Opening Cross: Data Is as Much About Getting Together as Getting It Together!

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This week, all eyes will be on London and Inside Market Data’s European Financial Information Summit, which promises its usual array of lively panel discussions and roundtable debates. These events—which IMD holds in key market centers worldwide—recognize that when it comes to dealing with sensitive and challenging data-related issues, the best way to address them is to collaborative with a forum of peers, whether it be one of our events or one organized by industry association FISD or other user groups.

It’s well known that bringing people together can solve problems and generate valuable ideas, but the concept can equally be applied to data itself: increasingly, value in the trading and investment process is being created not from one dataset alone, but from analysis of a combination of disparate data types that—like how combinations of vitamins are essential for the absorption of other vitamins by the body—can serve to support, strengthen, interpret and predict one another.

For example, Spanish news sentiment provider RavenPack has expanded its coverage of market-moving events by 70 percent, focusing on events that tend to precede—and hence, can be used to predict—important market events, while time-synchronization technology vendor FSMLabs is making deeper historical timestamp data available—ostensibly to support trade timing compliance requirements, but which also allows firms to analyze, identify and predict potential infrastructure issues And in this week’s Open Platform, Andrew Lewkowicz of Edgar Online discusses the potential for APIs to enable data “mashups” that open up different content sets to one another, as well as to new opportunities to expand their reach and potential use cases.

Meanwhile, with low-latency data distribution and order routing still a key differentiator—as evidenced by network provider CFN Services’ recent acquisition of a low-latency microwave network between New York and Chicago—other non-traditional data types are also coming to the fore: For CFN, this might be geographical data on the shortest route between two points, or it could include detailed analysis of fill rates across different marketplaces to benchmark execution success and improve order-routing strategies, such as the new service unveiled by Tabb Group. After all, what’s the point of having the fastest data if you lose that advantage by routing “around the houses” instead of going straight to the best execution venue?

Something else that brings the industry together are the charity days run by interdealer brokers like BGC Partners, whose Sept. 11 event last week brought in about $12 million for over 100 charities. BGC isn’t the only broker with a charity day initiative. Icap raised £9.5 million ($15.5 million) in 2013, and a total of £110 million (almost $180 million) over the 21 years of its own event. BGC’s figure could even grow if its proposed hostile acquisition of GFI goes ahead. GFI has already agreed a deal to sell itself to CME Group, then spin out its brokerage business, leaving CME with its Fenics and Trayport data and trading technology businesses, though BGC is appealing directly to GFI shareholders with what it says is a better offer.

However, hostility is absent on the brokers’ charity days, when rivals are less aggressive in their own broking to drive deals to the charity day operator, and when some service providers waive their fees for the day, sources say. This spirit of friendly cooperation is something that is rarely evident between the often-litigious and feuding IDBs, but harks back to the collaboration following the Sept. 11 attacks, when brokers such as BGC/Cantor Fitzgerald and Tullett Prebon worked together on data products to help get BGC data to market after the loss of its office and more than 600 staff in the World Trade Center.

All of which tells us that even from the very worst circumstances imaginable, some good can come, if we have the will to work together to achieve it. That’s a sentiment that we all—both as data professionals and as human beings—would do well to take to heart.

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