Companies

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NetDania

The best alternative to expensive legacy systems for trading, news and analysis

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TTMzero

Fully digitized RegTech and capital markets software solutions

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FairXchange

State-of-the-art analytical tools for trading firms

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Athena Systems

Workflow automations for buy-side participants

Products

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OneChart

The ultimate charting framework for desktop and mobile applications

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Social Charts

Interactive client engagement tool that engages clients in conversation internally and online

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NetStation

User-friendly information and analysis terminal, deployable in multiple roles, including trading

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Data Feeds & APIs

Multiple APIs designed to ensure low latency and minimum resource usage

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Fair Value Pricing

Independent fair value pricing for added transparency where current prices are not readily available

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Evaluated Real-Time Market Data

Independent real-time market data feeds at a fraction of the cost

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Key Figures and Risk Indicators

Precise indications of the risk and return probabilities for financial products

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Financial Instruments Automation Platform

Reliable and cost-effective digitization process for securities and OTC trades

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Liquidity Management

Unparalleled insight into your trading with data visualization

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Spark OMS

Highly flexible Investment Management System

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Spark Risk

Manage your risk needs on a central platform

Did you know you can save 90% on market data?

Take a look at the “Definitive guide to Evaluated Real-Time Prices” to discover how you can save costs today.

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Legacy systems explained

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Every industry, including fintech, is seeing a rapid pace of technological innovation. New apps, tools, and services are launched on a daily basis. Yet it's still common for modern financial services companies to rely on legacy systems for core business functions.

While legacy technology can often serve its original purpose for many years, it becomes increasingly out of touch with emerging tools, processes, and regulations.

As such, banks and other financial institutions must eventually face the tough decision of whether and how to move away from a legacy setup.

What is a legacy system?

A legacy system is any hardware or software that continues to be used by an organization despite becoming outdated. Typically, the system is outdated when it either relies on obsolete coding practices, is no longer patched to keep up with modern tech, or has simply stopped evolving its functionality.

How long does legacy technology last?

There's no set time period that defines when a tool is considered a legacy platform. A lot of modern software has a relatively short life cycle of only several years, but older legacy systems can often stick around for much longer.

Within the banking sector, it's not out of the ordinary to see legacy IT tools that have been in operation for over three decades. Perhaps the most classic legacy system example is the continued reliance of many banks on software created using the COBOL programming language. Despite dating back to 1959, COBOL was still being used by over 40% of US banks in the early 2020s.

Who uses legacy systems?

You'll most often find outdated systems in larger organizations with complex internal structures and rigid work processes. This includes government agencies and traditional financial institutions like banks.

This begs the question: Why do so many still rely on decades-old legacy technology in the age of hyper-fast innovation? 

Reasons for keeping legacy IT

There are several explanations for why a company may choose to keep an outdated legacy setup.

1. Short-term reliability

The truth is, older systems may adequately perform their intended functions decades down the line. So organizations adopt the "If it ain't broken, don't fix it" mentality and continue to maintain them.

2. Custom-built solutions

Older legacy platforms are often carefully tailored to the exact needs of a company. As such, the company may feel it can never replicate the same functionality with modern third-party tools.

3. Upfront switching costs

Here's a paradox: Maintaining a legacy system can burn through 80% of a company's entire IT budget. But the fear of a costly transition is keeping companies from switching to more modern and effective solutions.

4. Upgrade complexity

Unfortunately, upgrading to an up-to-date setup isn't always a simple task. It's a matter of more than just buying the perfect 1-to-1 replacement tool off the shelf. Transitions at this scale require significant upfront planning and involve many internal stakeholders.

5. Internal reluctance

All of the above can create a natural pushback at all levels of the organization.

Management may be hesitant to embark on a costly and complicated project that might not yield clear benefits in the immediate future. Employees who rely on existing software may fear having to retrain themselves and learn new ways of working.

Problems with legacy systems

As tempting as it is to simply do nothing and keep a legacy tool around forever, this isn't sustainable in the long run. Outdated technology comes with numerous downsides.

1. Long-term costs

We've already mentioned how legacy systems can eat up about 80% of your IT budget. That's only part of the picture. Keeping legacy systems around comes with lots of additional hidden costs related to poor user experience, downtime, and more.

And these costs only grow over time. In the worst case—such as If your software relies on obsolete programming—you'll eventually run out of experts capable of maintaining your setup.

2. Limited integration

Modern software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are designed from the outset to work with other third-party tools. In fact, effortless integration with existing products is often one of their key selling points.

The same can't be said about legacy systems, which were built long before the emergence of modern apps. As such, they aren't equipped to "talk" to other tools and offer limited integration at best. This leads to a related issue…

3. Data and process silos

Because they don't integrate, legacy tools are usually unable to pass data on to the rest of your IT ecosystem without cumbersome workarounds. This results in siloed data and process inefficiencies.

4. Lack of compliance

The legal environment in which banks and other financial institutions operate has changed dramatically in recent years. Regulations like the GDPR place an added burden on companies to ensure compliance. Most legacy tools are simply not equipped to deal with this new reality.

5. Security concerns

Similarly, modern banks face a number of vulnerabilities and cyber threats that didn't even exist back when legacy software was first designed. Outdated tools are therefore ill-equipped to address any potential security breaches.

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Three paths forward

Faced with the above, organizations have three broad options:

  1. Keep
    They can continue to maintain their existing setup until the bitter end. But as we've seen, this is not a viable long-term path.
  2. Build
    The alternative is to build an up-to-date in-house setup using the IT department's know-how. While this route may be tempting, it runs the risk of eventually creating a legacy system of its own.
  3. Buy
    A more flexible solution involves gradually replacing your existing infrastructure with one or more third-party tools. This has many advantages:
    • It's relatively cheap to license and switch out SaaS applications. (Especially when compared to the costs of maintaining obsolete in-house systems.)
    • Off-the-shelf tools can be highly specialized. This means you can outsource development to external experts and put together a combination of third-party apps that serve your needs extremely well.
    • Most mainstream apps are designed to be fully compatible with each other, so integration issues are minimal. 

How to transition from a legacy solution?

While the actual upgrade process is too detailed to tackle here, it'll usually involve the following steps:

1. Research available options

First off, you'll want to create a list of available tools that can meet the future needs of your organization.

2. Vet and select your tools

Once you have your shortlist, you'll narrow it down to the final mix based on factors like compatibility with your current setup, costs, ease of use, customer reviews, and so on.

3. Implementation

This is where the heavy lifting happens. You can't just unplug your outdated platform and switch over to a shiny new one overnight.

Legacy system migration is a multi-stage process that can take months or even years, depending on complexity. There's likely to be a "hybrid" period where parts of the old system coexist with new applications.

4. Onboarding and staff training

Finally, you'll need to modify or reinvent your existing internal processes to be in sync with the new software. This will involve onboarding and training for employees who work with the tools on a daily basis.

Partnering for success

The above process may seem overwhelming, which helps to explain why so many legacy platforms still exist.

Thankfully, it's possible to get help. There's a growing number of fintech companies that specialize in helping others modernize their tech stack. They can research and vet third-party tools on your behalf, play an advisory role during your migration, and more. Some of them even offer complete fintech ecosystems that can serve as a one-stop shop for the majority of your organization's requirements.

So instead of scouring the market on your own, it may be beneficial to partner up and make the transition from a legacy setup a lot more effortless.

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