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Hackuna Matata: A Global Hackathon for Wall St.

For the Love of Hacking

On Dec 4th, 425 software developers based in 17 cities around the world jumped on the opportunity to spend 48 hours hacking away. New York, Miami, Paris, Cambridge, Belgrade, Stockholm, Tunis, Shanghai, Manila and Pune were some of the locations where 103 teams coded non-stop for two days. Their mission: to enhance the systems that underpin the world’s financial services industry.

The mind behind this global effort was SunGard’s CTO, Steven Silberstein, who previously helped build high-tech exchange Chi-X Global. “SunGard’s first global hackathon is one of the company’s initiatives aiming to develop the most advanced technology with the best user-experience for our products and services, many of which support mission critical activities across the financial ecosystem,” said Silberstein.

SunGard’s developers chose from a list of themes that ranged from new visualization models to the next breakthrough in predictive analytics. “Our vision is to empower our customers by delivering smarter information faster. We want to do this across platforms that are as intuitive as apps, as visually stunning as tablets, and so powerful that they can handle the most complex transactions in a nano-second.”

Hackathons have become more popular, with Facebook’s being the most well-known. Just this week, launched the Hour of Code campaign supported by President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. “Geek is cool, but the glamour tends to be in start-ups and consumer technology,” said Silberstein. “These are creative times for FinTech and the key to success is to have the brightest and most enthusiastic minds who understand the impact of the work they do. We did not say anything about the prizes when we first sent out the invitation and 425 employees signed up for a 48 hour code fest. They did this for the love of exploring and developing, and because they know their work has the potential to significantly improve the user experience for our customers.”

The winning teams, which were judged based on criteria directly tied to the challenges in the financial services industry, were announced on Dec. 10th.

In Oxford, the winners developed a new visualization for credit risk data. “This visualization offers the potential for greater intuitive understanding by the credit risk officer. We are able to visualize our data and relations all at once, in a holistic and beautiful way. Plus, the program runs a thousand times faster than relational databases!” said Alan Knapman, a member of the winning team "Smells Like Team Didcot"

”Hackuna Matata”, the name of the winning team from Tunis, won with a simple and relevant idea perfectly tied to their “no worries” name: a system that locks a computer whenever the user moves 3 meters away from it.

"The two trends in finance are behavioral finance and intelligent algorithmic trading systems, which means the world of finance is moving from a “race to zero” of making the fastest trades to making the most profitable and least risky trades.” said Aditya Yadav, the member of the winning team in Bangalore. “We decided to develop Algo Trading, an intelligent trading tool using computational and data intensive processing and analysis of high volume streaming data from numerous sources to generate real-time actionable signals."

“The Meteorites” from Birmingham, AL developed a Corporate Action Risk app which allows users to quickly visualize events based on their risk, enabling them to take action faster.

Silberstein added, “We gave the winners small prizes that demonstrate technical innovation to carry the mindset forward beyond the Hackathon. We are certainly looking forward to an even more exciting Hackathon 2014."