JLN interviewed Mazy Dar, the CEO of OpenFin, at FIA Boca 2022 about the influence of apps in the future of work, the move toward fewer screens for work from home, and acquisitions.
“It’s incredibly exciting nowadays, particularly when people are thinking about the future of work. It’s all about bringing that same delightful experience, simplicity, ease of use, to the apps that we use at work. And, there’s just a lot of focus on that today,” Dar said. “We ran a survey over the last several weeks that talked about how employees will switch jobs if they know that the firm they’re going to has apps that are better for their own employee experience. It’s becoming incredibly important for talent retention.”
Dar has a successful background in finance that began in 1997 at SPC Warburg UBS and then expanded into credit derivatives at Creditex Group, which was sold to ICE in 2008. These positions showed him the problems evident in the legacy technology used by traders and other financial professionals. As a result, he co-founded OpenFin.
Against the backdrop of the seamless smart phone experience, financial technology was lacking. Applications do not easily talk with each other and workflow is not integrated. “It means that you as the end user are the integration layer,” he said.
That creates operational risk as users are forced to key information from one app to another. It slows things down and creates security issues. “So what we’re doing at OpenFin is providing the same kind of infrastructure that’s there for the mobile consumer space, the kind of infrastructure Apple and Google provide for the mobile consumer space. We’re providing that for the financial industry,” Dar said.
Apps for OpenFin are written in HTML5. “If it runs in Google Chrome, it’ll run on OpenFin unmodified,” Dar said. OpenFin customers distribute apps through their app stores.
An early successful app for OpenFin is Trumid. “Years ago, they used OpenFin to deploy to about 150 to 200 buy-side customers in about two weeks, which according to their CTO would have taken more than a year prior to being able to use something like OpenFin,” Dar said.
OpenFin is now being used by many large global banks. “Our software’s deployed to more than 2,400 banks and buy-side firms. Our investors include many of the largest banks, including JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered. There are over 3,500 apps now running on OpenFin,” Dar said. The OS is now breaking through to buy-side firms and other markets where customers want to revamp the employee experience, so it can be found in front offices, HR and other departments, he added.
Banks and buy-side firms also want to integrate Bloomberg, Microsoft Excel, and platforms like Salesforce, among others. Enabling those integrations has been an increasing focus for OpenFin.
Financial professionals are increasingly looking for good alternatives to their workplace desktop experience, which includes working on four to six monitors, and alternatives that include mobile and work from home. “People want that same experience that we’re providing on desktop on mobile devices, usually starting with a tablet. And what they want is to be able to build an app once and have it run everywhere – desktop, phone, tablet,” Dar said. “That’s a big focus for us.”
Work from home meant that financial professionals were working with half the monitors they had at work. “So how do they synthesize all the same information with that much less screen real estate?” Dar asked. OpenFin allows data to be displayed and come to the front when it’s relevant in context. Banks and other firms enjoyed that functionality.
Dar said the covid pandemic accelerated the story around cloud adoption. OpenFin’s front end is usually backed operationally by apps found in the cloud or in private data centers. The pandemic “definitely accelerated the journey to the cloud for a lot of our major customers,” Dar said.
He said he doesn’t know whether OpenFin will be acquired by another firm or will acquire another firm in its next move. “For me, as long as I’m having fun doing it, I have a huge amount of energy and zero interest in stopping … I’m super excited to find out.”