By Rick Truitt, Vice President, Financial Services, Napatech
Under the current and future global regulatory landscape, firms participating in electronic trading of financial instruments—including proprietary trades, buy-side firms, sell-side institutions and trading venue operators—all face increasingly stringent requirements around the monitoring, capture and storage of electronic order and trade-related data.
From a pure monitoring perspective, firms need high visibility into their order flow, both to monitor performance and to respond to security alerts such as possible breaches. From a regulatory and compliance perspective, they need to be able to capture and store all electronic messages with highly granular timestamps, so that when required to perform forensic analysis into past order and trade history, they can sequentially reconstruct all trading-related events.
In light of such diverse and complicated requirements, how should firms approach the task of building robust solutions that can sort and store so much information? The first step is to capture data on the network. Data (or packet) capture is critical because it is a single source of truth. It provides visibility across the board. Financial services firms cannot rely on a sampling of data; they need 100 percent of the data. It’s how operators and engineers plan network throughput, routing preferences and the path of least resistance for a trade. In short, 100 percent packet capture has become a necessity.
It may be a necessity, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Yes, there are many open source tools available that can help organizations in need of packet capture at low speeds – but trades are conducted at high volume and velocity. In addition, standard network interface cards (NICs) cannot capture all packets at the high speed of today’s trades.
Some financial services firms assume that they can buy the equipment themselves and piece a solution together to save money. However, there are a myriad of challenges optimizing any accelerator card with an appliance; it requires experience and skill that these firms typically lack.
For many financial firms, moving toward a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) solution is a wise choice. FPGA technology supporting FPGA-based network acceleration cards (NACs) is an exciting evolution in integrated circuit design.
FPGA technology provides an advantage in trading. When a trade is made, confirmation is received in a manner of nanoseconds. This is not terribly important for an individual conducting small transactions, but it’s crucial for high-frequency traders or proprietary trading. These high-frequency users need a technology that will stamp the packet when it leaves and when it comes back so they can see how quickly a trade is authorized, as it is very important for traders to be able to see when their trade was confirmed. FPGA allows an egress stamp on a packet.
Another FPGA benefit relates to forensics or post-analysis for security reasons. Sometimes it is necessary to look back in time to investigate an attack, and being able to search within a particular time window is incredibly helpful.
A Closer Look
FPGA technology has enabled the design of very flexible hardware platforms, supporting a broad range of existing and new use cases for the financial services industry, all with an extended lifetime/horizon.
First, it is important to establish what to expect from an FPGA-based NAC. Any FPGA-based NAC hardware platform should support:
- Ethernet link speeds and types available currently and in the near future, through attractive front port connectivity.
- Different FPGA size configurations, providing the customer with the right cost/feature ratio options, enabling competitive product offerings.
Historically, FPGA-based NACs have deployed physical layer (PHY) devices in the data path between the FPGA and the Ethernet front port. The discreet silicon PHY device handles the physical layers of the Ethernet protocol stack. However, with the introduction of the latest 20nm FPGA families, the FPGA technology is on par with the current and near-term future Ethernet link speeds, obsoleting the need for the PHY companion devices.
New NAC technology implements a PHY-less, FPGA-based NAC design. This industry-pioneering option to operate two FPGA process nodes on the same hardware platform has been enabled through footprint compatibility from the FPGA vendor. The hardware platform is currently supported by a 2 port 100G feature set and support will shortly be followed by the release of a 2 port 40G feature set.
From a multi-link speed customer perspective, a PHY-less, FPGA-based NAC design offers a number of benefits. It can source many different product variants with the same NAC part number, which reduces the amount of required hardware qualification resources. Its ability to collect volume on one or a few NAC part numbers saves on logistics and cost. An FPGA-based NAC can introduce multi-link speed product variants, eventually handling all major link speeds and types, on the same ports, through dynamic reconfiguration. Finally, it restricts the required knowledge base to one platform. This technology is a vast improvement on previous NAC designs and is bound to take its place in financial services networks around the world.
Financial institutions and trading organizations have important questions to ask as they consider high-speed solutions. They first need to answer in-house questions, including:
- Will this be a global or local design?
- Do we need any outsourcing help?
- What type of support structure do we need?
- What kind of load will we have across the link?
