ChartIQ Blog

Posted on by Josh McCrowell

Moving Towards the Smart Desktop

For any financial firm, finding a trading terminal solution is a daunting task. Iconic or proprietary trading terminals claim to be “one size fits all,” but experienced financial professionals know that each institution’s needs are unique. It seems to make sense to build a customized trading terminal, but this proposal carries a particular risk for project bloat. All software projects have the three competing tensions of time, expense, and quality, but a customized trading terminal also has additional finance-specific considerations. How will the app handle security and regulatory compliance? How can the app accommodate or modernize legacy software critical to the user’s workflow? Weighing these considerations informs how a company tackles this task: will they build a customized solution from scratch or buy into a monolithic trading terminal?


The out-of-the-box trading terminal has long been a feature in the financial world, but its de facto status is no longer unchallenged. The information age has redefined how professionals expect to interact with data. The internet is on the leading edge of innovation, and open source Big Data tools and automation are offering compelling alternatives to platforms that were launched in the 1980s. Moreover, an out-of-the-box terminal is the ultimate in a “bundled” experience: one product, one price, but most users only use the small percentage of features that are relevant to their business or workflow.

In the shadow of the monolith, several start-ups have made a bid for niche mastery. By becoming experts in a small field, new companies are innovating in compelling ways. For example, Symphony, created by Goldman Sachs, provides an alternative to the Bloomberg communication network by providing a chat program for traders and investors. If you, as an investor, primarily use the trading terminal as a chat client, Symphony makes a lot of sense for your purposes. Similarly, services like Estimize and Kensho are offering modern solutions for large-scale data set analytics.  

However, replacing a bundled solution with many different apps, even if they are excellent in what they do, can escalate into problems with unintended consequences. A solution with many different apps creates inefficient workflows and a competition for screen real estate. These unbundled apps aren’t integrated—they’re autonomous instead of cooperative. In an industry where literal seconds can matter, wasted keystrokes fumbling from one application to another can create real problems—no matter how elegant those individual applications are, they don’t offer a unified solution.

The alternative is a customized trading terminal built with your specific organization’s needs in mind. Modern consumers demand a modern user experience, and that means developing desktop software that utilizes modern software techniques. However, the effort to build applications from scratch on new, “green field” technology is enormous.

Building with HTML5 containers is one technique that has proved very useful for modern developers. Containers radically simplify the process of building desktop applications. Essentially, containers decouple developers from the native platform, allowing developers to be confident that their software will run no matter where it is deployed. Because containers bundle the application and their libraries, frameworks, etc., they keep the application lightweight and the overhead very low.




In traditional legacy environments, like .NET and Java, you would benefit from graphical controls such as dialogs, menus, and windows. Legacy environments also provide an integrated development environment that magically provided stub code for wiring up those design elements with business logic. However, you do not get the same head start with containers. Feature building and data integration rightly dominates developer resources. This relegates considerations about user experience and architecture to the side lines. Too often, this dynamic results in applications that deliver only rudimentary UX and an insufficient infrastructure.

In some sense, this is okay because a cookie-cutter solution is not the modern way. Much of what makes building apps with modern methods advantageous is that developers aren't constrained by a single criterion. Modern tools like HTML5 and JavaScript give engineers complete control both over how they build components and how they look. This level of control lets developers devise better user experiences overall.

However, there is a complication. HTML5 and JavaScript were designed for a single window paradigm. Each window has its own program space. Existing HTML5 tools, such as Angular, React, and jQuery, are designed inherently to run on a single window and do not deal well with multiple windows. The problem with this approach is that it represents a significant downgrade in user experience when the new app replaces a legacy application that could stretch multiple windows across multiple monitors. Users will be left unsatisfied, perceiving the experience as inferior to traditional desktop apps.

Dealing with the difficulties of implementing multi-window HTML5 applications on the desktop was part of our impetus for designing Finsemble, an application integration platform for financial desktops needing interoperability. 

Once we recognize the need for opening and managing multiple windows within an HTML5 desktop application and the shortcomings of existing technology, we begin to understand Finsemble’s position in the technology stack. Finsemble offers a middle ground between “build” and “buy” options. Finsemble carries a smaller price point than the monolithic trading terminals, and empowers users to build customized experiences by assembling the applications that are most relevant to their organizational needs and requirements.

Finsemble provides:

  • An extensible architectural layer for managing the complexities of multi-window development
  • Graphical controls that developers need to build desktop applications
  • Ready made components and services strictly for finance

Learn more about Finsemble's powerful APIs that allow applications to interoperate inside a superior user interface.