Trends in Capital Markets Consulting Services – Blog Series

May 10, 2019

 A conversation with Donal Keane, Head of FD Consulting Services

Donal Keane has over 20 years’ experience in capital markets consulting and providing a range of vendor services for First Derivatives. He has extensive multi-engagement experience in production services, project and program management and talks in this conversation about the evolution and direction of FD’s CMC services.

Q:  Can you give some background to the services you offer?

A:  Our services have changed considerably since they were first launched in 1996. Back then the focus was on general staff augmentation across all aspects of the project lifecycle, from project management and requirements analysis through to development, testing and ongoing support. Over time we developed specialist practices around a number of third-party vendors – including Kx technology that we now own, of course. Then, after the fall of Lehman Brothers and all the legislation that followed, we offered services in regulation and compliance. So our coverage is wide.

In parallel, our mode of delivery has evolved. Clients were increasingly looking to cut on-site costs and consolidate some of their internal services. That led to the development of our near shore centres of excellence that deliver both those benefits through managed services. So you can see that we are continually evolving our services in response to market needs.

There has been one constant throughout that evolution though – that is the principle of combining technical knowledge with domain expertise in everything we deliver.

Q:  What are the most recent offerings?

A:  We have just recently launched two major services. One for Cloud Migration and one in Data Science

On the Cloud side, as well as investing in partnerships with leading providers, we launched a training and certification programme across our entire consultant base so that they can help clients migrate to their Cloud provider of choice using best practices and latest technologies. The market has clearly reached the conclusion that Cloud migration is the right thing to do.  It’s just that many don’t know how or where to start. That’s where we help.

It’s something the same for Data Science and how it underpins the adoption of Machine Learning and ultimately AI. Everyone knows it’s a necessity but there is uncertainty about where to start and how to measure success. With our background in Kx we can offer not only well-trained Data Scientists but also technology like Kx Developer and Kx Analyst to help clients import, transform and process the massive but often fragmented data sets they know contain value, but have so far have been unable to unlock. Add Cloud expertise to tap the requisite storage and processing elasticity and you have a complete offering for your Data Science programme.

Q:  Do these programmes change development methodologies and how projects are managed?

There are two main changes: one in tooling to support the chosen development methodology and the other in better alignment with the business side of the house, or what is now often referred to as “DevOps”.

On the development side we have seen Agile, or more correctly the perception of Agile, evolve to become recognized not as an abandonment of process, but instead as a tighter adherence to a different set of processes appropriate to the scale, urgency and criticality of the project. There is still a place for the traditional Waterfall approach in some well-defined projects (a platform migration, for example) but there are other cases where a controlled, iterative approach is more appropriate.  Data Science projects typically have that profile.

Tooling and DevOps then combine to make whatever approach is taken more efficient. On the development side tools like Kx Developer and Analyst that I already mentioned, make it easier to capture and explore the intricacies of the data, how it should be interpreted, what the gaps are and quick ways of trying out new algorithms and analyses to unlock its value.

DevOps then helps in coordinating the cross-discipline and cross-department exploration of that data, sharing ideas, probing possibilities but remaining rigid in delivery, and realizing that bigger picture as the culmination of lots of small wins along the way. We are firm believers in the value of DevOps and, as part of a blog series we are launching next week, will post an article on practical steps to realize its value.

Q:  What other areas do you intend to cover in the blog series?

We want to cover a range of topics discussing what’s happening in the market, trends we are seeing and practical steps for making projects and services more efficient.

With regard to regulation, for example, we will discuss upcoming reforms like the shift away from the IBOR’s to risk-free rates, new standards in KYC / AML (the 4th AML Directive), and prudential developments like the EU Banking Package. Critically, we also intend to provide commentary on the technology shifts in regulatory compliance, chronicling what has and has not worked for our clients and offering insight into how best to integrate new technology like natural language processing, machine learning, and the like into a firm’s regulatory response.

On Cloud we will talk about reasons for adoption, the benefits to be gained and the migration steps to consider.  Similarly on Data Science we will talk about both the big picture and the practical steps in launching and maintaining a Data Science programme

More generally we would like to share some of our insights from the many projects and services we provide, ranging from transactional reporting to vendors services, and also getting some international perspectives from consultants operating from our regional offices around the globe.

So keep an eye out for some interesting updates on our blog page.