Deutsche Bank is open-sourcing 150,000 lines of code from its Autobahn e-finance platform to make it easier for banks to work together. That’s a surprising move, considering the customary secrecy of banking technology (and the competitiveness of banks).
This is Deutsche Bank’s first contribution to the open source community, and it’s a doozy. In a statement, Deutsche Bank says this move is an effort to continue “modernizing, simplifying and standardizing its technology.”
The 150,000 lines of code are known as Plexus Interop, and serve as a sort of framework for interoperability. It allows banks and client systems to talk to one another securely. Deutsche Bank says: “Feedback from clients suggested that they were keen to use a standard platform for trading applications that was not the proprietary solution of a single provider. Deutsche Bank reviewed the commercial products available in the market and decided to create a solution when none of them fulfilled its needs.”
Peter Wharton-Hood, Chief Operating Officer of the Corporate & Investment Bank at Deutsche Bank, added: “We want to be a leader in open source technology in the banking sector. By making this code publicly available, we aim to create a common industry standard that will deliver a faster and more convenient service to clients, strengthen controls and reduce costs.”
This pits Deutsche Bank against Bloomberg, at least on one front. Symphony, a secure chat service for Wall Street traders, will implement Plexus Interop. “We are thrilled to be working with Deutsche Bank on the integration of this open source solution with Symphony,” says David Gurle, Founder and CEO of Symphony. “Plexus Interop represents the largest outside contribution to the Symphony Software Foundation since its founding, and underscores the power of the community and our strong partnership with Deutsche Bank.”
The $20-per-month Symphony is challenging Bloomberg, which builds a trading and communications terminal ubiquitous in many financial firms. Dubbed a “Bloomberg killer” by some, Symphony is in the crosshairs of Bloomberg, which is offering its own chat service as a $10-per-month option for finance sector professionals. That opens up Bloomberg’s platform to those who want to talk to traders and finance types, but who don’t want to spend $20,000 per year to lease just one terminal.
Bloomberg’s chat is meant for corporate firms already subscribed to its terminal. As an example, a company could lease a single terminal, but utilize the chat feature for all of its employees. This would theoretically translate into a stronger remote culture, while easing the financial burden for companies that don’t need multiple monitors at every desk displaying real-time financial news.
Symphony is a bit like Slack, which half-heartedly tried to replace email. It even looks like Slack, and has a marketplace full of integrations. Considering all the features of a Bloomberg terminal (including real-time financial market data), it seems (very) unlikely that Symphony could actively “kill” Bloomberg, although it might serve as an effective bespoke competitor.
Deutsche Bank’s move to open source is opportunistic, but smart. If Symphony continues its momentum, it could very easily disrupt some aspects of Bloomberg, which has no ‘exclusive’ on fintech chat as a concept. Open-sourcing code means developers can build atop it, and younger, incoming financial-sector talent may not see the allure of an expensive Bloomberg terminal if Deutsche Bank and Symphony can piece together something competitive.