FinTech Connects… with Julie Armstrong, Chief Commercial Officer at ChartIQ
This week, I caught up with Julie Armstrong, Chief Commercial Officer at ChartIQ.
Julie will be delivering a keynote at this year’s FinTech Connect on December 3rd, entitled ‘The pain and power of pioneering’. She will also be taking part in a very special panel discussion on December 4th entitled ‘How can fintech be used as a force for good?’
In the build up to these sessions, here’s her thoughts on where the industry is headed
Firstly can you tell us a little bit about what ChartIQ does?
ChartIQ was founded in 2012 with the goal to bring HTML5 charting visualization tools to the finance industry. Our charts are now used by over 250 clients worldwide. In 2018, we launched Finsemble, our smart desktop technology that facilitates the workflow of the trading community by creating efficient, modern workspaces. We see the future of the current desktop as one where all applications work in harmony with each other—whether you are using native, web, third-party or in-house applications. Our solutions are “out of the box” and workflow agnostic, which allows the technology to adapt to front, middle or back office tools. We deploy our solutions across major sell side institutions like Citigroup as well as buy side firms, exchanges and technology vendor.
Within the context of Fintech how would you define digital transformation?
Our mission at ChartIQ is to help humans work smarter. When we think about digital transformation, we think of ultimately deploying technology which improves software capabilities, creates efficient service offerings, or the overall development of better decision-making tools. I think leaders at most financial institutions understand the importance of digital transformation, but say that legacy infrastructure is slowing them down. At Chart IQ, we are able to imagine a world where legacy applications are united with the new class of applications through our Finsemble product. Simply put, workflow interoperability is changing the game.
Over 80% of responses to our recent industry survey on digital transformation in finance, stated legacy infrastructure was the 1 thing holding financial institutions back, what is your opinion on this?
I would say out of the gate that we have a solution that can help. Firms have spent a lot of money on legacy technology and they shouldn’t have to throw that all away. I’ve seen the anxiety of a complete technology overhaul stop decision makers in their tracks and literally prevent them from undergoing any digital transformation projects. Our smart desktop platform, Finsemble, allows firms to integrate legacy applications alongside web applications and modernize their user experience. I think a lot of tech pushes the idea of new replacing the old—but we’ve come up with a way to integrate the two. It’s a much happier environment.
In the same survey there was a split response between those who loved challenger banks (note: startup digital banks without branches. Like Ally), and those who thought they still had major compliance issues to combat – where do you stand?
I am not an expert in this arena but the little I do know leads me to say that eventually there will be a middle line—and there already is with some challenger banks partnering with retail banks to tether their strengths and deliver higher quality services to clients. I believe a healthy ecosystem is one where participants seek to improve overall market experience for clients and sometimes that means cooperation across competition to evolve an industry is necessary.
How do you see data changing the way financial institutions operate?
Data has been the new black in financial technology and its existence continues to evolve customer offerings and market player responsibilities rapidly. In the early 2000s, the story was about managing the volume of data hitting the industry, creating the data storage challenge and just like that, the word “cloud” came into the vernacular of Wall Street. Around 2010, industry players started to accelerate the speed to transporting market data when telecommunications evolved from underground to above ground on microwave towers.
Most interestingly, a multitude of new data sources started hitting the marketplace that fell within a category called “alternative data.” This was a new twist on energy, agriculture and financial market data and was most often generated by using artificial intelligence to perform predictive analytics. These data sources paired with traditional exchange data, facilitated a new source of decision-making power to trading participants.
ChartIQ works with firms looking to visualize multi-faceted data sets with our charting tools and manage the resulting workflows with Finsemble. Overall, it’s a good place to be and fascinating to learn how clients are using our solutions so we can keep adapting to their needs.
What is the biggest obstacle to the growth of challenger banks over the next 12-18 months?
This is not my area of expertise, but I will be interested to see how things evolve for them and their incumbents and hopefully find ways we can serve their needs through our technology.
Financial Institution’s seem to be taking a build, buy or partner model to fintech – where do you think they should be focusing?
It depends on the project—and the company—but naturally we believe buy versus build is the better choice if the project requires dedicated expertise. When faced with this question, I almost always go towards what my husband says about plumbers, which is always call one, it will be worth it in the long run. Anyone can apply basic skills to any task, but if you want something done right on your home, a project or anything that has a long- term impact on the foundation, trust an expert to do the work. At ChartIQ we understand the importance of balancing expertise and collaboration with our clients to ensure we are delivering value while tailoring to their needs.
What do you think the role of GAFA will be finance?
I cannot predict the end game but see these companies with extensive service and distribution power. The challenge will be their lack of understanding of our industry but hopefully their ability to influence through innovation and the capabilities to maneuver on a large scale will help efficiencies in the long run.
Which location leads in innovation; are you looking at London or further afield?
Our company is based in Charlottesville, VA which is unique placement for us to engage in tech talent. In fact, our CTO just published an article in VentureBeat which touched upon the advantages of being in a small town while launching tech around the world. We have sales offices in London, New York, Hong Kong and soon Singapore. We believe there are innovation and networking opportunities across all of these financial hub locations. I have especially enjoyed working across the London scene over my 17 years on the FinTech circuit. I’ve worked with many accelerators (such as Level 39 in Canary Wharf) and believe London is a key melting pot for fintech acceleration. I’m looking forward to returning to London to present at Fintech Connect.