Thomson Reuters opens up Eikon APIs in bid to take on rival trading data platforms

ComputerworldUK visited Thomson Reuter’s London office in Canary Wharf to see how it is working on the user experience (UX) of its increasingly popular trading platform Eikon, and how it’s opening up to app developers.

Following a shaky start to life, Thomson Reuters’ Eikon trading data platform is steadily growing in popularity. Now that the teething problems have apparently been solved the financial and risk department is focusing on smoothing out the user experience through extensive user testing and a more open approach to third party development.

App development suite
Albert Lojko, global head of desktop platform (Eikon) financial and risk at Thomson Reuters told ComputerworldUK that companies have been building apps on top of Thomson Reuters’ APIs for years, but only now are firms starting to really see the benefit in doing so.

“When you think about the financial technology overall it’s been kind of very closed and proprietary bundled,” he explained, “and that at some level stifles innovation.” Lojko’s solution was to create “an ecosystem for the financial markets where we could bring a lot of our intellectual property to bear”.

The software development kit is simply a case of Thomson Reuters opening up its internal tools and APIs to clients and third parties like fintech firms, who can develop apps that display as native on the Eikon screen, either publicly or to specified employees or departments.

“There’s this explosion of data, regulation, more of an appetite to do higher level analytics and machine learning. Those were all things we are investing in quite heavily and the idea of externalising that to help our customers get better insights into the marketplace we thought was really valuable,” says Lojko.

Case study
Lojko explained how one customer has utilised the app development capabilities: “One particular client was generating all of their internal research and they had built an independent portal for users to access that. Then they had a different desktop for day to day trading and traditional market data activities and what was difficult was that there was no contextual linking between that internal research and benchmarking data externally. So what they were able to do very quickly was build and integrate their own proprietary research and forecast data with Eikon in a seamless way.”

As you would expect from a customer that Lojko wouldn’t even name, there was a concern that this proprietary data becomes less secure if it was to be integrated in this way, but the hybrid nature of the development suite means data never leaves the client’s data centre.

OTAS Technologies is one of the first firms to publicly utilise the app studio. Vanraj Dav, head of development operations at OTAS Technologies said: “Developing using App Studio in Eikon was painless and has resulted in seamless access to OTAS data and analytics for our customers – all without having to leave their Eikon workflow.”

Design Lab
Jesse Lewis heads up the user experience (UX) team at Thomson Reuters and has been busy testing user satisfaction with the platform, both in the design lab in the Canary Wharf office and at the client using a mobile lab.

As Lewis puts it: “We try and create an environment that a trader might have, without all of the distractions and noise and abuse and we integrate that with various sensors and systems that allow us to elicit as much information as possible from every integration we have.”

“The challenge for us is to take all of the content and data analytics that we are responsible for presenting to the customer and presenting it in a consistent format. So the idea of this space is to help us to do that. To keep, through iteration and consistent upgrades, improving that engagement and experience.” Lewis will test multiple employees using a variety of sensors, including eye tracking, across a range of devices and modalities to ensure a consistency of approach.

Lewis is seeing a change in the way a trading floor looks and the way people engage with their display: “It’s not surprising that the urban myth is you go onto a trading floor and and someone hasn’t changed their display for 12 years,” Lewis observes, “but you have the new trader that has come through education and they are so keyboard savvy, they are using tab commands to navigate every window and they never touch the mouse.”

Eikon has been working hard on its UX since 2013, when it introduced better visualisation and natural language search capabilities. The aim now is to develop the platform with an agile methodology, moving “from big monolithic changes, to small discrete moves,” says Lojko.

Playing catch up
The traditionally opaque financial sector is still playing catch up when it comes to open API strategies and UX though. As Todd Latham, VP for marketing at fintech startup Currency Cloud, told Techworld last year: “Banks have not traditionally been ‘sharers’ when it comes to technology, but as the financial services industry continues to evolve, they will become increasingly reliant on the flexibility that comes with use of APIs.”

Thomson Reuters still appears to be lagging behind Bloomberg in the race to dominate traders’ desktops, with Eikon reporting 123,000 customers back in 2014, compared to Bloomberg, which claims to have 320,000 users worldwide. However, as analyst Rik Turner of Ovum sees it: “Clearly initiatives like this one, facilitating app development on their platform, is a positive one.”

Bloomberg has been engaging with the developer community since November 2012 with its App Portal, bringing together its own trading data APIs within the Bloomberg Terminal platform. Thomson Reuters will be hoping that its own all-in-one approach within Eikon will help drag traders away from its rival platform.