- What network speeds are needed?
- How many appliances are we looking at?
There are also important questions to ask providers.
- The first is, “How much experience do you have in this industry?” The financial industry is bound by many specific regulations and laws, so experience is important.
- Because trades need high-speed networks, ask the provider if their solution is able to do 20G write to disk without drops. At lower speeds, 100 percent packet capture is a commodity; not everyone can say the same at high speeds. Also, be sure to ask about scalability. Financial services firms can no longer risk buying equipment and solutions that are not scalable.
- Ask if the provider has analytics of its own or is compatible with open source analytics. More and more financial services firms do not want these analytics to come on board because they end up costing five to six times more per appliance. In addition, a firm can have the most expensive and extensive analytics available, but if it does not have the underlying platforms to support them, then the data is not accurate –which makes it essentially useless.
- Finally, ask if the solution will work with third party applications. If not, this could cause serious issues – especially if a firm has proprietary software that only works with company X and cannot integrate with company Y.
The Total Package
High network speed is critical for today’s financial services firms. Regulatory requirements and trading competition demand the fastest and most reliable network possible. Firms cannot afford dropped packets; the network solution must offer total packet capture without a reduction in speed. Use the questions above as guidelines for architecting a system that serves the firm and its customers while meeting all regulations.
86% of UK businesses face barriers developing digital skills in procurement
A shortage of digitally savvy talent, and a lack of training for technical and soft skills, hinder digital procurement initiative
Research from Ivalua, a leading provider of global spend management cloud solutions, has shown that a majority of UK businesses (86%) face significant barriers developing digital skills in procurement. The findings reveal that a shortage of digitally savvy talent (31%), a lack of training for technical and soft skills (28%) and a lack of understanding of the skills required (13%), are some of the main barriers preventing UK business from developing the digital skills they need. Additionally, over half (55%) of UK businesses say that digital skills in procurement are less advanced compared to other departments
The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Ivalua, surveyed 200 UK-based procurement, supply chain and finance professionals about the true nature of digital skills within procurement, and the challenges businesses looking to digitally transform will face. More than eight-in-ten (84%) UK businesses believe that the skill set required of procurement professionals has shifted from procurement-first to digital-first. The study also highlighted that most respondents believe that greater digitalisation (84%) and better digital skills (83%) in procurement would have enabled UK businesses to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak more effectively.
“Over the last decade, the role of procurement has transformed from one of cost-cutter to a vital ally that can help inform and enable a business’s strategy. The global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend even further, reinforcing the importance of procurement as businesses adapt to the new normal,” commented Alex Saric, smart procurement expert at Ivalua. “However, for too long, procurement has been seen as a digital laggard, with technology adoption trailing behind other departments. In order to keep its seat at the table in strategic discussions, procurement must ensure it has people with the right skills in-house, as well as easy to use technologies, or risk being unable to offer significant strategic value.”
Challenges in hiring digital skills in procurement
As part of ongoing digital transformation efforts in procurement, the report found that UK businesses have started to introduce new technologies such as data analytics (55%), cloud-based platforms (53%), automation (35%) and AI/machine learning (30%) in the last 12 months.
But when it comes to deploying these technologies, UK businesses are finding it difficult to complement them with the digital skills required. The study found that 88% find it challenging to hire the right digital skills to work with technologies such as AI, cloud-based platforms or data analytics, while 76% say they are concerned that existing procurement teams will struggle to work with new technologies. Developing digital skills is vital for businesses, as 91% of respondents say that improving digital skills can make procurement more strategic, while 94% say it will help them gain a competitive advantage.
“In a rapidly evolving business environment, digital skills are essential for procurement teams to analyse and mitigate risk, identify new opportunities and collaborate with suppliers. However, procurement teams are struggling to both attract digital talent and upskill existing teams, which puts them at risk of falling behind competitors, losing market share, and struggling to identify risk and opportunities ahead of time,” comments Saric.
“To address the digital skills gap in procurement, UK businesses need to ensure they are focusing on adopting tools that are easy to use and improve access to actionable insights. By making procurement smarter, businesses are giving teams the tools and skills needed to thrive in the new normal, allowing the business to react and proactively address the shifting sands of a post-COVID world.”
