At Ironfly, we believe that a cross-disciplinary approach to research and development is the difference between incremental improvement and leaps forward in progress. By merging the latest research in cognition and neuroscience with the latest advancements in technology, we have created systems that not only function better, but actively support and enhance your performance in capital markets.

 

Seeking a competitive advantage

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1850's: Carrier Pigeons

Paul Julius von Reuter uses carrier pigeons instead of trains between Berlin and Paris. This gives him faster access to stock news from Paris and improves his competitive edge by hours

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1972: Hand signals

Trades are no longer handwritten and carried to the pit by a runner. Traders at the CME start using hand signals, improving their time to trade by seconds

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Today: Fibre, microwave and laser transmissions

Many of the world's most important trading routes are now well served by fibre optic, microwave and laser networks to reduce time to execution by milliseconds

 

Throughout history, the biggest game changers have almost always involved the application of some kind of new technology to give them an edge.

As the world continues to make marginal advances in transmission time we are rapidly approaching the limits of physics .

By engineering our systems differently, we've found ways to give our clients an edge once again in the order of seconds and minutes, rather than just milliseconds.


Evidence based, scientific approach to improve your response time and decision making capabilities

The difference at Ironfly is our ability to apply neuroscience and cognition to enhance response time and decision quality. We invest significantly into the research and development of our platform to make it simple and elegant, which enables it to become your competitive advantage.

Neuroscience research continues to improve our understanding of the complex functions performed by the brain. Our current understanding involves 2 complementary models, cognitive capacity, and cognitive resources. Where capacity allows us to perform multiple tasks at the same time, resources focuses on how we can perform tasks over a long period of time. The following information present the evidence and principles that enable us to deliver technological progress.

 

Capacity

Mental capacity has a natural limit, increasing capacity enhances performance

 

 

 

X = 17 x 38
Y = 3,924 ÷ 12

Which number is larger, X or Y?

 

Our mental capacity is categorised by how we understand and process information in our conscious mind. Scientific studies tell us that we have a natural limit in our capacity to consciously and logically process incoming information . This restricts the speed and the accuracy of the decisions that we make. One way to expand our mental capacity is by strategically engaging more parts of the brain, and we can do this by manipulating the way that information is presented.

 

Why is it important?

At work, we are constantly bombarded with many and varied sources of information - phone calls, emails, colleagues, news, juggling multiple projects - all at the same time. There are too many things requiring our attention all at once.

In capital markets, this is compounded by the greater volume of information to track, the time sensitivity, and large transactional value tied to each decision. The stakes are higher and the need to better handle this information is even more important.

 

Utilising more of the brain

The equation on the right is a very straightforward problem but most people will not know the answer instantaneously and intuitively. To ensure accuracy, the problem requires undivided attention.

On the other hand walking and talking with a group of colleagues is so easy that we are completely unaware of the huge complexities associated with performing these tasks. The answer lies in which parts of the brain are engaged.

The math problem is processed by one area of the brain - the prefrontal cortex - which is responsible for complex reasoning and logical thought.

Walking and talking, while much more complex (requiring the ability to balance when walking, recognise multiple voices and faces, follow a conversation, speak…), distributes the load across multiple parts of the brain. The prefrontal cortex deals with the logical reasoning aspect of the conversation, whilst the motor cortex, visual cortex, and temporal lobe (speech) work simultaneously to walk, talk, process facial expressions, access changes in tone of voice, read body language etc

 

Resources

Also called "Ego Depletion", this refers to the recent evidence that decision making, focus, self-control, and willpower all draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up, like a muscle that tires over the day. Ego depletion has measurable effects on a person's decision making that can have cumulative consequences throughout the day.

 

Why is it important?

Organisations large and small understand that resources are finite. Accordingly, they apply resource management to direct the efficient and effective deployment of their resources. Knowing that a person's focus behaves in a similar finite manner necessitates the same approach to its efficient allocation.

Focusing on a task forces brain traffic through the anterior cingulate cortex - an area dedicated to decision making, rational cognitive function, and error detection. Taxing this region of the brain leads to ego depletion, resulting in "mental fatigue" effects such as being less motivated, or having a diminished level of self control in the afternoons than mornings.

