What kind of tools / apps do you wish existed in the industry?

0to100's picture
Rank: Baboon | 139

Hey WSO monkeys,

I'm taking a 2 month break from work (unlimited PTO perks!) and as a software developer, I am looking for side projects to work on to keep my skills sharp. I wanted to get a survey on what kind of small tools you all wish existed within the financial services industry. If any of these end up being a good fit, perhaps it can be a win / win for us. You get something that makes your job easier, i get to relive my college days when i was more into finance over tech.

You can read some of my background here if you'd like.
One of the big signs for me to switch into tech was when I automated a bunch of my work as an IBD intern and the VP came over and asked me to stop coding and do my actual job. Excel modeling is pretty much a watered down version of programming, and I was that monkey intern who memorized IRR tables and built reversible LBO models with all the extra bells and whistles. But I had to make a call, and after all these years in tech I still enjoy thinking about the technical aspects in finance. I have a decent command of financial concepts still (CFA lvl 1) and the project would have to use publicly available data. Hopefully we can focus more on analytic tools that are fun to think about and not just scrubbing comps.

Who knows, maybe we can build the next addepar or kensho.


Comments (26)

Jan 17, 2019

To get the discussion started. Maybe some kind of excel / email plugin? a visualization you'd like to see? something to help you parse 10-ks faster? Or a way to help you prep for interviews?

Jan 17, 2019

Well.. show something

Jan 17, 2019

Something that will teach my clients how to organize their shit and use excel.

Jan 25, 2019

This might be the strongest idea on here

Jan 17, 2019

here is an idea

Use auto-keras (and maybe PyTorch for another try) in python to implement/train a neural network to find 3-4 intraday local highs and local lows, every day in security price data from 1 minute (or maybe 5 minute) candlestick data (open, high, low, close), and do it in a way that makes sense when looking at the chart visually (ie, don't sell the high of the day when that happens at the end of the day AND the market price keeps going higher the next day).

2 steps for this project

1) take the input data (date-time, open, high, low, close, volume traded in the candle), and output the local highs/local lows, for training purposes
2) setup, train, output the neural net, so that it can be used on live market data.

generalize the code so that other people (ok, me) can use it on different data sets.

just google it...you're welcome

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Jan 17, 2019

an easy, one button, non-janky keyboard remapping application to for a macbook/MacBook Pro that is boot camped.

excel on Mac awe-inspiringly bad; it's still just as bad when the Mac is bootcamped because the keyboard mapping is weird.

if more firms are moving towards VPN, rather than issuing laptops, this would be helpful for people who own apple computers.

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Jan 17, 2019

Is the "badness" just the keyboard shortcuts?

I'm a former finance guy turned developer and primarily use a Mac now, but keep a Windows machine around just for Excel. When I have to do some quick spreadsheet work on my Mac I use Google Sheets but it's not the best.

Jan 17, 2019

Primarily the shortcuts - not having the alt key for the ribbon shortcut is pretty annoying. That adds a significant amount of time and if people are going to be working on the go, I imagine it'd helpful to have a remap function. Maybe FactSet could build something into their plugin - something similar to disabling the F1 key?

Sheets is ok, but I've found it crashes more than Excel. There were a couple other things that I didn't like about it, but like you said - it's not the best, but it gets basic spreadsheet work accomplished.

Jan 24, 2019

Have you tried Karabiner? I find that works quite well once you have profiles set up, especially if you get an external windows keyboard and connect that to your mac

Most Helpful
Jan 17, 2019

Also a former finance guy turned dev, though I actually spent a few years in the field before making the transition to tech.

I've thought quite a bit about potential tools / products for the finance space. Initially I was focused on analytical tools. I actually built a simple SaaS app that generated LBO models. You basically input a few assumptions and you get returns and a nice little chart with a breakdown of return sources. I showed it to a few of my finance buddies, and the reaction was pretty lukewarm. They didn't really like the idea of turning their Excel spreadsheets into some blackbox in a web app. Probably explains why no one else has really made a product along these lines. Finance pros want to audit and play with the calculations, and most calcs are simple enough you don't really need a full blown modeling app to handle things. Plus Excel is a pretty amazing piece of software, so probably not smart to try and "replace" it.

I also thought about the presentation side, but again, the feedback I get is that people want control, and PowerPoint with some templates works just fine for decks. This company took a pretty solid crack at this problem, but from the looks of things it didn't ultimately pan out.

