Annabel Smith: How does it feel to win the LiTDX FinTech of the Year 2020 award?
Adam Toms: We at OpenFin feel honoured to have won the FinTech of the Year 2020 award. OpenFin is the operating system (OS) of finance, an open and collaborative platform for the industry to be more successful. We are building for the industry and that has always been our goal. To be recognised in an industry vote is fantastic.
AS: What role has FinTech played during 2020 and the pandemic?
AT: FinTech has played a significant role in providing solutions across the industry. There are endless stories of FinTechs who saw demand for their products grow aggressively and subsequently experienced rapid growth during 2020. Most market participants already had an agenda of change in place, including tech modernisation and digital transformation programmes, but these were accelerated over the course of 2020.
AS: What has been the biggest challenge faced by traders during 2020?
AT: In the early months of the pandemic the greatest issue was the set up and coordination of workforces as they transitioned to a home environment from an office one. With this, however, we’ve lost important conversations had in the office and passive listening that goes on in a working environment. That passive listening is an important learning tool which is used to build a picture of what is going on around you. I like to think all of our team members are continuously learning and I think they learn a lot from passive listening. With people hopefully returning to the office in the next few months I think this will be an important element to get back.
AS: What has OpenFin done in 2020 to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic?
AT: OpenFin powers applications and user experiences on the financial desktop. One of the things our product has done is help users manage their workspace much more effectively and manage the changing attitude to screen real estate in 2020. A lot of traders went from working from six screens in the office to working from two at home and so our ability to save and restore different work spaces for users, allowing them to maximise their screen real estate space and to configure different workflows on their desktop, was critically important. This was very powerful in a ‘work from home’ setting.
We launched our notification centre aimed at financial institutions including banks, buy-side brokers, and financial services vendors, which was designed in collaboration with our clients. We believe notifications are essential to communicating, alerting people to data insights and helping people make faster decisions. There was a strong and rapid uptake of that solution during the pandemic.
AS: What role will FinTech play in the market’s evolution in 2021?
AT: I think the current situation is a new normal, and with that we will have to think more deeply about the future of work and the need to be able to work from anywhere. Different companies will make different calls on the level of flexibility they offer their employees, but we certainly believe there will be a strong movement where people will be looking at their future work agendas and thinking about how they want to evolve based on the learnings of the last 12 months – there are many solutions available to assist with this.
Now that workforces have been largely distributed there will need to be a greater emphasis on collaboration tools such as OpenFin to unify experiences across teams that are no longer sat together in the same office.
AS: What have you learned from 2020 that you will take into 2021?
AT: I think the ability to adapt and be resilient at a company and team level is really important, as a smaller high growth company we are lucky to be very nimble. Throughout 2020 important topics such as mental health and well-being were more heavily discussed. These have always been important topics, but I think organisations will now place a higher level of priority on them going forward.
For us, being really mindful about each individual’s personal situation and associated working environment, wherever that may be, is something that we will continue to pay close attention to.
AS: Have you ever seen conditions like the ones seen during 2020 before?
AT: It has certainly been unique. I have seen some extraordinary events in the marketplace including the dot com bubble and the significant bankruptcy at Lehman Brothers in 2008. These sudden, significant tail risk events have a high degree of similarities with stresses and challenges for the markets during the pandemic.
2020 presented a number of challenges for the markets and companies alike, I think we are all looking forward to a return to some form of normality, but we will carry the unique experiences from 2020 with us for some time to come.
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