Chief Strategy Officer
Kx Systems

When available database systems couldn’t keep pace with securities firms’ requirements for historical market data and tick-by-tick price quotes, Palo Alto, California–based Kx Systems stepped into the breach. Co-founded in 1993 by chairman Arthur Whitney, who invented the A+ programming language while at Morgan Stanley in 1988, and CEO Janet Lustgarten, Kx developed high-performance systems that anticipated the transaction-volume explosion of the dot-com era and the computational demands of high-frequency trading. The privately held company’s flagship Kdb+ system, with a dedicated computer language of its own, has become a fixture at top-tier banks but by no means a static one. It falls to chief strategy officer Simon Garland to stay on top of the latest advances in chip speeds and multiple-core processing and to ensure that Kx keeps up with the constant pressure to be, as he puts it, “faster, faster, faster.” In this sense, the 56-year-old’s job description has not changed much since he joined Kx in 2002 after working in the database search business and in risk management systems at Credit Suisse. “The big difference is the amount of data,” he says. The advent of higher-capacity machines promises to improve efficiency not only by handling more data but also by reducing programming complexity. But such gains are neither easy nor automatic for those who run these R&D races. “You don’t keep your edge with just incremental improvements,” says Garland.