interning is not “easy” and you’re not just gonna know what you’re doing. Every company has their own way of doing things and you’re going to have to learn a whole new tech stack. But, you are going to have a lot of support – if you need it. A lot of the process can feel like you’re being thrown in the deep end; but flotation devices are never too far from reach, and eventually you won’t need them at all!

You’re going to be encouraged to look after your body as well as your mind.

FinoComp arranges group fitness sessions two afternoons a week and all staff (including you!) are encouraged to attend. You’ll sweat under the hot sun, your muscles will burn, and you might let out some grunts that put the local livestock to shame. But you’re going to head back to your desk afterwards with a clear mind and a strong posture – guaranteed.

You’re going to become agile.

As it turns out, coding is a team sport and there is no better way to manage that than the agile methodology. Agile is not just some buzzword – it’s a competitive advantage. Working in bite-sized chunks made projects more manageable and feeling deeply invested in the project as a team made staff productivity shoot through the roof.

You’ll build something shippable!

One of the most surprising aspects of the Finternship was that we weren’t given some throwaway project. As a team of students, graduates and career changers, we built something commercially viable, and it will go to market! Isn’t that incredible?

More than anything, I’ve learned that coding is rewarding, challenging and creative and I’m so grateful to the team at FinoComp for taking a chance on me. There is still so much to learn, and getting to learn it alongside some of the most dedicated and inspiring people in the business has been a very happy way to round out my summer, and the best part is that this dynamic, growing company asked me to stay.

Thanks FinoComp!

Happy Dance – MIFID II Ex Post Costs & Charges Disclosures

Happy DanceI recently had an interview with Ellie Duncan of FT Adviser which was published. Amusingly, the title referred to the Fact that I was so happy with the FCA Interim Report that I did a “Happy Dance” through the office.

Those who are familiar with or have observed my talents in the fine art of dance will no doubt be aghast from the mere mental image – something that could cause physical harm or at least leave a lasting image that could never be unseen. It actually is, however, the sad and embarrassing truth.

A “Happy Dance” is a tribal display of happiness resulting from an underlying primal uphoria.

This uphoria is just what I experienced, and here is the reason why.

The FCA Interim report into platforms was a large report that had some key themes present. One significant theme was around disclosure of charges and the manner in which retail investors are presented with the information.

When we looked at the MiFID2 requirements for costs and charges reporting, and specifically the requirements for Ex Post Cost and Charges reporting, we thought that the generation of a physical statement once a year, with bundled up totals under categories that probably are not understood by retail investors, did not achieve the goal of assisting retail investors to understand how much they are paying and to whom.

The FCA seemed to agree with this synopsis and suggested that the MiFID2 regulation only went part of the way towards their end game.

FinoComp’s approach when developing our CoCa product was to:

  • Allow further categorisation to enable not only the regulatory categories to be summarised, but also more understandable categorisation such as whom the charges were paid to;
  • Have the information readily available for use not only within the regulatory required statements but also available for online portal access as and when required;
  • Have the information readily available throughout the year and not just at the end of the period so that online access can be sought at any time;
  • Incorporate accurate, bullet proof and complex performance calculations at all times.

The first reason for my happy dance was because our interpretation of the industry needs seems to have been strongly supported by the conclusions of the industry regulator. We didn’t just stop at the regulatory requirement but instead we built out the product to be an attractive propositional feature.

The second reason for my happy dance was because it really exemplifies the benefits of the microservices architecture; a topic that we are evangelical about. This is a typical component of functionality that monolithic systems would address only as absolutely necessary to cover the regulatory requirement or indeed would just provide base information and leave the calculation to the clients.

By taking something like the Ex Post Costs and Charges out as a separate Microservice, we are able to build it to be comprehensive, performant and always accessible. Better still, we are able to make it generic enough to interact with anyone’s registry system and implement it as an integrated standalone component. We are currently working with clients across 3 different back office systems.

