ALTAIR PANOPTICON™ & IMAGINE – A Compelling Combination
The Imagine and Altair Panopticon™ collaboration began ten years ago, when embedding Panopticon’s dashboard tools into Imagine’s risk analytics platform created a “best of breed” solution for the financial industry. Here, Steven Harrison, President of Imagine Software, and Bruce Zulu, Director of Technical Support Services for the Business Intelligence division at Panopticon’s parent company, Altair, explain the collaboration and how it benefits clients.
Can you give us some background about the Imagine / Panopticon partnership?
Steven Harrison: When we started Imagine, our goal was to provide the market with sophisticated analytics and risk management tools that were previously out of reach to all but the largest firms. Our history with Panopticon goes back a decade when we signed a deal with their founder. Our portfolio and risk analytics were obscured by a user interface that was, let’s just say, not great. Panopticon was a small company, but they had the best product in the market.
Bruce Zulu: Imagine needed the ability to integrate sophisticated dashboards into its front-end that could support large and real-time datasets. In the beginning, data presented in the user interface was hard-wired to a particular source. The breakthrough came when Panopticon introduced dashboards that could be fed by standards-based protocols like RESTful, a widely used API (application program interface) that uses HTTP requests to retrieve and display data, and Imagine introduced its Financial Platform that allowed users to create their own Apps that can be invoked by RESTful. Together, these two innovations give Imagine the ability to generate almost any analytical data set using Apps and present that data in almost any format within a Panopticon dashboard, providing clients with highly interactive, real-time displays.
Steven Harrison: Imagine Apps can be thought of as user-defined microservices that use APIs to access all of Imagine’s functionality and data as well as a firm’s books and records. The data used by Panopticon’s dashboards are fed by amicroservice. Imagine and Panopticon work together to allow users to easily perform interactive queries involving large, real-time (if needed) datasets and complex calculations. Imagine seamlessly links Panopticon’s dashboards, graphics, heat maps, etc. to the right data sources and our calculation engines.
The architecture allows clients to combine data from virtually any source. If you want to look at brokerage fees and commissions by client, exposures, greeks, and VaR (value at risk) by account, by sector, by country or underlying, just about any breakout you can imagine (pardon the pun) – you can have that in one of your dashboards. The fundamental design inherently provides flexibility to change what you see as your needs evolve and your data expands – there is no need to re-write software.
Bruce Zulu: Panopticon makes it possible for Imagine’s clients to build dashboards to connect any data set to a library of visualization tools, which is a big advantage. That data sits in memory, which means reports are generated quickly. It’s a user-friendly environment, and Panopticon 2020, which we released this year – perhaps our biggest release – is entirely cloud-based, with no need to deploy a “thick client” on the desktop.
Why is this so important for the financial industry now?
Steven Harrison: There is a fundamental need across the industry to incorporate an enormous amount of data to produce portfolio P&L, attribution and risk analyses, and to do so efficiently and accurately.
Bruce Zulu: The sheer volume of data that financial services deal with continues to grow, as strategies become more complex, regulations become more challenging, and the demand for accurate and timely analyses expand. Reconciling complex datasets from various systems, spreadsheets, or paper reports, in different formats, increases the chance for errors and reduces productivity. It can take a huge amount of time, effort and resources to gather the right data and do the necessary calculations before you can start to analyze the output.
Steven Harrison: The combination of Imagine and Panopticon takes that burden off our client’s shoulders, and the productivity benefits are immense. Panopticon’s dashboards have improved efficiency, productivity and quality for Imagine’s client base. We make it easy for banks, fund managers and investment firms to use their “golden source” data, helping to ensure consistent reporting across portfolio and risk reports. That’s critical for many reasons, including the fact that MIFID requires organizations to have a data infrastructure that every application can access.
What does integrating Panopticon’s dashboards into the Imagine platform provide?
Steven Harrison: To fully understand what the data and analytics in Imagine are saying, you need visualization tools that can deliver reliable, actionable information quickly. Panopticon’s dashboards are some of the most powerful available today, designed to operate with large, real-time datasets, business intelligence analytics and interactivity. They easily integrate new data sources and provide flexibility for our clients to customize the platform . For example, this helps portfolio managers to manage trading strategies that include multi-factor exposures, satisfy investor’s demands for transparency, help compliance departments to monitor regulatory limits such as FRTB, AIFMD, UCITS and others, and so on.
What are some advantages of the partnership that might not be obvious to clients?
Steven Harrison: Many firms try to use open source applications and libraries to build an in-house system, but getting the data they need into a usable form to generate reports is incredibly challenging. Imagine and Panopticon manage all of this, as well as regulatory requirements, audit transparency, etc. We also maintain the platform over time, eliminating the “key man” risk that whoever built an in-house system could leave the firm.
Bruce Zulu: Another advantage that is often overlooked is stability and reliability. Panopticon uses multiple servers to make data processing fast and easy, and to keep the platform stable. We have addressed issues such as what to do with real-time data if a server goes down– how does recovery work when the server comes back up? How do you stitch things back together? Panopticon handles these things smoothly, and Imagine’s clients benefit.
What does the future hold for the Imagine/Altair partnership?
Steven Harrison: Imagine and Panopticon will continue to collaborate in developing visualization tools for risk analytics. We have a solid track record of innovation in this area – for example, we developed real-time risk and portfolio management capabilities even before many were ready for it. Now that in-memory databases are far more common, it has become a reality for many firms. Other recent innovations include user-defined alerts, with pop-ups or audible alerts even if you are not currently running the application; the ability to manipulate hierarchical data structures (add columns, define relationships across data elements) without requiring special permissioning; automated scheduling to push out reports, and others. Separately, Imagine is now using Panopticon dashboards internally to monitor data quality and we expect to expand that effort going forward.
Read the case study to find out more about the Imagine-Altair partnership.
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