The areas that I think show some promise are on the reporting side, the marketing side, and the process management side. To that end, here are a few ideas I've kicked around:

  • Audit tracker: An app that links source docs (e.g. financial statements, SEC filings, bank statements) to numbers in your spreadsheet and stores the source docs for easy reference. No more "where did this number come from" moments.
  • Standardized financial reports: Integrates with Quickbooks or NetSuite or whatever ERP a company is using and generates PE friendly fins (e.g. include EBITDA, cash flow metrics, covenant calcs), KPIs, and budget / actual tracking. Keeps everything organized in a web / mobile interface so anyone in the firm can quickly pull up port co XYZ's fins ahead of an LP meeting or investment committee presentation.
  • PE / banking CRM: Seems like most people use plain Excel spreadsheets or Salesforce, both of which aren't really fun to use. This CRM would have a dashboard with industry updates and specific inputs for financials, sector, M&A activity etc. Also a modern, non-enterprise bloated interface.
  • Document management / admin stuff: There's a lot of wasted time on things like preparing boilerplate docs, getting signatures, and tracking things like option grants. There are some companies already making headway here: HelloSign on the docs side and Carta on the cap table / equity management side, but I still think there's room for other similar products tailored to the finance / PE space.
  • Deal tracker: An app to manage buyer lists, working group lists, timelines, schedules, diligence status, etc.

None of these are really side projects per say, but curious what you think OP, and also for the finance pros out there, do any of these sound interesting?

Jan 18, 2019

i dont know -- some of these tools seem like they're replacement for the 'grunts', which is how most of the people got their starts. by automating the processes you're essentially replacing them. even the old timers don't want to be the one digging their juniors' graves.

Jan 24, 2019

Even junior guys' time would be better spent putting together decks and building models instead of creating working group lists and adding EBITDA to the port co's monthly reporting package over and over.

Jan 24, 2019

The CRM idea could have some serious legs. I know some VPs+ that would go out of pocket to simplify their lives in this way.

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Jan 24, 2019

Good to know. Any particular features you can think of off the top of your head that would be especially compelling?

Jan 28, 2019

The audit tracker already exists. I cant recall the name, but I used it during my audit internship

Jan 18, 2019

Currenrly we probably spend 85% of time gathering data insteading of analyzing data, albeit have moved from flipping through K/Q printed on paper to clicking on a # that can be auto-traced back to the filings.

But, coming up with a graph that shows revenue growth or EBITDA margin trends + some commentary on performance / deviation is more of presenting facts than genuine analysis.

Prefer to get down to the fundamental drivers in terms of unit pricing/economics and volume, etc and related up/down-stream correlation. Or something more advanced like predictive analytics on the potential impact from recent weather conditions to crop yields would certainly add value and depth to the traditional means of analysis that everyone on the street knows how to do.

So any tech/app that would expedite the data gathering part would be a huge productivity booster.

Jan 24, 2019

True, but there's a distinction to be made between tools that automate rote processes (logos, WGLs, etc) and tools that automate data collection and analysis. Gathering and inputting company financials is, IMO, kind of like taking notes in college. The process of writing important things down was critical to remembering and understanding them. Which you wouldn't get if someone else had done it for you.

Jan 23, 2019

Would you say an experienced Excel user, who builds models and diagnoses any problems, is akin to a novice software engineer? Not saying the languages are similar but just curious if the skills would be somewhat of an indication of success in the SE world

Jan 24, 2019

There definitely is some overlap in terms of approach and thought process. I initially had my "spark" for software engineering from building models in Excel.

I think the type of Excel user / model builder that would really like / do well in software engineering is someone that really likes the modeling itself, independent of the financial analysis.

In other words, if you're the type of person that gets a kick out of creating a complex control page that can run multiple scenarios by changing just a few inputs, you worry a lot about the proper data "flow" of your model, you can't stand it when people insert hardcodes in random places, you set up multiple error checks throughout your model, and you tend to venture outside of the standard VLOOKUP, CHOOSE, and IF functions, you'd probably like software development, and be able to pick it up just fine.

However, it will take awhile to get good. There's a lot to learn. It's also a pretty big shift to go from a visual "coding" environment like Excel to one that is pure text and requires you to basically construct the outputs in your head.

Jan 23, 2019

There are some smaller products in the space:

  • BamSEC
  • Macabacus (the OG)
  • Logointern
  • Working group list company

Still pretty shocking relative to other industries how little innovation there is. I think the ideas @labanker laid out all have merit

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Jan 24, 2019

Logointern is the best

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Jan 24, 2019

Yeah manually making logo slides is just about the worst use of human capital that I could imagine

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Jan 25, 2019

This is good list. Bamsec and logointern save so much time

Jan 24, 2019
Sep 6, 2019