The Rise of Open Source in Financial Services with Gabriele Columbro


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Gabriele Columbro is the Founder and current Executive Director, FINOS at Linux Foundation and Member at Forbes Finance Council. Columbro is an open source leader and technologist at heart, having spent more than 10 years building thriving communities and delivering business value through open source. He thrives in working with open source communities to drive disruptive innovation, whether it’s for an early stage tech startup, a Fortune 500 firm or a non profit organization. Gabriele brings expertise in executive and technical leadership, ranging from FinTech to enterprise collaboration, from developer platforms to SaaS ARR business models. 

Previously Director of Product Management at Alfresco, as Executive Director, Gabriele built the Symphony Software Foundation from the ground up, with the vision of creating a trusted arena for Wall Street to accelerate the digital transformation, engaging in a new model of open source FinTech innovation, backed by the largest global investments banks like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Deutsche Banks, Nomura, Wells Fargo, UBS, Credit Suisse. Gabriele is also a PMC Member for the Apache Software Foundation and an advisor for

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Here’s the timestamps for the episode: 

(00:00) – Introduction

(02:01) – There are some major shifts happening in the industry and all the arrows pointing to open source as a brand new way forward for this industry. There are systemic reasons why we’re seeing the rise of open source, same financial services margins. Revenues of nowhere nearly where they were 10 years ago in this industry, the cost of regulation keeps rising. 

(04:20) – So there is not an infinite amount of money to be thrown at every single technology problem in the industry. And open source certainly has had a history of reducing technology costs when using TCO. That’s one of the main driving reasons for financial institutions looking at open source collaboration. Open source provides a much larger, much broader talent pool, and allows every individual to continue fostering its own portfolio. Open source doesn’t equal free, there’s a lot to be saved, but also a lot of money to be made on open source.

(09:07) – This generation has grown up with social tools and a really different way of even interacting with each other. The new generation of developers that we see coming up comes with being born and bred in GitHub.

(11:19) – Open source is not charity. There’s an element of conscience, of openness. Everyone, and most corporations participate in open source right now. And even our foundation, they do it with a business goal. So it’s not per se charity. it’s not just talent acquisition, it’s certainly a lot of talent retention as well. 

(13:04) –The rise of open source out there and the rise of non-profit open source foundations is because open source is not easy. Especially if you’re a large corporate who’s seeking to collaborate either with its competitors or with its customers and ecosystem at large through open source. 

(13:51) – Code is certainly important. And the quality of the open source code is higher. Everyone feels a bit more accountable for what they put out there than necessarily what you do behind the firewall. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

(10:05) –There’s an element of internal and external policies. Regulated industries are very understandably risk averse, and very much careful about what degree of collaboration they have with their competitors. That’s why foundations like ours provide a very structured governance framework, conflict of interest policies, antitrust policies, making sure that it’s clear that through transparency, you can achieve a very productive level of collaboration without any compliance concerns.

(145:39) – Policies are one element. You mentioned standards. The world of open standards and the world of open source had historically been very different, but they are more and more colliding because they reinforce each other. When you add the open source reference implementation to an existing standard, that drastically speeds up the rate of adoption, and certainly the rate of compatibility, cross compatibility through the standard.

(16:25) – The generational cultural aspects include a lot to learn before you can be effective and productive in an open source community, the same way you do it in an internal project. You need to relinquish control in favor of influence. And that’s a big step for hierarchical organizations, large corporate hierarchy organizations.  But there’s also an element of code of conduct and behavior. Open source communities that are driven by meritocracy, or even by the more contribution, the more sweat equity you put into, the more influence you have.

(19:03) – Government is one of the models that we’re using for modeling the collaboration in our community. Governance and code governance and corporate governance. All of our governance is public and transparent, which leads us to traceability. Every decision is traceable and is auditable

(24:05) – There is an intention and a goal for the industry to better model the data in a collaborative way to be clear, not only to collaborate on the code itself, on the visual modeler and on the language, but on the models themselves. Create this common modeling tool and common set of data models in the hope that with common data models, we can start building on top of it common tools and common ideally AI and ML and intelligence around it. 

(30:56) – It is understandable how institutions who have not only such a regulatory nature, but very sensitive information about their customers would think twice before sharing information with some of their competitors, whether that’s because it’s a unique differentiator or even just because of fear of breaking some regulation. There’s lack of data standardization, and we’re identifying more technical solutions to enable shedding in a safe way. Big tech through open sourcing is enabling some of these better collaborations happening also in financial services. 

(34:46) – Open source can be a means for financial institutions to really have an alternative to the usual maker by decision. Its transparent nature, which is a talent pool expanding nature, goes back to traceability. That’s really a good driver for financial institutions and fintechs to collaborate in the open. Rather than having to train and specialize people in every single system that you’re going to have to go and regulate, you can build a broader talent pool if the implementation and the process is dealt with in the open.