Here are some of the companies that have called for our expertise:
|IT & finance consulting:|
|Business intelligence & finance:|
RoleR&D on interoperability between Microsoft and Java technologies
TechnologiesCOM+ dynamic library written in VB, embedded in a IIS server and then used on ASP sites
Prospected technologiesJSP, applets and servlets.
To broaden its client prospection, Bizmaps, a company delivering GIS services on the Web, wanted us to solve the interoperability problem between their GIS platform used through ASP and Java technologies.
We first took a look at the available Java web technologies at the time and wind up by developping 3 prototypes, one based on JSP, another running applets and a last one calling some servlets, all backed up by the Oracle database of Bizmaps.
TechnologiesSubmission of templates using Flash, ASP and Access
For the very first revamp of their website, OCB chose to make it by extensively using Flash. We came to complete the design team to provide the requiring knowledges outside Flash handling.
As a matter of fact, we designed suitable technical solutions for an e-card module to include into the OCB site.
RoleBusiness analyst and assistant engineer
Management toolsEPM software, UML diagrams and Powerpoint screenplay of use cases
Supplier technologiesASP.NET, C# with an Oracle back-end
The people at the Association Bernard Grégory have to handle PhD profiles, correspondents in colleges / universities, partner agencies, and contacts in companies at a European level. Because of this, they wanted to drop their old Access database and replace it by a complete extranet along a brand new editorial website. So, they called CEA for a project manager, hired a supplier to develop the 2 websites, and project Amédée started with confidence.
After a while, they required our services and technological background to handle the UAT stage.
But we pinpointed the fact that the resulting sites got some functional misses and the analysis stage may have to be redone. Eventually, they entrusted us with the formal analysis of their business workflow.
With the users, who had very basic knowledges on the IT field, we validated the workflow and page sequences using Powerpoint screenplay. Towards the supplier, still in charge of the development, we handed the specifications as UML documents. And we monitored the delivering of each milestone with the help of an EPM software.
At the time, the project wasn't completed due to budget constraints but all the documents we produced made the foundations of their current information system.
RoleTechnical assistance (development, integration and testing)
Key productReuters 3000 Xtra
TechnologiesVisual C++ for the application framework, XSL / XML for GUI rendering, VBScript / JScript for configuration, Lotus Notes for bug tracking
For the coming release of Reuters 3000 Xtra 5.0, Reuters Financial Services (RFS) needed some people versatile enough to work with web, scripting and desktop languages out of the box.
Indeed, 3000 Xtra is a suite composed of Kobra, PowerPlus Pro and RDMC (which stands for Reuters Desktop Management Console). This last component is the administrative system for the suite, and as such has a complex layout to handle its all-encompassing purpose: its system core is made of a Visual C++ framework, embedding the Trident engine to enable a web style GUI, generated from XSL / XML files, and to enable Active Scripting through the use of VBScript / JScript for easy system requirement inspection and configuration.
RFS primarily sought after people who knew XSL / XML, a scarce aptitude at the time, and was quickly pleased by the fact we could easily handle the entire software layout.
We actively contributed to the testing sessions, fixed hard to trace bugs, proposed a standalone solution to easily maintain the XML checking suites embedded into RDMC. Our participation greatly contribute to the efficiency of the team, which is one of the aspect that made 3000 Xtra 5.0 a success after its release date.
RoleCo-designer and co-lead developer of their e-business platform
ContextPart of the core team of a fixed-price project (expanding from 3 to 10 persons following charges)
TechnologiesJ2EE for business objects, JSP for GUI rendering, XSL / XML for product cataloguing, Oracle for data persistence
Used librariesStruts for the presentation layer, Axis for the business layer (web services), JAXB for the communication layer (SOAP to Java databinding)
At the time, Neuf Cégétel (now a subsidiary of SFR) was under the process to make new kind of subscriptions targeted towards macro and small enterprises and was about to introduce its MVNO launch offers. So to simplify and centralize its product catalog management, it needed a new e-business platform.
The team chose a SOA architecture to let our services opened to other Neuf Cégétel systems. It also had the benefit to enable the easy partition of the project between us (business core and presentation layer) and the Russian subcontracting team (web services).
After writing and delivering the specifications to the Russian team, we began to design and develop the platform and its Internet subscription module. As adding new offers or configuring special discounts had to be hassle-free from the front to the back-end, the product catalog was made into XML: this way, savvy users could directly update it or update it by using recommended tools.
This first module passed successfully the UAT step. After live deployment, Neuf Cégétel management team was so delighted by the product quality and our ability to continuously incorporate their changing requirements that they kept us on assignment to add the other modules and to perform the maintenance.