For monolithic systems, the addition of this kind of functionality is considered as a small piece of functionality being added to a larger “more important” system; it is “treated like a pauper”. In the microservice architecture, the problem domain is the core purpose of that component and I like to think that it is “treated like a princess”.

These kinds of outcome really excite me and I am very much looking forward to releasing this new component into production environments in the next couple of months.

If a Rolls Royce solution to the ex-Post Costs and Charges is something that sounds desirable to your business, please contact us and you can join me in my Happy Dance.

Ray Tubman

CEO – FinoComp

MIFID II – Ex-Post

Image result for postbox cartoonMIFID II, is it over with yet?! Like a guest at a dinner party overstaying their welcome, MIFID II is still absorbing the resources of regulated firms throughout Europe. One of the remaining hurdles poses quite a challenge and, of all the changes under MIFID II, the one which will most likely create the most questions from clients. I am, of course, referring to the Ex-Post Costs & Charges disclosures.

From January 3rd, 2018, at the point of investment, clients captured under the MIFID II regime, will have received an estimate of the charges they’ll incur over the year in the form of an Ex-Ante Costs & Charges disclosure. This disclosure is to be followed, a year later, with an Ex-Post Costs & Charges disclosure report pertaining the charges the client has (or a close estimation) incurred throughout the year.

Various industry bodies are offering some guidance on the format of these disclosures, with Investment Services Charges split from Investment Product Charges, so it’s clear to the client how much they’ve paid for advice and/or discretionary investment management services vs the costs from the Investment Products (Assets) they hold. Charges will be broken down into categories defined below;

One Off Charges

Ongoing Costs

Transaction Costs

Incidental Costs

Ancillary Service Costs

In the absence of a flux capacitor, it’s extremely hard for firms to provide clients with accurate Ex-Ante costs and charges disclosures, owing to several varying factors (like performance!). That brings into question the relevance and these Ex-Ante reports. One thing we’re sure they’ve done, is to raise awareness as to the amounts clients are being charged. This awareness will be fixed on Q1 2019, when clients will receive their Ex-Post Costs & Charges Statements, providing a breakdown of the charges they’ve actually (or a close estimation!) incurred over the year.

With that in mind, clients will be looking at their Ex-Post Costs & Charges disclosures, with great interest. It’ll be the first-time clients see their charges laid bare in this format. Furthermore, and arguably the most important factor, investors will see the impact these charges have had on the performance of their portfolio. All in a PDF, once a year?

Seeing this type of information will no doubt raise questions in the Client’s mind.

  • Why am I paying this much in ongoing charges?
  • What has contributed to these charges?
  • Are there cheaper assets I could invest in?
  • Is my adviser worth these charges?

These are valid questions, and one’s that should be easily answered by advisers or wealth manager, or better, proactively investigated on a regular basis. If a client does object to the level of charges and wants to see evidence of a reduction in these fees, by way of different asset types etc, are they expected to wait another 12 months to see the results? We don’t think so…..

Our new MicroService, CoCa, tackles these challenges. It produces MIFID II Ex-Post Costs and Charges disclosures with a choice of outputs to produce PDFs and an innovative web portal with a look through function. Uniquely, this module has been designed to produce these PDFs at any point throughout the year, with the option of a drill down function so clients can see exactly which transactions have contributed to transaction costs and which assets have produced the most charges in the Ongoing Charges, under the Investment Product costs. Something, I’m sure will be hugely interesting given the ongoing active vs passive debate..

  • Ad-hoc production of PDFs at any point with a YTD summary if requested by clients
  • Detailed breakdown of each charge category to see which transactions and holdings have contributed to the calculations
  • Highly accurate performance reporting figures including Modified Dietz and Internal Rate of Return
  • Seamless production of yearly PDF statements with no impact on core back office technology

Tim Williams

Business Development Director – FinoComp

An audience with the FCA…

fca-clone-1-730x438As three snowflakes showered London on Monday, creating apocalyptic scenes, we braved it and travelled over to Canary Wharf to an audience with the FCA, specifically, their RegTech team.