The importance of app-based commerce to hospitality in the new normal
By Jeremy Nicholds CEO, Judopay
As society adapts to the rapidly changing “new normal” of working and socialising, many businesses are working tirelessly to ensure that they have all the necessary safety precautions in place to keep trading. One such sector is hospitality, but the way it typically operates now looks very different to what we were used to seeing prior to the pandemic.
Many pubs, restaurants and other hospitality establishments have now been open for a few months since lockdown, providing much relief and enjoyment to many consumers, as well as getting many employees back into work. However, a core component for businesses to maintain trading in these times is to ensure the crucial safety of staff and customers.
Payments are playing an important role in this and we’re seeing payment technology being implemented in new and unique ways to help make the hospitality sector as safe as possible. One such technology is app-based commerce, which allows businesses to interact with customers in ways that minimises physical contact whilst crucially still enabling engagement.
With table service now mandatory and Test and Trace measures continuing, we’re likely to see this technology being increasingly adopted in the months and years ahead. So, let’s take a look at what its use means for the hospitality industry and beyond and how it lines up with the government’s latest advice for businesses within the sector.
Understanding government guidance
Guidance issued from the UK government expands upon advice already offered by the Prime Minister to the hospitality sector, at the point of reopening back in July. It has been stated that all indoor hospitality is limited to table-service, interaction between staff and customers should be minimised as much as possible, masks are being enforced for indoor hospitality staff and the rule around groups of 6 continues.
At the same time, businesses now have a clear duty to support NHS Test and Trace by collecting names and contact details from customers so they can be reached if a customer/worker tests positive. This is a recent mandatory move having previously been guidance.
What’s more, it’s recognised that payments are a practical tool to help companies adhere to these guidelines. Throughout the pandemic it has emphasised that contactless payments are useful for reducing human interaction and touch points – such as PIN pads.
Early on, we saw the payment industry increase the authentication limit for contactless spending limit from £30 to £45 to help reduce cash purchases, cash machines and PIN pad usage. The Government are strongly encouraging the use of contactless payments in the hospitality sector, however, there’s a big part of the solution that they may have overlooked that can help hospitality businesses meet these guidelines with even greater ease – app-based commerce.
Why use apps?
Apps provide a whole host of benefits and are the perfect tool for not only minimising contact, but also ensuring customers are contactable at a later date, if needs be.
While contactless payments eliminate the need for customers to pay using cash, or touch PIN pads, apps can remove physical human interaction at the point of sale altogether. This is because they enable customers to pay ahead or at the table, meaning they don’t need to leave their seats or regularly interact with staff. And done well they can even be a boost for business, enabling more convenient transactions and higher levels of repeat purchase.
When it comes to ensuring that customers are contactable, apps and e-wallets have a real advantage over traditional card-based transactions and anonymous cash payments. They allow companies to retain details about who has attended an establishment at a given time, enabling them to know whether a customer was present while a person known to be carrying the virus was in the vicinity. The communication advantages of apps also allow establishments to manage their footfall and customer flow.
The role of app-based commerce in the new normal
Apps will become more and more important for all types of businesses, as consumers shift their behaviour towards digital. They represent a new ‘real estate’ for retail and other businesses to manage – to present their brand in the right way, to engage customers and drive transactions.
Recently, we’ve seen Apple support this move towards app-based commerce with the launch of App Clips, further bolstering its use as we emerge from lockdown and encouraging safer and hygienic ways to pay.
App Clips are a great way for consumers to quickly access and experience what an app has to offer. They are fast and lightweight so a user can open them quickly and start and finish an experience from an app in seconds. And when they’re done, the business can offer the opportunity to download the full app from the App Store.
We are also seeing a number of hospitality businesses warming towards the use of app-based commerce and doing a great job of implementing it. The technology has already become central to the safe trading operations of big names in the industry such as Caffè Nero and The Young’s Pub, which are great examples of how to make apps work for your business.
As the industry steadily navigates its way through a new normal of operating, we expect that app-based commerce will skyrocket. In fact, we’ve already seen a great number of businesses throughout different industries expressing interest in the payment method, suggesting that it will play a pivotal role in moving forward. It certainly is a great way for businesses to keep staff and customers safe.
Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for
By Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ®
Taking single use plastics out of circulation is no easy feat, but the answer might lie closer than we think
FemTech: The Beginnings
The term FemTech was initially coined to describe the powerful offering from tech start-ups as they ventured into developing revolutionary products centred around women’s health needs. Whilst the beginnings were humble, we have seen a whole host of innovations enter the market which have changed the game for women and business leaders around the globe.
Fast forward to 2020, FemTech is an industry predicted to be worth $50 billion by 2025 and a powerhouse that is not just tackling women’s health issues but also helping to solve major environmental and sustainability crisis that we face today.
The fearless female entrepreneurs have founded and grown businesses that are continuing to help women across the globe deal with issues such as fertility, periods, sexual wellness, pregnancy and many others. And the best is yet to come.
It is a Man’s World
Traditionally, both technology and medical sectors have been very slow in tackling women’s issues and notoriously lagged in developing products and tools that address issues predominantly affecting women. Whilst figures show that women spend 29% more on healthcare than men, only 4% of overall R&D funding goes towards developing products for the women’s sector therefore the market is ripe for disruption.
As a woman, a mother and entrepreneur I knew that like many others I had to take matters into my own hands.
Following an incident with incontinence whilst training for a marathon in 2011 after the birth of my second child, I recognised the need to innovate apparel that offered a dignified, supportive and sustainable solution for women to manage leaks from periods, incontinence and everything in between. After two years of product development and over 1000 scientific tests, I founded Modibodi in 2013 with a long term view of breaking taboos, opening minds and offering a reusable, sustainable option for sanitary products that’s not just for women – but for the benefit of all bodies on this planet and the environment too. Now, we’ve expanded on that notion to support all people, including men who suffer incontinence, sweating and chafing, providing them with a reusable, sustainable option with our Modibodi Men range.
As you can imagine, this was far from simple not just due to tech and business sectors being notoriously dominated by men, with figures showing that 98% of VC funding goes towards male founded products but also because we were not just selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category based on talking about things that made people and retailers uncomfortable.
As a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights I knew that I needed to persevere because the amalgamation between technology and feminism is a major force of social change and one that can have wide scale impact on our world.
The Sustainability Story
The sustainability agenda has really taken off in the last couple of years, especially in our war against single use plastic. But it occurred to me very early on that we are not doing enough and there are still areas that need urgent review.
Very early on in the development stage of Modibodi I knew that sustainable sanitary products could be a game changer in eliminating single use plastics from circulation and whilst the world and respective governments were focusing on plastic straws, I felt the change needed to come from numerous angles and streams of consumerism.
The proof of concept was starring us right in the face, the average woman uses an average of 11,000 disposable feminine hygiene products in her lifetime and these convenient products come with an inconvenient environmental cost. They take 500 to 800 years to biodegrade, which means the first ever tampon and pad is still in landfill. Even more alarmingly, 8% of all waste that enters water treatment works comes from period waste, including non-flushable items such as pantyliners.
This is why I believe that the revolutionary innovations that are born out of the FemTech sector have capabilities to be one of the key drivers of the sustainability agenda. There is something remarkably special about a group of purpose driven businesses that can connect with consumers through a collective set of values to drive change and be a force for good.
As most purpose driven business leaders will tell you, the fight never stops as the world evolves and continues to change. The sheer growth in the FemTech sector and the capabilities developed to date have changed millions of lives around the globe.
As an industry and a movement, we’ve also managed to play our part in driving the sustainability agenda and I will argue that actually the wide scale change and unity needed to continue making strides in eradicating single use plastic from our circulation will come from within the powerhouse that is FemTech.
The sheer capacity for change can be easily demonstrated if we look at the granular data and its potential for growth. If just 100,000 young girls use Modibodi alone from the start of their menstrual cycle, this would prevent 1.1 billion disposable hygiene products from ending up in landfill or 1.5 million garbage bags of waste. As of May 2020, our global base of 500,000 customers alone have prevented an estimated 2.5 million garbage bags of disposable hygiene waste from ending up in landfill or flushed into the ocean.
With the FemTech industry growing at a racing speed, I have no doubt that we are at the tipping point of pioneering wave of inventions that will take the agenda further and have the capacity and means to lead the movement. It is up to the trade organisations and world leaders to recognise the potential that such businesses and brands carry in order help to facilitate its growth trajectory.
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