RoleTechnical assistance (maintenance and risk manager 1st line support)
ContextProfit & Loss Statement department (Middle Office), IT section (15 persons in an open-space with the entire department of above 80 persons)
TechnologiesVB.Net, Sybase, Control-M for batch scheduling
The IT department is dedicated to maintain Madonne, a Front to Middle PnL platform, using Summit (bonds, interest rates, OTC), Sophis (equities), Calypso (credits) and ACBS (lendings) at the back-end.
As the new IFRS reporting became mandatory, Madonne needed a new module to handle derecognized products as stated in IFRS / IAS 39. So, we've been hired to develop the second work package of DayOne, the module focused on computing PnL of derecognized products, and then maintain it.
Although the entire processing in Madonne has been adapted to IFRS, some reportings still needed to produce financial statements under the old French GAAP. For this reason, the Double PnL project has been launched, and we've been charged to change the bulk of Madonne to make it compliant with both accounting standards.
But the biggest task had to come with the promotion of the previous IT head manager. Indeed, after his departure, the operational environment litterally collapsed: the system couldn't actually run without specific manual assistance and, when it did run properly, some results were wrong because of specific cases that hardly happened before IFRS compliance. Eventually, we had to cope with the risk managers uneasiness and the entire service restlessness.
At first, we provided some short-term fixing on the task flow, managed using Control-M. Then, we focused on long-term resilience by tracing sources of reported problems, fixing them and improving system run performance.
RoleTechnical assistance (application maintenance and 2nd line support)
ContextDEAI department (equities and derivatives), IT section, Eliot FO team (20 persons)
TechnologiesC#, Java, Weblogic, Sybase, Power Builder
Eliot FO team maintains 2 internal applications, Eliot (a Front to Back financial product managing platform) and Diwan (a Middle application to handle IFRS / IAS 39 products).
As we already worked on the Natixis equivalent of Diwan, the IT head managers of DEAI wanted to capitalize on our previous experience and the fact we could be directly operative from the functional standpoint. At the time we joined the team, Diwan was still a work in progress. The obvious differences with Natixis could be resumed into 3 points. DEAI had validated not only 1 but 3 ways to compute IAS 39 margins, Diwan had a huge amount of deals to handle (x 10,000), and it had an interface with a complete set of parameters that users could override.
So, at first, we had to help to make Diwan ready for its operational launch and, then, worked on several processes closely related to it. For instance, we had to set up the new financial disclosure reporting to external auditors or enhance the rationalization process, which helps the MO to explain the day to day IAS 39 margin volatility.
Quickly, we've also been assigned to maintain Eliot itself, learning the Power Builder environment and the PowerScript language along the way. It was quite challenging because Eliot is the general all-purpose middleware of SGCIB worldwide.
So, during user support timeframe, we had to react promptly with adequate solutions on any functional problematics and simultaneously on several requests.
Maintenance timeframe could come up with very specific needs, as handling options from the International Order Book segment of the London Stock Exchange, or with more broadening subjects, like fixing the netting / face value change / novation process.
All in all, we have successfully faced their complex operational environment, both from the technical and functional viewpoints. Indeed, we had to sustain the operational environment against the multiplicity of used systems and technologies, and despite the sheer daily volume of data and the variety of subjects.
RoleTechnical assistance (technical supervisor on new projects and application maintenance)
ContextHedge Fund branch, IT department, FO / Risk section (10 persons in an open-space with the entire IT department of 45 persons)
TechnologiesVB.Net, C#, ASP.Net, WCF, Sybase, Oracle, Crystal Report
The FO and Risk teams are focused on developping and maintaining a set of internal applications based on Panorama, a PMS (Portfolio Management System) now rebranded as SunGard Adaptiv, which is merely used as a database.
We had join them without any specific assigned task but to participate to the daily running of the service. As the IT department is organized into small units, you can easily take over and hold concurrently several roles depending on requirements, as follows:
As software developpers, we had first to maintain and develop new functionalities to their current pool of internal softwares. For instance, we had to work on PanVL, an application for the risk managers to collect portfolio data and to consolidate information between FO/MO management systems and BO accounting ones.
As far as FO processes are concerned, we had to fix some position metrics computation, add handling of new kinds of financial products, make compliant a process to retrieve realtime prices from Bloomberg among other tasks.
As technical supervisors, we had to determine the software architecture, the definitive workflow and user interaction schemes of new or legacy applications to be redone from scratch.
One of them is the SR Manager, a multithreaded STP application to manage subscriptions, redemptions and round turns of fund shares in realtime. It's also one of the first application to showcase what can be done with a web interface, as opposed to a desktop application.
