IMD Hall of Fame: Ben Mendoza, Chairman, MDSL

IMD/IRD Awards 2018

IMD/IRD Awards 2018 – 21
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Convention says you should strike out on your own and follow your dreams wherever they lead you. For Ben Mendoza, founder and chairman of data inventory and cost management platform vendor MDSL, pursuing his musical dream led to him becoming an unexpected ‘rock star’ of market data management.

Mendoza’s claim to fame is building the first automated platform for managing financial firms’ inventory of market data assets, the Market Data Manager—or MDM—system. But that wasn’t how he originally envisaged finding fame: back when he had long hair, Mendoza left school in Dartford, Kent, in the UK at 16 to play guitar in a rock band. The band’s drummer, a technical officer at Post Office Telecom (now British Telecom), secured an apprenticeship for Mendoza, who then went on to college to study electronics, figuring he could always use the telecoms skills to tinker with amplifiers and guitar effects pedals. But it started Mendoza on a path that led to Marconi and to working on oil rigs for Marathon Oil. It was there he realized everyone around him was a contractor, all living “wonderful lifestyles,” and decided he’d be better off working for himself.

So he started his own network engineering company, Digital Networks International (DNI), which exposed him to the world of investment banks and trading floors. “When they built all the new buildings along Broadgate in London, I was a consultant to design and install distribution networks for trading floors at Shearson Lehman Brothers. Around 1986, we put more than
200 miles of cable into One Broadgate,” he says.

DNI carried out similar jobs for institutions around London over the next few years, but October 19, 1987—what we know now as Black Monday—saw a shift from big implementation projects into maintenance mode. “We found ourselves doing more helpdesk and service tasks, and we needed a way to track those calls. I was a keen hobbyist programmer, and I wrote a piece of software called Helpdesk Expense. We sold it to numerous firms, but then we started to get inquiries asking whether the software could do more.”

Since the software had a strong inventory management component, firms wanted to use it to understand not just what hardware traders were using, but how much they were using it, as well as their individual costs. As fate would have it, Mendoza was looking for a change, so left DNI—which continued separately—and in 1995 used the concept of Helpdesk Expense to found MDSL, creating a directory of services, contracts, costs, users and desk-level groups to create the MDM tool. MDM made it easier for firms to validate or challenge costs, and spot errors or opportunities to reduce them.

“We started from making sure we knew who was using what, and making sure they got charged fairly—so, not just dividing costs between the number of users, but attributing costs based on usage, asset classes, and so on,” Mendoza says. “MDM then got into adjacent areas such as managing change processes, onboarding new users, and reassigning existing accesses rather than ordering new ones. If you have thousands of traders, it’s important to keep on top of that—it’s very easy to fall behind.”

Another adjacent area MDSL branched out to was telecoms expense management—initially to monitor traders’ telecoms costs, but extending to companies outside finance—with a telecoms-focused version of MDM, dubbed Telecom Expense Manager. This business line eventually led to last year’s buyout by private equity firm Sumeru Equity Partners, which merged MDSL with another telecoms expense management company, Telesoft, under the MDSL brand. 

“In the nine months since the deal, we’ve seen an uptick in new business on the telecoms side,” he says. “The challenge before this deal was that we couldn’t scale fast enough organically to keep pace with the opportunities presenting themselves.”

Now the company that Mendoza started in his attic with five employees has grown to around 400 in total, including Telesoft staff and new hires since the deal—mostly in its telecoms business, although Mendoza says the vendor remains committed to its market data clients. And, in the spirit of the IMD Hall of Fame, he says the focus is always first and foremost on the customer. “Our aim is to make them successful. We become successful as a by-product of that.” 

 

Read more about the IMD/IRD Awards 2018 winners

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