Alexandra Boyle, Head of Client Strategic Group at OpenFin, speaks to Markets Media’s senior writer Shanny Basar about her career, her philosophy and her inspiration.
In 2014 Alexandra Boyle, Head of Client Strategic Group at OpenFin, was the first woman to join the firm which provides an integrated desktop application ecosystem for financial firms. She takes inspiration from Kamala Harris, US Vice President who said: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”
Boyle and Jessica Meiselman, OpenFin General Counsel, have recently launched an OpenFin women’s group. Boyle said: “It is important to maintain a community while working remotely and we have hired so many employees who are spread geographically.”
Before joining OpenFin, Boyle worked at the New York Stock Exchange which she described as a great foundation as a technology sweet spot. “You could see the tech landscape and footprint of global banks,” she added.
When Mazy Dar, the co-founder and CEO of OpenFin, asked her to join the company it only took Boyle two hours to accept the offer as she was so excited about the founders’ vision and their ability to create change.
OpenFin’s operating system, built on Google’s Chromium engine, is similar to the Android or iOS operating platform for mobile phones but was launched to provide standardisation across capital markets’ desktops, so the industry can deploy new applications more quickly and they are interoperable. The system is used at more than 1,500 unique firms, including the largest investment banks, asset managers and many vendor platforms, to deploy more than 1,200 desktop applications.
“Seven years ago the market was ripe for transformation, so it was a perfect time to join the team, said Boyle. “If you recall, at that time banks were hesitant to think about the cloud adoption.”
The tide has turned and many financial institutions now have strategic partnerships with firms like Amazon’s AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure. For example , Deutsche Bank finalised a strategic, multi-year partnership with Google Cloud in December last year to allow the bank to take advantage of an up-to-date and fully managed environment for applications.
Boyle explained that OpenFin acts as the front end layer of a cloud strategy and supports flexible microservices-based data strategies for high value applications. Microservices breaks a problem into small components of functionality, while ensuring that the data they use is consistent in real-time. Firms can stop using monolithic architecture which is difficult and expensive to change without building a new version of the whole application.
Her team liaises with the biggest banks, hedge funds, asset managers and vendors in Europe on enterprise-wide solutions as they build applications on top of OpenFin as a foundational layer. “Great examples include BNP Paribas, focusing on client experience and streamlining deployment via OpenFin, or Barclays leveraging OpenFin as a way to bring together older systems and new technologies,” she added.
The unforeseen shift to remote working meant clients needed technology that was accessible and flexible, and using OpenFin and other web technologies allowed a smooth transition. Boyle said: “We are in a brave new world that has accelerated digital transformation. The cost of not moving from legacy systems is now too high.”
She continued that the shift from legacy systems is not complete but leaps and bounds ahead of where it was five years ago. OpenFin can act as a bridge because big banks cannot change their platforms overnight. Instead they can use an iterative process over time to move to the cloud and new architectures.
“I am proud of the partnerships we have created with our customers, some of whom have made strategic investments in OpenFin, and the community we have created,” said Boyle.
Last year SC Ventures, the innovation, fintech investment and ventures arm of Standard Chartered, made a strategic investment in OpenFin taking total funding to date to $50m after the bank started using the firm's technology.
Boyle said OpenFin is investing in new products to accelerate clients’ digital transformation and highlighted the release of the OpenFin Notifications centre, a visual interface to provide alerts related to capital markets.
“We are in a unique position to act as a utility for the industry - collaborating on products the market needs while our customers focus on their core businesses,” she added. “There are lots of opportunities in post-trade and operations, and other verticals in global markets. There is still a lot to be done.”
Boyle studied Finance at Lehigh University in the US after her mother advised her to get a marketable degree.
I was lucky to receive such a great education at my school,” she said. “Unfortunately, I never thought of taking computer science courses at university. It wasn’t on my radar at the time and that really should cross young women’s paths much earlier.”
She continued, that some of the most impressive partners she has worked with in her career have been women running technology teams and there need to be more.
The women’s network at OpenFin allows sharing of information and the building of relationships, and will devise strategies to improve all types of diversity - which ultimately improves the business. Boyle highlighted JP Morgan as having done a very good job at structuring teams based on diversity in their corporate and investment banking technology divisions and said the bank has seen performance increase as a result.
“Diversity has always been important at OpenFin and Mazy has been a champion from the start,” she added.
Boyle said the shift to remote working has increased representation at virtual events. In addition, everyone is equal when they are working remotely and the accessibility to talent increases. Her advice to women who want to enter finance and technology is “to do it.”
“When I was young, I was told to be in the room and make noise,” she concluded. “Women need to have a voice and be part of the conversation. Don’t let self-doubt be a mute button.”
©Markets Media Europe 2021