11.09.2017
By Rob Daly

Barclays Embraces Open Source

Single-dealer platforms may go the way of the proprietary operating systems and web servers, according to some Wall Street technologists.

The industry is seeing a convergence of single-dealer platforms into multi-dealer platforms in the open source space, which is just a logical progression, said John Stecher, group managing director at Barclays Investment Bank, during his keynote at the Open Source Strategy Forum in Lower Manhattan.

“There is no reason that there cannot be a collaboration between Barx and an open source Autobahn,” he noted.

However, it will take time before the industry will witness this. Although Deutsche Bank contributed 150,000 lines of its Autobahn code, known as Plexus Interop, to the Symphony Software Foundation in early October, Barclays plans to contribute gradually to open source community beginning in 2018.

“There are a few key platforms that we feel that actually should be open source space and hope that it will attract people to use the platforms- not actually contribute back to the code but start to use the platform,” said Stecher.

Given his druthers, he would prefer to start small before tackling substantial projects like J.P. Morgan’s Quorum distributed ledger platform.

“I’ve seen the same widgets from my days at IBM and Goldman Sachs,” he said. “Everyone has this awesome widget that no one else has, but we have all written the same widget. This is what we want to do in the open source space.”

The smaller open sourced projects also face smaller headwinds internally compared to larger projects, he said.

No matter the scale of an open source project, financial firms face the same security and reputation risks as well as the unintended disclosure of IP, client information, and positions.

Stecher recommended that firms thinking about contributing to the open source community get the best from their technology, compliance and legal teams into a room to answer these issues.

“Inside Barclays, we are combining legal and technology into one team to solve this problem with the goal of putting a strategy in place that says how you first start contributing back to programs and applications,” he said. “We are pretty far down the path already, and a lot of stuff is moving forward.”

Strecher, who has been with the bank for roughly three months, would like to unlock the benefits of open source tools to improve the quality of the software his firm develops internally as quickly as possible.

“If we kick it to the outside world down the road, and other people begin to use it then great,” he said. “That is icing on the cake for us. We then benefit from the economies of scale doing open source development, but right now we are not going to pick up one iota from a dollar-saved perspective of someone writing code for us from the open source community,”

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