In the early days, open source was mainly individually and developer-driven, but now, contribution, adoption and investment in open source have become a strategic topic of conversation for decision makers in the financial services industry.
This is not unlike what other industries have realized over the last several years.
Cost-effective innovation, superior interoperability and talent pool access delivered by open source are some of the key reasons why financial firms are increasingly seeing open source as an executive-level concern. In many cases, this requires a fully fledged change management process, most of which are direct consequences of a change in mindset that is still in progress.
So, as Albert Lojko pointed out in his recent article, whether the industry is ready or not, the open fintech ecosystem is already disrupting the current landscape.
And this is where open source foundations can foster effective and safe engagement from an industry striving for innovation but still relatively distant from collaborating the “open” way. Much like the Hyperledger Foundation is doing for finserv collaboration on blockchain technology, this is largely our mission in what we do at the Symphony Software Foundation.
The Foundation, with its open (source, standard, ecosystem) approach, is an active driver of the aforementioned disruption, by encouraging collaboration within a seamless, engaging developer experience.
Picking up on some of the points from Lojko’s article—amazingly aligned with our vision:
With the Open Development Platform, any member of the Community can develop Symphony open source components and extensions and enjoy a best-of-breed, secure and completely free development experience. This not only fosters organic individual engagement in the community but also effectively levels the playing field for smaller fintech firms and data providers entering the Symphony ecosystem.
The community generated by open source projects provides a very practical and effective bottom-up channel to influence the evolution of the platform.
In addition to the bottom-up influence, it’s important to point out the Foundation also provides a top-down influence channel through open standard- and technology-focused Working Groups; definitely a more familiar vehicle for financial services firms. Participation and creation of new Working Groups are part of the key benefits of membership.
It goes without saying that combining bottom-up (open source-driven) and top-down (open standard-driven) channels, under the transparent open governance of the Foundation, creates a truly collaborative environment to tackle common industry problems.
With the Open Developer Platform, we offer developers and members an end-to-end development lifecycle (API access, developer tools, release process) that is enterprise ready (CI/CD, Quality Requirements) and open source safe (security and IP validation automation), all while providing extremely productive developer ergonomics. It’s crucial to empower the ecosystem to produce value rather than have it bogged down with recurrent compliance limitations or quirky internal processes.
The Open Developer Platform offers developers a very concrete and fast-paced approach to creating integrations, bots and apps with Symphony Platform capabilities. In many cases, these are generally needed for the whole industry—ranging from developer tools like the Symphony Java Client or the Symphony Angular JS Integration, and fully fledged solutions like the Helpdesk Bot.
As Symphony becomes the “platform that powers work,” the Foundation will empower the whole industry with a flourishing ecosystem of apps, extensions and bots.
Trust me (and standards)
On that same note, because projects are built using the Symphony API, security, compliance and end-to-end encryption already come standard—a key perk of a platform born and bred in regulated environments. And from a deployment standpoint, Symphony has an app store that ensures a secure and centralized delivery of its applications.
From a Foundation standpoint, not only do we want to provide an aforementioned open source safe space for financial services and other regulated industries, but we also want to ensure software released by the Foundation to follow the highest standards of quality, making us a trusted source of enterprise-grade software.
This is tangentially one of the reasons the Foundation put a project lifecycle in place—one in which projects transition between incubated, active and retired. While we voluntarily keep the bar low for incubated projects, we consider active projects ready to use in the enterprise space, which is why we also establish community-agreed standards of security and maturity.
We view open source direct collaboration on a project as the evolution and sublimation of the open standardization process: in other words, open source and open standards reinforce each other, providing a practical and a theoretical model to build interoperability. That’s the very reason why we see that our Working Groups are focused on technology standardization (like the Desktop Wrapper Working Group being focused on HTML5 container standardization for the Symphony ecosystem) or domain-level standardization (such as the Financial Objects Standardization Working Group).
We see the Foundation play a fundamental role in the adoption of the Symphony platform, as the very nature of communication and data aggregation systems is to present an inherent network effect that can only work if all of the parties involved in the network can agree to a common standard for how information is represented and acted upon.
This is fundamental to the Foundation and any open source community—we have a developer-first approach because developers should have zero friction and love what they’re doing in order to build a thriving community.
Quoting Suresh Kumar, CIO of BNY Mellon, “This offering substantially lowers the barrier for financial institutions to collaborate on the Symphony platform under the Foundation’s governance. We very much welcome this offering which strongly re-affirms how open and interoperable APIs are the key drivers for innovation in fintech.” BNY Mellon is a Platinum Member of the Foundation.
Rebuilding boilerplate infrastructure takes time, money and resources.
Especially in the SaaS era, the approach of reusing building blocks, powered by clear standards agreed upon through a collaborative and transparent open (source and standard) process has proven to deliver superior innovation.
Many industries outside of financial services realized the importance of open source ecosystems a decade ago, starting with technology companies. As finserv firms increasingly position themselves as technology companies, embracing open source is key in being competitive in today’s industry.
The Foundation can offer you a safe space to work within open source and a chance to influence the open ecosystem of Symphony, the open messaging platform for the industry.
At the Foundation we are on a mission to be a driver of this new era in financial services. And we hope you’ll join us on this journey!