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Chris Cole | Investec

I studied Mathematics at university at undergraduate and PhD level and have worked in the City for 14 years. I started my career at a Fund of Funds in the Portfolio Construction team and then moved into the Risk area. Over the past 6 years I have become an IT-Business hybrid implementing technical solutions for investment related problems. Currently I work for Investec Asset Management as an Investment IT Solutions Manager in a mixed team of ex-front office professionals and IT developers.

R in a Controlled Enterprise Environment

This talk is about the R framework established to improve the experiences of business users and IT staff with regards to the R language within Investec Asset Management. R has been used for many years at Investec but over that time it has brought issues for both users and IT colleagues.

The term most frequently used when R was discussed within the IT department was ‘Wild West’. This perception was a result of users self-installing R without any central coordination and subsequently configuring their PCs to allow certain packages to work. The amount of configuring being undertaken by users was not well received by the IT team. The users were similarly frustrated with the process.

A further problem was that operationally important processes were being written by the business which were running locally on user PCs rather than being run centrally. The lack of a central R server was also evident in the inability to leverage the good R work being done by the business (often building very useful quantitative tools) and deploy R based applications to a wider audience.

2 streams of work were undertaken. One to strengthen R development within teams and the second to allow non-R users to benefit from R applications which could be hosted centrally. The first stream involved the creation of an RSuite, the use of Version Control, the introduction of R coding standards, an R forum and better IT support for R issues. The second stream focused on centralisation and involved finding a way to trigger R code in a client-server manner. After successfully delivering both streams; Investec now has a much stronger R development culture across the business and IT. Additionally, the ability for non-technical staff to benefit from R applications has increased enormously with some examples live and being regularly used.