 

A better use of resources

In the same way that an organisation will prioritise its resources, we believe the same is true for individuals. We enable you as a client to channel active focus to high value activities that only you can do - tasks such as complex decision making and analysis rather than repetitive, error prone, and unnecessarily taxing activities such as sifting through data, or scanning items in a spreadsheet.

At Ironfly, our system is specifically engineered to treat your active focus like a precious commodity and reduce unnecessary use of resources, letting it be used for valuable activities.

 

A person's ability to focus on specific tasks behaves like a limited resource - applying these resources to more valuable activities enhances performance

 

 

test your mental capacity


9 ways an improved use of Capacity and Resources lead to enhanced performance with Ironfly

 
1

Visual form and depth

+ improves capacity

+ conserves resources

Process data faster through visual aides

Our eyes have the ability to perceive a total amount of data at an estimated 10,000,000 bits per second, whereas reading throttles reception of data to 40-50 bits per second. Understanding how the mind perceives form enables the generation of information exemplified above on the right, which results in immediate identification of the irregular data point compared to representation of the same data in the table.

By representing information in a manner that utilises much more of our untapped visual bandwidth, our systems help clients make decisions faster and more accurately.

 

For example: Try finding the irregular data in the table on the left vs the chart on the right.

 

Drawing your attention to important information through movement

For the eyes, the area where we see the most detail is a small area right at the centre of your vision called the fovea. It perceives an area approximately the size of your thumb nail when holding your arm out as far as possible. Colour perception falls off dramatically when you move away from this foveal region, and requires stimuli to occupy a larger area of your visual field for you to detect changes.

In contrast, our peripheral vision remains sensitive to movement even beyond the fovea. Scientifically, the exact reason for this may be evolutionary, movement in the tall grass out of the corner of your eye may signal danger, whereas colour changes rarely occur on their own in nature . Movement is thus a key and often overlooked tool to represent and draw attention to important changes.

By combining changes in colour with movement, attention can be directed resulting in a more effective way to convey information.

2

Movement and colour

+ improves capacity

+ conserves resources

 
3

Subitising

+ improves capacity

+ conserves resources

Improve your perception time by grouping relevant information

Counting is a learned activity that we consider second nature in every-day life, but it is relatively slow and takes time and effort. Amazingly we also have the ability to quickly recognise a number of objects without individually counting each item. For most of us, identifying around 5 or less items bypasses conscious counting through a process called subitising, governed by a small grouping of 80,000 neurons located above each ear. Seeing a small number of items visually means we don't need to spend the effort to count them, we simply know instantly what the quantity is.

By grouping information and introducing functional design elements, our platform takes advantage of this ability to improve the way information is internalised and the speed at which decisions can be made.

 

Reducing the duration of active attention improves situational awareness

We naturally assume that when things are overtly out of the ordinary, they will attract our attention. Evidence suggests however that this is not always the case, particularly when our cognitive capacity is diverted to engaging other activities.

"Selective attention" is the brain's ability to manage higher level tasks and it does so by shutting down other functions that may distract from the task at hand. Attention acts like a spotlight. A wide beam can illuminate many objects broadly, but to focus on one thing intently comes at the expense of other stimulus. This phenomenon of selective awareness was first observed by Chabris and Simons in their famous experiment and has also been highlighted in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.

Removing our ability to selectively focus is not possible nor is it desired - without focus we can not function. Reducing the likelihood of missing important information is about improving the speed at which we sift through information, thus minimising the amount of time we spend intently focused on lower level tasks.

4

Attention and Awareness

+ improves capacity

 
5

Perceptiveness

+ improves capacity

Reducing cognitive load improves accuracy in the perception of uncertain data

Surprisingly, studies indicate that during active attention, we are more susceptible to false statements, even if we are told they are false. The result is that when presented with misleading information, people will be unaware that it has had an effect on them unless they have the cognitive capacity to determine its truthfulness. If the person's capacity is otherwise engaged, the misleading information will unknowingly be accepted as truth.

This has significant real world implications: Suppose Jo is engaged in a cognitive task, such as searching for numbers in a list. Alex approaches Jo with a statement that is false. Alex even tells Jo that what is said is a lie. The strange result is that Jo will unknowingly behave like the statement is at least partially true - despite knowing it is false - simply because Jo was given the information whilst engaging in another cognitively taxing activity.

