Opening Cross: Time to Have Your Say

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It's fair to say that whenever people come together to share information and knowledge, we all leave a little better-informed and educated. But this always depends on those with relevant expertise being willing to stand up and be counted, and to share their knowledge and opinions - often for nothing in return, other than the incentive that they are contributing to the overall good of the industry.

And while it seems counter-intuitive for rivals to contribute willingly to anything that benefits the other, this is how initiatives such as the FIX Protocol came about, which has benefited the entire securities trading industry with a standard for communication between and among the buy side and sell side.

Regulators are now relying on this spirit of cooperation - as well as self-interest - to help shape the future of European capital markets. The European Commission last week published its consultation paper outlining proposals for the next round of pan-European regulation, and seeking industry feedback on a range of initiatives to increase transparency for institutional and retail investors trading equities, bonds, structured products and over-the-counter commodity derivatives.

These proposals - which some warn are lacking in detail, but which may simply be designed to not be too prescriptive too early - include three options for a consolidated tape of pan-European post-trade data, ranging from a single, regulated utility to multiple vendor offerings abiding by a set of guidelines, but specifically exclude the possibility of administering a feed of quote data. Simply put, if you do want to see any activity around a mandated tape of pre-trade data, like the US Consolidated Quote System, the time to speak up is now.

The EC's aim of increasing transparency is a noble cause: greater transparency generally leads to tighter spreads, more competitive markets and better deals for investors - both retail and institutional. And it's this same desire for greater transparency that has led to the creation of vendors such as Benchmark Solutions, a new company created from valuation specialists Julius Finance and the former BQuotes/Moody's CreditQuotes business, which extracted credit derivative quotes from unstructured messages. Officials at Benchmark - which is still under wraps - decline to be interviewed ahead of its launch, but the vendor is touting itself as providing a game-changing service that will bring new levels of transparency to the fixed-income and derivative markets.

But while Benchmark declines to have its say - yet - Tullett Prebon is making its voice heard, responding to recent claims from rival interdealer broker BGC that Tullett's brokers stole treasury data (IMD, Nov. 15). Tullett responds that it had a legal contract for the data until 2007, and replaced BGC with "superior" data thereafter, giving the broker no reason to steal BGC's data. Full details of BGC's claims have yet to emerge, but the case - like other litigation between the two brokers - could be long-running and contentious.

Another way to make your voice heard is to contribute to research such as one survey being prepared by Adam Honoré of Aite Group examining the current market data environment and budgetary issues and challenges, such as the potential for disintermediation by exchange feeds and new vendors. You can participate in Aite's survey at http://aitegroup.market-data-management.sgizmo.com/s3.

And on the subject of research, Burton-Taylor International Consulting has released its latest market share statistics for the industry, showing an uptick in spend during 2010. The full research, with additional data on expenditure by user and client type will be released in January, and the firm is offering a 5 percent discount to anyone who mentions IMD when ordering the report.

So, as we approach Christmas and New Year, get with the holiday spirit - the spirit of cooperation.

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