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Modern Java: How Trust Company of America is rebuilding with it

Applying the latest web technologies at the right spot could reap big rewards for the custodian in modernizing and future-proofing its platform

Oct 10, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

By Davis D. Janowski

I said I would publish more of my interview with Dave Curry as an online extra for this week's Tech Update column.

The column provides an overview of how Trust Company of America is re-formulating its technology platform, the first fruits of that being its new Liberty client interface.

Dave is senior systems architect at Trust Company of America and has worked with chief information officer Dennis Noto for many years at other companies.

I like how Dennis described their working relationship on the current project:

“Dave and I took a year to research all aspects of design architecture. Dave started from the web and I started from programming on the tablet. If you pictured each of us at opposite ends of a rope, we worked towards the middle to build the best possible enterprise stack with the ability to build JSF [Java Server Faces] views for any size display.”

Viewed on an Andorid tablet, this is a typical log-in screen. Trust advisers will offer clients the application but customized with their own firm's logo.
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Viewed on an Andorid tablet, this is a typical log-in screen. Trust advisers will offer clients the application but customized with their own firm's logo. (Courtesy Trust Company of America)

Dennis sincerely believes that with the project, his team has taken Model View Presenter techniques “to the next level.”

And being given a pretty free hand in how to do that got Dave Curry excited.

“One of the things that attracted me to this position was that they were totally revamping their user facing interface and that is something someone like me seldom gets to do,” he said.

He explained that at many big companies, especially those with a lot in the way of legacy systems, all an architect usually gets to do is go in and try to “bolt something on.”

“Here we had the executive backing to take the core backend systems and integrate them in a way that takes advantage of the trends we see in technology,” added Mr. Curry.

He explained that it made the most sense, especially because TCA is a relatively small organization, to take what they could of current Java standards and apply them as productively as possible.

Overview page for the fictional client James Smith. Having downloaded and logged into the Android tablet version of Trust's Liberty interface application, Mr. Smith will first see the overview page of his accounts. The other tabs to the top right (Holdings, Performance, Transactions, etc.) provide plenty of additional information.
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Overview page for the fictional client James Smith. Having downloaded and logged into the Android tablet version of Trust's Liberty interface application, Mr. Smith will first see the overview page of his accounts. The other tabs to the top right (Holdings, Performance, Transactions, etc.) provide plenty of additional information. (Courtesy Trust Company of America)

Only four or five years ago, developers really needed to rely on a pretty fat graphical user interface to make the most of Java.

In other words to do something that is fairly simple today, hovering over a field and getting a popup of a data point for example, required lots and lots of complex code that only a handful of developers, if any, at a particular company might really understand.

This meant that developing thick, data-rich interfaces was a slow-going slog of a process and required staffers (or outside firms) with a lot of expertise to build them.

“The first generation took a rocket scientist to figure out but in subsequent generations you can take componentized pieces of open source code and do very dynamic things,” Mr. Curry said.

Cumulative one-year time weighted return on Mr. Smith's portfolio, one of many views that can be seen with a little sliding of the cursor (note notch/arrow pointing into
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Cumulative one-year time weighted return on Mr. Smith's portfolio, one of many views that can be seen with a little sliding of the cursor (note notch/arrow pointing into "1-year" of the left column). (Courtesy Trust Company of America)

Intersecting with the trend of more simplified development components the last few years has been an explosion in the power of mobile devices. With that explosion the expectations of consumers has risen as well --- they want to do much more with their devices.

That provided Trust with the impetus to architect its systems in such a way that would not rely on any particular device or web browser.

They would do this, not by building applications for each popular operating system but instead by incorporating the latest in Java web services.

Doing so, the logic holds, will allow consumers or advisers to see the pages by using any advanced and current browser on any device.

View of all Mr. Smith's transactions over the last 30 days; note the several views by type one can see by simply moving the cursor. Again, all in real time over the web on a tablet.
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View of all Mr. Smith's transactions over the last 30 days; note the several views by type one can see by simply moving the cursor. Again, all in real time over the web on a tablet. (Courtesy Trust Company of America)

Java web frameworks, modern standards like HTML5, browser-side frameworks, the ability to create an engaging user experience using web technologies, that's really what we saw as an opportunity here,” he said.

In other words, relying on mainstream, off-the-shelf, open source technologies to re-build its device-agnostic user interfaces and then combining that with the core books and records system Trust already had...[to be continued]

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