NEW YORK, April 24, 2006 — Now in its fourth year, the Financial Services Developer Conference is a leading event for developers and architects in the financial services industry. The event offers developers an opportunity to gain insight into Microsoft’s latest and upcoming technologies for banking, insurance and capital markets industries. In addition, the conference offers an opportunity for networking with other developers in financial services.
On the eve of this year’s Financial Services Professional Developers Conference, PressPass spoke with Michael Wons, technology strategy director for the worldwide Financial Services Group at Microsoft, about this conference and the new opportunities created by Microsoft’s platform and the .NET Framework.
PressPass: What is the purpose of having a developer conference dedicated solely to developers in financial services?
Wons: I think the answer is that the financial services industry is incredibly dynamic. So many issues change week-over-week and even daily, from new regulations to the emergence of new customer channels to new security threats and procedures. Developers in the industry face the challenging task of developing and deploying mission-critical, industry-differentiating solutions – all while leveraging their existing technology infrastructure, which is often mired in legacy applications. For this reason, Microsoft has invested heavily in powerful developer tools and technology platforms that work well with existing technology already in installed at companies. The conference serves as an opportunity to bring together the community of developers, partners, Microsoft Product Teams, and Microsoft’s key architects and developers to share the “creativity” of using the Microsoft platform to do truly innovative things.
PressPass: What are the most significant issues facing financial services software developers today?
Wons: This is a great question. The most common questions I get asked about the Microsoft platform are: Does the platform scale? Is the platform secure? And is the platform reliable? I think we’ve removed those barriers as we have worked with the industry standards bodies, independent analyst groups, benchmark companies and, most importantly, with our customers and our partners in developing our next-generation products and solutions. With those questions taken care of, the most significant issues facing developers today are centered around enterprise risk management and compliance challenges that regulating bodies are establishing for the industry. Basel II, Sarbanes-Oxley, Know Your Customer, and various NASD regulations keep the industry and developers on our collective toes.
Another key challenge that developers face in financial services is leveraging existing IT infrastructures while developing and deploying new solutions. This includes older application architectures and databases, and is addressed with Microsoft’s strategy around XML/Web Services enablement via .NET.
PressPass: The Financial Services Developer Conference is only in its fourth year, and yet this year’s event is sold out. What do you think is the draw of this conference?
Michael Wons, Technology Strategy Director for Microsoft’s Worldwide Financial Services Group
Wons: This event has a significant impact on developers in the financial services industry, especially because we have large financial services customers presenting the value they have realized through using .NET and the Windows Platform. Also, it offers distinguished speakers from the industry, including our partner group and our financial services team. Developers will walk away with best practices from industry peers, the latest tools and technologies from Microsoft, as well as information on security and the future roadmap for development technologies.
PressPass: What exciting technologies are on the horizon that financial services developers can expect?
Wons: This is a very exciting time for financial services developers as we look at the future of the industry. At Microsoft, we envision several key technology trends, including: next-generation collaboration and digital rights management, information integration, Web service-based value-chain applications, high-performance computing and data mining, and enterprise identity management. At this year’s conference, we’re able to show practical implementation scenarios and the Microsoft platform in action that supports these strategies.
PressPass: Can you give us examples of the kinds of things that developers will be able to do with the .NET framework in financial services?
Wons: Absolutely. The important point to highlight here is what developers already have done with the .NET Framework and what they can do in the future. The .NET Framework is a very powerful runtime environment. In the financial services industry, thousands of applications have been developed and deployed by our customers and our partners.
Based on our estimates, just about every one of the top 100 financial services firms have developed and deployed .NET-based solutions into production. Customers include Citicorp, which has developed an integrated platform the pulls together over 270 sources of information from both inside the firewall and from outside data sources; Danske Bank, which has developed a set of XML Web services that take advantage of the strengths of multiple platforms; Lydian Trust Company, which used Microsoft Windows Advanced Server, Microsoft BizTalk Server and the Microsoft .NET Framework to build BizCAP, an automated application processing solution based on XML Web services; and Thomson Financial, which evolved its first version of First Call Link into a powerful smart client add-in by replacing the existing communication layer with powerful Web services.
Additional customer examples can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies
PressPass: Is the developer community for Microsoft increasing in size from the partner and customer end?
Wons: Definitely. The fact that the Developer Conference has doubled in size each year – and that this year’s conference sold out so quickly – tells us that customers and developers continue to be excited about Microsoft’s vision for the future of financial services.
PressPass: Do you feel that Microsoft is making strides in the financial services industry?
Wons: Microsoft is becoming very relevant in the industry. We have a strong commitment to the industry that includes more than 40 teams spread across the globe. The team works closely with both our customer and partner communities to help them develop and deploy mission-critical solutions based on the Microsoft platform.
Earlier this year, we launched the first grouping of our priority solutions for financial services, which includes a focus on advisor platforms, channel renewal, payments, insurance value chain and enterprise risk management and compliance. The solution scenarios include a drill down to more than 45 solution areas where we have worked with our partners to align their offerings into our products to help customers. In addition, we have worked to establish a common solutions architecture framework known as the Business Solutions Framework (BSF) that enables horizontal industry and vertical industry solutions, plug-ins, and standards for our customers.
PressPass: What kind of information will this year’s conference provide?
Wons: Each year we have worked to improve the offerings at the Microsoft Developer Conference based on the feedback from those in attendance. At this year’s event, we combined a series of technical tracks with three vertical tracks, including banking, capital markets and insurance. We have a total of 34 sessions that will be held over the two-day event, along with a series of breakout sessions. We will also have a large contingent of Microsoft and partner people with “Ask the Expert” badges so that customer questions are quickly answered. In addition, this year’s event for the first time will highlight some never-before seen technologies, including demos using the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF/E), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Excel Services, Office 2007, SharePoint Portal Services 2007 and new database migration tools. We will also be showcasing Visual Studio in action for Office with Visual Studio Tools for Office, Team Development with Visual Studio Team Systems and several new BI offerings enabled with the SQL Server Platform.
PressPass: Security is always a hot topic among banks and financial institutions. What kinds of sessions at the conference will be addressing that issue?
Wons: Security is a high priority in the industry. At this year’s conference, we have brought in the brightest industry experts to address this topic. We have five sessions scheduled over the two-day event, including the “Security Development Lifecycle – IT, Internet Explorer 7 Security for Developers,” “From Username and Password to Infocard,” “Threat Modeling” and “Secure Application Development (Level 300).”
PressPass: There is a lot of talk about .NET vs. J2EE in the financial services space. How do you see the platforms competing in the marketplace?
Wons: I believe that the industry has moved from a .NET vs. J2EE discussion to a .NET and J2EE discussion. We have worked to improve our developer tools and platforms, and we focus on the “and” message with our platform whenever possible. The primary message is that .NET works with what you have. Most organizations today use both platforms depending on their specific needs, and we expect this trend to continue.
PressPass: This year, Microsoft announced new versions of SQL, BizTalk and Visual Studio. How has that impacted the developer community in financial services?
Wons: It has taken the Microsoft Platform to the “super-platform” level, in my opinion. Microsoft continues to invest heavily in providing the most powerful tools for our developers and has seen tremendous momentum since the launches in November 2005. I was asked the other day why all this momentum is occurring, and I shared with my team that it’s because we now have enterprise-class performance and reliability, superior value, leadership in Web services, a deep embrace of 64-bit computing and true integration between the front, back and middle offices. That’s why we’re seeing momentum, and that’s why this conference should be a huge hit.