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Related Topics: RIA Developer's Journal, Enterprise Mashups, Wealth Management

RIA & Ajax: Article

An AJAX Case Study in Financial Sector

Global investment bank increases productivity and makes light of work

Business managers of all kinds need to keep up with the fast pace of information transactions – and the financial services industry is certainly no exception. CIOs and innovation officers are faced with the task of making access to important enterprise application information faster and more secure, and making jobs easier and workers more productive. Companies that need to extend the reach of enterprise applications to allow technical and non-technical staff and customers to access important application data have found a way to do so – securely. Allowing workers to access the information they need and view it with the tools and consumer-oriented services they’re used to, such as RSS, widgets and gadgets, and personalized home pages, delivers significant productivity gains to companies.

Take, for instance, a large global investment bank’s private wealth management division that wants to increase productivity and make investment managers more efficient. 

The Business Case
Investment managers in the private wealth management division of a large global investment bank need to respond quickly to market changes in order to provide competitive service to their demanding, high-worth customers.

The investment manager’s toolkit includes a wide variety of applications. Many are enterprise applications that managers use on a day-to-day basis to access customer and corporate information. These applications house internal, proprietary application information, such as portfolio and investment holding data. In addition, investment managers are constantly checking financial and news sources for information that may affect customers or the company. Some of the applications they use deliver publicly available or subscription-based newsfeeds and analysis. Investment managers are charged with following and analyzing news as well as assessing, in real-time, how the news will affect their customers. Most important, they must be able to access customer information quickly and efficiently and still be able to understand the bottom-line effect on the big picture.

The Problem
While in theory, managers have access to all the information they need, much of it is spread out over many different types of applications. As such, it is very difficult to assess the impact a particular market change will have on specific clients. Therefore, managers spend their days toggling between a plethora of proprietary applications, trying to make sense of the constantly changing business environment. For example, when an item appears in a newsfeed, such as a stock downgrade or upgrade, managers manually trudge through multiple applications looking for key customer data in order to check its relevance to their customers. They may need to check a portfolio application to view investments, and then check a pricing application to view its importance, etc. At best, this results in a significant delay in reacting to market events and poor customer service. Investment managers, who spend most of their day trying to find important data, compare it, and then make sense of it, likely don’t have the time to respond diligently to customers. At worst, this results in missed opportunities, poor investment performance, and unacceptable customer satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to customer attrition and tarnished brand equity. 

Faced with the need to uncover a way to streamline information for investment managers, executives strive to find solutions that can improve productivity and customer service, while still making the jobs of the investment managers as easy as possible. Most important, the global bank needs to ensure that access control policies are enforced, as a tremendous volume of information is restricted to certain individuals, by job level or customer security status.

The Solution
WorkLight is a server-based product that extends the reach of enterprise applications to allow non-technical staff and customers to access critical application data. WorkLight helps workers access important information quickly and make sense of it efficiently. In the bank example, investment managers can use the WorkLight server to extract information from three main applications: a market newsfeed and two enterprise applications. The first enterprise application deals with customer management and the second handles portfolio holdings. WorkLight can then create information feeds from the two enterprise applications.

To make these feeds useful, an AJAX-based WorkLight desktop widget mashup combines the three feeds. The application mashup aggregates the information from the three feeds and correlates newsfeeds with customer and portfolio data. By doing so, investment managers are able to immediately gauge the impact of financial news on their clients.

The WorkLight solution enables bankers to see, for each news item, the number of clients impacted by the event and their total holdings. With one additional click, a list of impacted clients can be presented for immediate action. Presenting such information is enormously beneficial to improving customer service, as it allows bankers to see which customers will be impacted and respond accordingly. Bankers also do not need to take the time to separately toggle between applications and interpret the impact, giving them more time to interface with customers and problem-solve.

In addition, bank personnel can easily create new information feeds and mashups, and share them with peers. This also increases productivity, as efficient managers can share helpful feeds and mashups with colleagues, just as they might share helpful tips or tricks for best practices. In every company, there are those employees who are more technical than others, and, conversely, those who are not as technically advanced. This enables the sharing of feeds and mashups and ensures that those less-technical employees can gain successful practices from more technical employees. It also guarantees overall increased productivity and efficiency. The global investment bank is no exception – those more technical employees are able to craft efficient and successful feeds and application mashups and share them with managers who have similar needs. 

In a bank environment, WorkLight works securely, protecting and enforcing existing security codes and access control policies, ensuring that bank employees are only allowed access to the information they’re authorized to view. This feature is especially important, since fraud and corruption have jumped to the top of the security concern’s list in recent years. Banks need to improve productivity while maintaining security – WorkLight allows them to do so.

WorkLight uses lightweight Web technologies to implement this application mashup – JSON, RSS, and a REST API in this case. This makes it extremely simple to create and customize such mini-applications, which run natively within consumer environments like Yahoo Widgets, Google gadgets, or Windows Vista Sidebar. However, there is a lot of complexity in ensuring a secure, scalable, and manageable solution using technologies that were originally planned for consumer use. All this complexity is handled by the WorkLight server “under the hood,” so that creating this bank mashup is no different than a MySpace gadget.

The Value
The private wealth management division can realize productivity gains, improved customer service, and a competitive advantage for the bank. With the ability to access the necessary and critical information quickly and efficiently, bank employees are able to do their jobs better and faster, saving time, and, inherently, money. In addition, employees are able to receive information using the Web 2.0 tools they’re used to at home – making for a more pleasurable and productive experience. Overall, WorkLight enables investment banks to improve worker productivity and experience, while improving the service to their customers and gaining a competitive advantage through the innovative use of Web 2.0 tools in the enterprise.

More Stories By Yuval Tarsi

Yuval Tarsi is a founder and vice president, research and development at WorkLight (formerly Serendipity). He has broad startup activity, most recently as Vice President of Research and Development and Israel Site Manager for ©right. Previously, he served as vice president, research and development, and vice president of technologies at Trivnet, a provider of e-commerce and m-commerce solutions. Prior to that, Yuval served in the Israeli Intelligence Corps’ prestigious "Haman Talpiyot" program. He holds a B.Sc in mathematics and computer science from Tel Aviv University.

More Stories By Shahar Kaminitz

Shahar Kaminitz is a founder and CEO or WorkLight. He is a serial entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience in software and Internet industries. Prior to founding WorkLight (previously Serendipity), he was involved in Venture Capital investments in Israel, as well as being a key member of several software start-ups. Previously, Shahar spent 10 years at Amdocs, where he founded the company’s e-business applications group and held several executive positions in the U.S. and Israel. Shahar holds a B.Sc in computer science and BA in economics from Tel Aviv University.

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