Now, it’s not often the FCA receive positive feedback, but the latest initiative to look at how technology can help regulated firms better meet their regulatory obligations is to be applauded, and one we’re advocating.

The premise for the meeting was to pitch our new piece of RegTech kit, TierDrop, that enables DFMs and platforms to better comply with the MIFID II rule for reporting clients 10% portfolio depreciation over a specific reporting period. The audience was varied, with representation from across IT, RegTech and specifically the wealth management space, which meant their feedback was relevant and constructive.

It was clear the focus of the regulator is firmly on how technology can produce better outcomes for consumers, so the fact that this was one of our major considerations, struck a chord. A key area that TierDrop addresses is to reduce the risk of clients being incorrectly reported or missed because of, let’s face it, a lack of investment in technology. The ramifications of which can result in reputational damage and potential regulatory disciplinary action.

The ESMA suggested calculation is a large contributing factor to this risk, so we were pleased with how TierDrop raised this to their attention, providing a comparison of more accurate calculation results which, ultimately, produce better (more accurate) outcomes for consumers.

Whilst we weren’t expecting a seal of approval, or recommendations to buy our product, it was great to get some feedback and some assurance that what we’re doing is looked upon positively by the regulator. And, who knows, maybe we sewed a little seed of doubt as to the accuracy of the ESMA suggested calculation method?!

 

Tim Williams, Business Development Director, FinoComp

MicroService Architecture – The New Frontier for Wealth Management

 

6ee08d45f7a94d4c6fda9ee84833054a687ddf77

I often speak about our strategy of building a suite of software components as microservices and being able to deploy them independently or for them to be able to co-exist together and interact with each other.

There are very few players in the Wealth Management software arena who are genuinely building to this architectural pattern.

Of late, I am finding many organisations getting on the band-wagon and speaking of component based architecture. But when you really dig beneath the surface it doesn’t take long to identify that Lipstick on a Pig does not maketh the Supermodel.

There are many benefits to implementing microservice architecture. These include

  • Gaining massive agility and efficiency in amending, testing and deploying software updates;
  • Enabling automated isolated testing both within microservices and for all interfaces around the microservices;
  • Getting incredible gains in quality as a result of very defined boundaries of responsibility between microservices along with the increase ability to automate testing;
  • Having the ability to pick and choose components and use the best of breed; including the ability to pull out and replace components if a better solution if available.

In order to implement a microservice architecture, there are some very key design principles that should be adopted and these are a few of my tips.

Have a Guiding Vision of the Future

Whilst software development can be an opportunistic enterprise, it is also great to have a vision and strategy of where you are heading. By taking a microservice view of your long-term development scope, it can really assist you to in prioritising the sequence of development and in defining the boundaries of all microservices in your eco-system. By preparing this future microservice map you can look at the scope at a high level and focus on the detail as you address each microservice in your development cycle.

Don’t be Afraid of Separate Database Schema

To truly segregate microservice components, it is important for your DB schema to be isolated and stand alone. To be a fully self-reliant component, it should not have a dependency on being a part of a greater schema. If a component requires access to other data it should be integrated using service layers or data pumps.

Sometimes this will feel foreign to not rely on DB level referential integrity and sometimes it will feel foreign to have some duplication and synchronisation of data. But don’t worry – correctly designed microservice applications will synchronise, reconcile and enforce data integrity.

You will also get massive performance benefits from distributed parallel processing.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Microservice Boundary Creep

It can be tough when times are stressful and deadlines tight to jam changes in quickly and without consideration to the boundary of responsibilities of your microservices.

Each microservice should be excellent at doing what it does. It is the software designer’s responsibility to make it stay that way. When a change comes through that takes a component away from its intended responsibility, it may be better to step back, re-assess and perhaps create a new microservice that interacts with the existing component.

