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November 14, 2016

The Most Dangerous Software On the Planet?

In banking probably the most widely used piece of software is Microsoft Excel – the Swiss army knife of data processing tools. Yet as both regulators and practitioners know, uncontrolled use of Excel can bring material risks, losses and dangers. This article in Forbes magazine calls Excel “the most dangerous software on the planet” and this blog actually lists Excel ‘horror stories’ for public consumption.  

Things aren’t so bleak – Excel as a platform for data processing and calculations literally excels – there’s no replacement in sight and no better tool for what it does. Regulators and compliance officers know something must be done to get Excel under control.  Power users of Excel can use its built-in programming language, VBA, and external plug-ins to mash-up almost any complex calculation they need, but like a mirage, doesn’t stand up to rigorous examination.

Many firms have invested considerable time and effort to resolve this situation, but the answer isn’t easy. They all recognize the power of Excel but also the dangers of self-developed spreadsheets that end up bloated, perform poorly and are hard or impossible to maintain by an IT department. 

Stepping in to this situation is the APIX toolkit from RiskFocus, which was developed in partnership with Tudor Investment Corporation. APIX gives firms a route to a different future for Excel based solutions, and brings benefits of control, scalability and maintenance. Using APIX a firm can take the most complex self-built Excel solutions and rebuild them as re-usable code with a neatly defined API (function call) for use by anyone with Excel.

Consider a pricing model for an exotic trade – with APIX this can become an asset to the firm, fully supported, and easily called from Excel.  The APIX toolset means an IT team can build that pricing model on a server, allocate sufficient computing capacity to execute the code, and publish the Excel function call interface back to front office staff either within the Excel function library or as a web based catalogue of components.

APIX removes obstacles to cleaning up the Excel time bomb – making it easy to publish new functions without complex software packages being installed, and also gives firms the ability to control access to these functions and deliver them to only the most relevant staff.

The APIX tools can be seen in the context of BCBS 239 "Principles for effective risk data aggregation and risk reporting” – without a planned approach to the control of Excel, achieving compliance with BCBS 239 is hard. APIX gives firms the means to reach out to Excel users and bring them into a controlled environment, and hopefully avoid the horror stories that abound.

For more information, please visit https://apix.riskfocus.com


Risk Focus partners with Tudor Investment Corporation to launch APIX: The Enterprise API Platform for Excel®
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
8th November 2016, New York: Risk Focus in partnership with Tudor Investment Corporation (Tudor), announced today the launch of APIX, a revolutionary enterprise API platform for Excel®. Developed for Excel power users, application developers, and data scientists, APIX empowers users to access models, data and analytics APIs through existing Excel-based applications while addressing the concerns of maintainability and compliance typically associated with Excel applications.

  • Excel is used heavily in the front-office and offers a host of benefits. However, it also presents a number of challenges, particularly in the current regulatory regime. APIX addresses these challenges, allowing financial institutions to continue using Excel, but in a controlled manner.  Specifically, APIX: 
  • ​Allows for the removal of uncontrolled code from Excel workbooks.
  • Enables new services to be deployed and exposed to multiple users and applications without breaching the user’s desktop environment.
  • Improves time to market for new services, without sacrificing testing and control.
  • Reduces cost and risk associated with critical Excel applications.

The value, availability and utility of APIs in the capital markets is growing rapidly as technology shifts from siloed, homogenous systems to open, self-service, data driven solutions with access to a rich array of data services and functionality, locally and on the Cloud.
 
APIX, developed by Risk Focus in partnership with Tudor allows Excel power users to access virtually any service through standard Excel-based applications currently used for modeling, pricing, risk and data analytics solutions.
 
APIX exposes services, written in any programming language, via RESTful endpoints, seamlessly presenting these services as standard Excel functions. APIX consists of three core components:

  • APIX Templates: reusable micro-service templates to accelerate projects in the programming language of choice.
  • APIX Hub: API repository for registering, discovering and accessing APIs, based on open source technology.
  • APIX XL: lightweight, static, client-side plug-in for accessing APIs as Excel functions, with tools to support rendering and presentation of the API response.

Ilya Finkelshteyn, Head of Software at Tudor, said: “The business case for APIX is clear: our quantitative analysts rely heavily on Excel for its flexibility and built-in analytics features and they also want to take advantage of powerful programming languages like Python, R, Scala, etc., to implement solutions and services.  Embedding code directly into Excel creates applications which are bloated, difficult to scale and a challenge for IT to manage. APIX provided the solution. We are now able to access a host of critical services through a central, managed and audited repository.  Enterprise services can be delivered rapidly to the end user, preventing duplication of data and functionality.
 
Srikant Ganesan, Head of Risk and Trade Solutions at Risk Focus, commented: “CTOs and software groups struggle to support Excel-based applications.  They don’t scale well and are difficult to secure, audit and deploy to the desktop. Despite this, Excel is widely used by every client we work with. We call this ‘the Excel Paradox’. We developed APIX so that clients could continue to enjoy the richness and flexibility of Excel while accessing the models and data they need through secure, scalable, supportable, auditable APIs.”

Miriam Roiter, Chief Technology Officer of Tudor, said: “We have been partnering with Risk Focus on various initiatives since 2012 and they were the obvious partner to work with on developing this platform. We are excited to extend our partnership further with the launch of APIX. The platformhas been extremely successful at Tudor and we trust that Risk Focus will deliver the same success for other capital markets clients.”
 
Excel® is a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft® Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. References to Microsoft Products in no way implies any Microsoft sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Risk Focus Inc., or of our products or services.
 


About Risk Focus
Risk Focus is the only company to provide control and compliance for regulatory trade and transaction reporting to its clients with a Regulatory and Repository SLA, helping firms stay ahead of the increasingly challenging demands of global regulators in capital markets. With a global footprint and offices in New York, London and Riga, Risk Focus offers a full service model, from advisory and architecture, through to full solution implementation and delivery services including Trade Reporting, Risk Management and Cloud Enabling solutions.
 
Risk Focus works closely with leading regulators to provide clients with the most up-to-date regulatory reporting software. Report-It.Trade is the only suite of tools specifically designed to help clients meet the demands of global regulators for accuracy, completeness and timeliness of regulatory reporting.
 
Since 2004 the world’s top brokers, banks, clearing houses and hedge funds have relied on Risk Focus’ domain expertise and unrivalled track record of on-time delivery for their specialist solutions needs.
 

About Tudor Investment Corporation
The Tudor Group (“Tudor”) is a privately owned group of affiliated companies engaged in the investment management of client and proprietary assets.  Paul Tudor Jones II formed Tudor Investment Corporation, the first of the Tudor Group companies, in 1980.  As of October 1, 2016, Tudor’s assets under management totaled approximately $10 billion across fixed income, currency, commodity and equity asset classes and related derivative instruments in the global markets for an international clientele.  Tudor is headquartered in Greenwich, CT with additional offices in New York, London, Singapore and Australia.


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