MoreNotesToSelf

Technology, Finance, and Life

Google Wave is built for sales & trading desks (and a little on Chrome OS)

Posted by DK on November 20, 2009

I finally got a Google Wave invitation (yaay) and have fooled around with it a bit. It’s tough to really kick the tires when most of the people you would wave with don’t have an account yet. The only other option is to wade into massive public waves that appear a bit chaotic. It’s like when I first discovered usenet and electronic bulletin boards way back when. I had no idea what was going on and the geek factor was kicked up a notch. But it was also sort of cool. Anyway, here’s former Lifehacker Gina Trapani explaining Google Wave at W2E:

Nevertheless, is it just me, or does Google Wave cry out for a trading desk application? I can see an enterprising outfit using Google’s open source Wave protocol to bring trading communications into the 21st century. Between the persistent state of wave “documents” and the extensibility it offers with bots and gadgets, I could see Google Wave replacing many solutions firms currently depend on for internal and external communication. There are good structural reasons why it probably won’t happen, but a little speculation doesn’t hurt.

From my experience, investment banks currently use a patchwork of communication channels. Most have their own internal chat system, Bloomberg messaging/chat, email, AIM (well they used to use AIM), and the telephone. From a research perspective, notes are syndicated via email, Bloomberg, internal chat, proprietary blog-like systems, and (of course) hardcopy.

So what does Google Wave offer? From an inside-the-firm perspective, it’s easy to see Wave helping traders, analysts, and salespeople collaborate around a central hub of information. That’s the whole point of having a “desk” where people sit right next to each other – to improve communication. In a global enterprise, however, it can be difficult to achieve the immediacy market-making demands. Using a centralized waves to manage communications would certainly reduce the number of tools in use and provide a re-playable record of the day’s activity. For example, currency traders in NY could replay or review a shared global wave as they take over for London, etc. Wave gadgets could also be created for the ever popular polls that get sent out to clients and other traders in the bank. In-line responses would also help organize the information in a single place rather than switching from chat to email to bloomberg, etc. etc. throughout the day. I could see a salesperson subscribing to a trading wave (it may be he can make a risk free trade by crossing with another salesperson), and maintaining a client wave (for those who choose to do so).

For firms with strong data infrastructures, I could see Wave paired with plotting and analytical extensions that could be used to share data and potential insights. Before Lehman’s demise, LehmanLive was a great example of a firm moving to the web in a way that allowed the entire firm to leverage its data and analytics. For those of you who remember, imagine LehmanLive, POINT, and Google Wave all wrapped up into a single package, and you get where I’m going with this.

Many of the same benefits could be enjoyed by clients in separate sandboxed waves. And since firms can implement their own Wave system, client accounts could be created that access the firm’s servers rather than Google’s. And compliance will love it since wave’s are persistent (again, see the playback feature). Those who want to do something shady will probably stick to the phone…

Of course, it’s probably a long shot any of this will happen. The Bloomberg network effect has been well-documented. Everyone uses it because everyone uses it! As such, it can crowd out patience for another system. Furthermore, the wave approach isn’t immediately familiar (though I have no doubt Wall Street would adopt the technology if it thought it would make more money). One might argue that, in liquid markets, information is already traveling pretty darn fast (particularly as computers cut humans out of the loop). In less liquid, over-the-counter markets, there’s actually an incentive to fight transparency since it has a direct negative impact on profitability…though the drive to gain volume and market sustainability often drives the market towards transparency in the end. Finally, for structured products, the process is so darn long and complicated, who cares? Just tell the lawyers to hurry up!

A final thought on Google OS. I watched the presentation today and was tickled by a pointed question by a member of the audience that essentially asked “What can I do on Chrome OS that I cant’ do on a regular browser?” The answer was along the lines of “uh, nothing really…but you won’t get the really fast boot-up!” From an IT perspective, however, I could see Chrome OS being a godsend. Again, as an open source project, a firm could build Chrome OS into a netbook for use with a distributed workforce. If you are the aforementioned firm with a strong, web-enabled infrastructure (using Wave even!), an analyst or salesperson in the field could have instant access to most or all relevant data on the road, either using local storage or a wifi connection/vpn. Since all data is encrypted on the netbook (at least according to the keynote), it’s essentially worthless (from a corporate perspective) to anyone who steals it. And netbooks are CHEAP.

Anyway, my two cents…

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