Of course, sometimes there are grey zones and such a decision is not always easy. Importantly, though, it may cost slightly more and take slightly longer to implement it in an architecturally correct manner. The benefits of those decisions will pay dividends every day afterwards both to the development team and the clients who use the software.

Software Sales Reps who Say “We Have a Component Based Eco-System” – When to Call BullSh*t

Without wanting to detract from the credibility of some software sales people, it is good to drill in to claims of Component Based Eco-systems.

Here are a few things often said that do not constitute Microservice architecture…

  • “We have a Separate Web Portal component from the core administration system component” – these are not microservices.
  • “We have separate REST services for each component” – but behind the scenes its all just one big monolithic system – separate REST services for different functions are not microservices.
  • “We have a microservice architecture and its bundled together to form a complete solution” – probably cannot be unbundled and therefore not microservices.

I personally always ask a few telling questions to really assess any such claims:

  1. Can I implement a single element of the total software scope that I would consider to be a discreet microservice independently and without having to take the rest of the solution?
  2. If I can implement a single microservice, can you provide integration documentation to allow me to integrate it to my existing systems?
  3. Does the database schema for the claimed microservice reside independently of the other microservices?
  4. Can you give me the automated test coverage percentage?

If you get a No to any of these questions, then its time to call it!

 

Summary

I am really excited by opportunities provided by microservice software architecture. Its what has allowed the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Google and others to achieve amazing agility and quality.

This mindset has not permeated into the Wealth Management sector and much of the software servicing our market is monolithic, inflexible and legacy.

Talk is cheap and as much as software suppliers are claiming this architectural pattern, in many cases it is simply incorrect.

When our industry catches up with others, we will find that a true Microservice architecture will transform this space. It will allow the best solution to be selected for each process and each task in the wealth management scope. Microservices will be able to be selected from disparate vendors who will specialise in dedicated areas of functionality in which they excel or they will be built independently and integrated by the Wealth Management firms themselves. Wealth Management firms will be able to replace components easily and at will and without the risks of huge migration events. Wealth Management firms will not have to put up with poor quality products or services from technology companies.

This architecture is a game changer. It will allow small, agile tech companies to upset the status quo and will ultimately lead to greater efficiency, quality and costs to the end consumer.

This is the basis on which FinoComp has been found and its principles are close to our heart.

Continuous Integration Pedestrian Light

Pedestrian Light?

green_man.jpgKnowing when things go wrong is crucial for any company, and FinoComp is certainly no exception. As part of our mission to produce top quality software, our whole team needs to be notified when an issue is detected in our builds.

To this end, we have combined cutting edge technology with FinoComp flair to create the Continuous Integration Pedestrian Light.

Red Man, Green Man

The concept is quite simple: For every code change made to our software, thousands of automated tests are executed to verify that everything is working as expected. If all tests pass, the green man light is automatically switched on. If even a single test fails, however, the red man light is turned on instead.

In addition to the light changing, a custom success or failure sound is played to alert team members to the updated build status. To keep it fresh, the sounds are changed every month. We currently have Simpsons-themed sounds, so a build failure will result in a disembodied Homer Simpson “D’oh!” emanating throughout the office. When a team member has fixed the build, Homer expresses his gratitude with an enthusiastic “Woohoo!”.

ci-light.jpg

How It Works

Ray was fortunate enough to find a second hand pedestrian light for sale online. We purchased it and had an electrician rewire the two lights to standard 240V plugs. Each light is controlled by an smart power socket, and the sockets are controlled by a Python script running on a Raspberry Pi that checks our Continuous Integration servers for build status changes.

The pedestrian light still has its original light bulbs, which aren’t very energy efficient! To save power, the Python script automatically switches the lights off on weekends and after business hours.

A Big Success

The Continuous Integration Pedestrian Light is used by our team every day, and ensures that issues are discovered and resolved as soon as they occur. The light is also a popular part of the office walkthrough for new employees and other visitors.

Chris Parton – Senior Software Engineer, FinoComp Pty Ltd