Gyros, a FO tool for portfolio realtime data collecting, sensitivities computing and hedging decision support, may also be redone from scratch because of poor software design.
Some of our assigned tasks were also project manager related or even business analyst related.
Indeed, the URD project, the new position benchmark datawarehouse, at a time nearly come to a halt because of a conflict between members of the team. We made the situation straight in a pragmatic way, solved it and helped with the implementation of position importing from Triple'A, GPMS and Decalog (now Asset Arena), 3 PMS used in Dexia Belgium.
We also had to analyze what went wrong with the deal netting management with the operational team to fix abnormalities in edge cases, had to completely revamp risk metrics computing to make financial ratios compliant with Basel II, and wrap up the process to compute the beta sensitivity of equity funds.
Although we had sometimes to make up for confusing goals or light follow-up of tasks, we tried to set a new standard of delivering quality for the asset management activity, matching closely what can be expected in demanding investment banking. We made a role model in the technological field, without forgetting to plainly satisfy any business need.
RoleBI system integrator
LocationHong Kong, China
ContextHSBC Technology & Services, Global Banking & Market - Risk department (10 persons directly involved)
TechnologiesJava, Spring, QuartetFS ActivePivot, Tomcat, Oracle, Excel
In 2009, HSBC Global Banking & Market made a request for proposals about a new VaR reporting system, scalable at the worldwide level. QuartetFS won the bid on it and, through their partnerships, we joined the team sent to Hong Kong to develop the new system, based on QuartetFS realtime OLAP aggregation engine: ActivePivot.
This new assignment was quite challenging because of the following points:
- the cultural differences between the French and Hongkongese teams,
- although confirmed Java developers, most of the teammates began their first BI/ActivePivot project with this one,
- the project quickly moved from a well defined one to a more fuzzy one, as users made evolutions on their requirements along the way.
However, the project quickly evolved to integrate more robust requirements:
- security layer with ldap authentication (potentially using different ldap repositories throughout the world) and ad-hoc database authorization,
- asynchronized multiple updates of cube facts (versions aren't guaranteed to come in orderly fashion along the time),
- multithreaded input data integration engine with dependencies between data types,
- computation of iCVaR and Total VaR, with overriding values anywhere in the book structure hierarchy (a feature that shouldn't be possible with the normal design of BI datawarehouse).
A last concern was that the local IT team never really involved themselves with our part of the more global project, but mainly on the batches generating the input data files. So, we had to provide support on every aspects of our application, e.g. show them how to debug it efficiently, point out when issues came from the software or the input data, provide better logs, demonstrate how they could make the simplest modifications without our help.
During the project, we always delivered as successively specified and right on track, eventually leaving the client with a scalable and performing system, embedding more functionalities than initially planned.
RoleBI system integrator and technical advisor for the support team
ContextING Operations & IT Banking, 2 projects in 1 involving more than 30 persons, mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands
TechnologiesJava, Spring, QuartetFS ActivePivot, GWT, Tomcat, Summit
During the second quarter of 2010, ING started a global-scale project to help risk managers analyze and report bank risks. This initiated a two-faced project, HVaR at one side and MI (for Management Information) on the other side, both backed by data exported from Summit.
MI holds various risk measures like regular and hypothetical PnL data, market data, risk figures (including common and higher-order Greeks), regulatory data, deal characteristics. Those data are in turn used in explainers based on market data movements, risk figures, audit trails and PnL adjustments.
As we already had a previous successful experience on the ActivePivot component, we've strengthened the IT team at ING not long before the go-live of the HVaR system. At this time, the project budget already doubled mainly because of the complex and updated requirements of the MI side, including the use of a web front-end instead of Excel.
As the project was again threatening to go over the latest budget, without any explanations on the technical architecture or the functional needs, we had to quickly come up with fixes for all the bugs users were reporting through their UAT sessions, bugs ranging from simple presentation quirks to functional misbehaviours.
Despite eventually running a system up to the business needs, the biggest hurdle came from the unexpected system instabilities in production-like environments. By working directly with the support team, arguably stressful at the time, but also shortly with QuartetFS coming on site, we first found some workarounds to avoid having showstoppers for the go-live, sourced the different mixed up issues causing the application slowness and downtimes, and applied definitive fixes when possible, i.e. for issues not coming from QuartetFS framework.
To reach stability, we had to deploy a set of monitoring tools, profilers and entirely reconfigure the logs output. This also started the ongoing work of providing better diagnostic tools for the support team, allowing them to be more proactive.