The Goldman Sachs Headline event at London Technology Week 2015

The Goldman Sachs Agenda at London Technology Week 2015
The Goldman Sachs Agenda at London Technology Week 2015

You may have seen some publicity recently how a megazillion people in the UK, especially London, all work in the FinTech sector. This publicity stems from some research commissioned by London Technology Week, a series of events taking place in London around FinTech.

The events range the full spectrum of FinTech technologies, and as a result we have clients travelling from the US over to London for LTW (London Technology Week). Most of the events are free, and even the charging ones were under £20.

I’ll be attending a few events with some colleagues going to events which clashed. I’m also speaking at Tuesday’s CSFI round table on crypto-currencies, which I think is just a coincidence that it happens to fall during LTW.

The first event of LTW15, or the headline event as it was known, was at Goldman Sachs called “Goldman Sachs Engineers – Solutions to Complex Problems at Scale”. Here are some brief notes. My apologies for speed over brevity – there will be a lot to cover this week.

Goldman Sachs aren’t known for publicly (well, on this scale) sharing much information, so it was clearly visible that the presenters were outside their comfort zone. The key point was that Goldman Sachs have a LOT OF DATA, and it’s growing all the time, so they have reorganised their engineering team around this data. That engineering team is about a third of the size of the company, and like most banks, they consider themselves as much of a technology company as a bank.

And like many FinTech companies, it was full of middle-aged GS staff looking slightly uncomfortable in t-shirts and suits. I think it was a mufti-day.

GS uses Hadoop for their Data Lake, and have a clear registration process for all data coming into the lake. This all sounded like a terrific design, because at any time they could end up with a dataset and know the origin of all the data being shown. They still follow the mantra of store-first-structure-later, but knowing the origin of all data helps with compliance and regulation. All their data is stored in its original format as well, so they can reconstruct the dataset from source if required.

GS showed some of their platforms – Dash, which is a complete platform for building web-apps from the ground (data) up. It consists of 4 layers – the core; services to get data and make sure ‘stuff’ is only built once; a series of User Interface components and a native presentation layer. Dash enables GS to deliver apps to clients (as in customers) in under two months. All very impressive for a bank. GS have clearly invested a large amount of money in Dash and the team are proud of their achievements.

Like many organisations, the User Experience (UX) has become central to how GS design their apps, and I could see the common UX approach to all of GS’s apps being demonstrated. GS have taken this further by allowing customers to produce wireframes through a PowerPoint toolkit – something I’d really liked to have seen but we ran out of time in the Dash presentation.

One of the surprising and often repeated mantras at GS was their use of open source technologies. Senior staff sit on Java committees (as in, helping ‘shape’ the next version of Java), and even platforms such as Dash comprises several open source technologies such bas AngularJS, D3, Gulp and Drop Wizard.

We also got to see and play with some of GS’s internal tools such as Orbit – a custom-built mobile browser and email client. GS wanted to be able to customise these apps in a specific way so they decided to build them internally and not use other products such as Good. Even these apps looked appealing, and helps GS with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.

And finally, we got to see their internal social platforms, one is based on Jive and the other, Symphony, was built using a number of Open Source tools. The latter has been so successful that GS have spun it out as a start-up company.

In summary, GS put on a well-run, and ‘open’ headline event. I take my hat off to Goldman Sachs for opening up to LTW15, and look forward to the rest of the week’s events.

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