In capital markets we are continually inundated with data. The accuracy of information must be digested in order to make high stake decisions whilst simultaneously monitoring the information from other sources. Ironfly improves perceptiveness by:

  1. Enabling users to filter and prioritise information in correspondence to workloads, and
  2. Reducing time for interference through faster comprehension of information with lower cognitive load methods.
 

Providing accurate and immediate feedback results in better decisions

Reasoning is a key component in a person's ability to make good decisions, and seemingly innocuous functions such as appropriate feedback from a system can have implications on how we make rational assessments.

Evidence shows that information and feedback on actions is fundamentally important to how we perform.

"Imagine that you have just played a game of chance that gave you a 50% chance to win $200 and a 50% chance to lose $100. A coin was tossed and you have either won $200 or lost $100.
You are now offered a second identical gamble: 50% chance to win $200 and 50% chance to lose $100. Would you?: (a) accept the wager gamble. (b) reject the second wager."

In this experiment testing for rational behaviour, the majority of participants would accept the second wager regardless of the result of the first. Surprisingly however, a majority of participants, when not told the result of the first toss, reject the second wager even though they would have accepted it irrespective of the result of the first flip.

Lack of information results in reduced reasoning and awareness of the rational choice .

We devote a significant amount of effort and development into providing accurate and immediate feedback resulting in better decision making from users.

6

Reasoning and feedback

+ improves capacity

 
7

Risk Management and Self Control

+ conserves resources

Reducing cognitive load results in enhanced rational risk assessment

Risk management is a key and growing area of focus in capital markets. In a complex modern environment, our ability to navigate numerous variables to manage risks is supported by the ability to moderate behaviour.

Research has discovered that people in a low cognitive resource states are associated with reduced abilities to regulate spontaneous and automatic responses (e.g., controlling aggressive responses in the face of frustration). The result is that a people will make different decisions on the same information dependent on their level of cognitive resources. Moreover, they will have an increased level of risk-tolerance when faced with the same information when cognitive resources are low.

We believe that, as much as possible, risk appetite should be determined by consistent processes and prudent responses to environmental information, rather than a user's cognitive resource state. By reducing unnecessary expenditure of cognitive attention, users' intellectual performance can be lifted and their ability to regulate spontaneous and automatic responses improved for the task at hand.

 

People should be placed in an environment where it is easy to do the right thing

Ensuring that we - whether it be ourselves, colleagues, or staff - do the right thing is generally accepted as a personality trait. But evidence suggests that people’s moral compasses can actually be influenced by their level of cognitive resources.

Research shows that those in a low resource state are:

  1. More likely to put themselves in situations where they are able to cheat, and
  2. More likely to follow through with cheating.

By reducing unnecessary expenditure of cognitive attention, the honesty and integrity of users are improved.

In the context of capital markets, the implication that a person’s cognitive state affects their ability to do the right thing necessitates action. Our platform addresses this issue of improving integrity by reducing the draw of a user’s cognitive resources, allowing the user to remain in a state for principled decisions longer.

8

Integrity

+ conserves resources

 
9

Willpower and conservation

+ conserves resources

The consumption of cognitive resources results in rationing of the remaining

Stated above, willpower, self control, and rational thought are not attributes that we can simply force ourselves to have more of. They behave as part of the resources associated with “ego depletion” that we are naturally drawn to conserving, and thus we must target its use for valuable tasks only.

We innately have an implicit understanding that our cognitive resources behave in a finite manner. When a person’s resources are in a “full” state, they can perform an effortful task even if they know another effortful task is coming. However, researchers have been able to show that when resources are in a “low” state, the current task will be negatively affected when a future task is coming.

This indicates we inherently understand that our attention and willingness to exert effort is finite, and if we believe we are have mental effort upcoming, we will unknowingly attempt to conserve effort in our current activity to conserve depleted resources for the future.

By reducing unnecessary expenditure of cognitive attention, the performance of users is enhanced by the increased willingness to perform effortful tasks.


Ironfly leverages the latest findings in cognitive neuroscience to augment your trading capabilities