Instinet’s Secure Migration to AWS

Executive Summary

The speed, scale and complexity of the global capital markets business continues to accelerate. As a global agency-model brokerage that delivers tech-enabled services that span the trading life cycle, Instinet needed to improve technology operational efficiency and capacity in order to stay in front of its clients’ needs. Instinet made a strategic decision to innovate quickly, and decisively expand capacity, functionality, “fluidity” and nimbleness. They engaged Risk Focus to enable and facilitate a secure migration to AWS.

“Thanks to the guidance and diligence of the Risk Focus team we have been able to take our first steps towards realizing our cloud vision.”

Jamie Astin, Head of Engineering and DevOps

About Instinet

Instinet was founded in 1969, establishing the world’s first electronic crossing network. Since then the firm has been a pioneer at the forefront of technology in the electronic trading industry. It has been the first to market with innovative new products as the trading landscape has evolved. Instinet recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, branded “Fintech at Fifty”.

The Challenge

In addition to looking for innovative ways to improve operational efficiencies, Instinet’s growing business demand and overall increase in market volatility has driven their trading volume to levels that peaked the capacity of their datacenter-centric technology model.

Instinet had four interlinking challenges:

  1. Traditional on-premise infrastructure and on-premise infrastructure processes constrained innovation velocity.
  2. Instinet had amassed huge volumes of data over their history. Previously, that data resided in disparate on-premise databases. Keeping up with the volume of data and processing requirements has traditionally involved throwing more hardware at the problem to deal with peak demands on both storage and infrastructure. This puts a huge operational and capex burden on the organization.
  3. Current systems and data architecture struggled to scale to the volume of business Instinet currently sees, creating potential risks for the customer experience and forestalling the introduction of new services.
  4. As a major financial player and a subsidiary of a global bank, Nomura, the security requirements on the infrastructure and organization are understandably rigorous and demanding.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with Instinet to understand the specific security requirements, the unique needs of the organization and the intricacies of their global network to design and built a secure, cross-organization AWS environment including:

  • Multi-account architecture
  • Identity and access management
  • Governance
  • Data security
  • Network design
  • Logging

Additionally, Risk Focus built a pipeline for Instinet to facilitate the deployment of new accounts, new policies and new environments leveraging the best practices of DevOps and automation. All of the infrastructure and user requirements are defined using CloudFormation templates and parameterized to facilitate easily reproducible and consistent instantiation of future artifacts. Though based on the AWS Landing Zone, Risk Focus implemented extensive custom policies to meet Instinet security and compliance requirements. In addition, this Landing Zone is the foundation for a Data Lake being constructed in AWS that will enable them to monetize their historic data using new techniques in AI/ML that they are developing.

Results and Benefits

By partnering with Risk Focus, Instinet was able to create a secure, AWS environment with necessary guardrails to facilitate successful migration of key elements of their business to AWS and enable creation of new offerings leveraging their vast amount of institutional data. In addition, Risk Focus helped the organization augment the best practices of DevOps to ensure the optimal utilization of this environment as they move forward. Instinet now has an account “vending machine” to create within minutes new environments for isolating groups and activities, each with a base of required security policies that can be customized for special needs.


The implementation of the Security Guardrails leveraged the following AWS Tools and Services:

  • AWS Config
  • AWS Service Control Policies
  • AWS CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail (Alarms)
  • SNS (Simple Notification Services)
  • SSO Permission Sets (IAM Roles)
  • AWS CloudFormation Templates
  • Scripts (Python)

The pipelines were built using:

  • AWS CloudFormation Templates
  • GitLab

Learn More

Instinet provides technologically advanced, agency-model brokerage services to institutional clients worldwide and is the wholly owned execution services arm of Nomura Group. They help institutional investors create, protect and capture alpha, reduce complexity, and lower overall trading costs to ultimately improve investment performance.

Instinet seeks to add value across the investment life cycle, providing:

  • Research and Insights – boutique US Equity Research, Quant Strategies and technical analysis, as well as Market and Sales Commentary;
  • Trading Services – a suite of smart, and flexible electronic trading strategies and experienced high-touch trading teams across equities and derivatives;
  • Liquidity Venues – crossing pools in multiple regions offering opportunities for block-like execution; and
  • Workflow Solutions – offering award-winning, customizable desktop platforms such as Newport® EMS, a suite of Trading Analytics, and Plazma®, a Research Payment and Commission Management system.

Risk Focus is a professional services consulting firm headquartered in New York City. They combine Capital Markets business domain knowledge, technical expertise and process acumen to ensure the success of the hardest projects in the industry. As an AWS Advanced partner with DevOps Competency, they focus on DevOps and Automation; Data and Application Migration, Security Assessment and Implementation; and Remediation and Improvement.