Though financial markets in Asia-Pacific have outperformed other geographies in recent years, data managers in the region are increasingly turning their attention to reducing the cost of the data services their firms consume, according to panelists at last week’s Asia-Pacific Financial Information Conference.
“The biggest change we’ve seen in the last few years has gone from growing revenue to maintaining our expenses line,” said Jeremy Green, global head of market data at Standard Chartered. “Every year we look at budgets, focus on expenses… and find that if we can present context around how people are using data, we can usually reduce costs by 5 to 10 percent without doing anything major.”
Mark Bands, head of global customer reference data at ANZ Institutional Bank, agreed that simple steps can yield results. “When you set up an organization within a firm to monitor usage, it’s amazing what you can find by looking at what data you have, what you need, and what you can do without,” he said.
Green added that Standard Chartered has achieved some degree of success by marrying its supply management and demand management functions, providing a clear picture of where the firm has growth and where it can reduce services—but that however a firm organizes its data function, a key element is to have a group-wide view of all contracts supporting its data needs.
However, a lack of competition among niche regional vendors can make it hard to substitute services for cheaper alternatives, said Miguel Ortega, market data engineer at Deutsche Securities Japan. “Asia is a little different from the rest of the world, because we have different needs. There are some local vendors with data that only they have—so it is difficult to look elsewhere to meet our clients’ needs,” he said.
An alternative to focusing only on reducing spend is to lobby for more budget by demonstrating where cuts cost money, such as charges as a result of incorrect settlement instructions. “Yes, we’re being asked to do more with less budget, but part of our job is to point out the costs of bad data,” Bands said.
However, any cost control efforts must be ongoing and sustainable, such as monitoring usage, reviewing services, and having end-users self-certify their usage, and should include evaluating what additional value vendors are willing to provide to keep costs low, Ortega said.