Inside Market Data Hall of Fame: Douglas Taylor, “The Surveyor”

Inside Market Data & Inside Reference Data Awards 2019: Douglas B. Taylor, founder, Burton-Taylor International Consulting

IMDIRD19 – 29 Hall of fame – Douglas Taylor
Max Bowie (L) and Douglas Taylor

Before starting Burton-Taylor International Consulting and authoring definitive reports on market size and competitive share for the market data industry, Douglas B. Taylor had already spent a quarter-century in the financial and market data industries. And now, more than a dozen years later, as he prepares to hand the reins of the business he built to his successor, Taylor has no desire to quit the industry.

But data wasn’t always Taylor’s passion. Raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Taylor could have followed his parents into their printing business. In fact, but for an injury, the young Doug Taylor saw his future in basketball, and was such a promising player that the coach at a local private Catholic high school got him enrolled ostensibly to play on the basketball team after spotting the young Taylor playing with friends who were students at the school. Taylor made the school team, but in his sophomore year painfully blocked a pass with his hand. An X-ray confirmed broken bones that had already started to heal crooked. The injury kept him off the court for much of the year, and though he returned the next year, he ended up quitting the team.

He completed a degree in finance and “spent a couple of years doing what most people with a finance degree do”—working as a disco DJ, before deciding to use his financial education and joined Merrill Lynch as a retail broker. The selection process involved a simulation test, with the premise “The market will open in 30 minutes, and you’re replacing a broker who let the firm. Here’s his client list, here’s his inbox, what do you do?” Every so often, prices would change, the candidates would get a phone call or a ‘client’ walk-in. It lasted three hours. “I saw people walking out halfway through, but I loved it,” Taylor says.

He got the job, but after three years craved something different, so completed an MBA and interviewed with Gene Nagler, then-head of the Southwest territory at Reuters, for a job at the vendor in Houston. It almost didn’t happen, though: Nagler’s boss didn’t like Taylor, and spent months interviewing other candidates before Nagler decided to ignore his boss and hire Taylor anyway.

The result was a career that still leaves Taylor nostalgic: “I always say my worst day at Reuters was a great day. I ended up in multiple jobs—every couple of years, I wanted a new challenge. It was fantastic to be working at a company that—if you had brains and didn’t make the same mistakes—would give you opportunities to move around,” from sales to marketing and management, he says. “Gene taught me how to sell, and he taught me about the business. He was a great manager. I owe my whole career to him. Everything good that has happened to me is because of him,” Taylor says.

During that time, Taylor worked in Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington DC, Miami, Sao Paulo, Stamford, Conn., and London. But he really wanted to work in Asia, though there were no vacancies available, so he left Reuters and returned to Tulsa to work at Microsoft as partner engagement manager for a year, before getting a surprise call from a former colleague who he had helped get a job as MD of Korea at Reuters, and who was now at Thomson Financial, which needed a head of product and marketing in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was not only “The best place I’ve ever lived,” according to Taylor; it also sowed the seeds of what would ultimately become the business that made him famous. At Thomson, his remit was to triple the vendor’s business in Asia from $70 million to $200 million in five years across its investment management, investment banking, institutional equities, and retail wealth management. Taylor was responsible for these areas, and for product development and marketing.

“To deliver on that strategy, I needed … to understand how big the market data space was, our competitors and whether they were doing a good or bad job, and to know the needs of all customers. So I got a budget of $100,000 and I hired research firms to get answers, Taylor says. He knew what Thomson’s numbers in the region should be based on Reuters’ competitive analysis, and when the research came back, it was “just plain wrong,” he says. “So I sat down with the head of sales in London and my marketing manager, and we came up with a plan to do this research internally via a series of 1,500 30-minute interviews. Then we took the data and broke it down by country, competitor, user type and data type, and made heatmaps of what each user needed in each country and how they rated each competitor—so that if you were building a product for an investment manager in Japan, it needed to include X, and we would know which competitors were bad at that.”

The result was half inch-thick blue books that became the bible of the vendor’s sales strategy in the region. “Management loved them, and we got the investment to build products that would get us to $200 million,” he says. But the jubilation was short-lived: new management replaced Taylor’s boss, and Talyor followed shortly after.

“So I’m sitting there in Hong Kong, thinking about how I’m going to support my wife and daughter, and I thought, all that work I did on the survey—there must be plenty of businesspeople looking for that information on where to invest to get a better return for their company. And so in 2006 I started Burton-Taylor International Consulting.”

He registered the company in Florida, where his furniture was in storage near his parents’ home, and originally planned to create custom reports for those willing to pay, but soon realized he needed to start publishing his own reports. The first was a lenticular-printed postcard that showed the before-and-after market share impact of the 2007 Thomson Corp.-Reuters merger.

Over the following decade, Taylor expanded the range and scope of reports covered, recruiting Chris Porter—who had managed the relationship with Burton-Taylor while ta Dow Jones, the firm’s first US client—to produce media intelligence reports. In 2010, he published a report on the China market that attracted the attention of former Reuters colleague Brian de Lacy, who was now CEO of Internet Securities Inc. (ISI Markets), and its EMIS (Emerging Markets Information Service) and CEIC (Chinese Economic Information Company) businesses. As per Taylor’s belief, ISI wanted his research, but they also wanted Taylor himself to define the vendor’s product strategy, much as he had done at Thomson Financial in Asia, so Taylor seconded himself to EMIS for five years. Under the agreement, Taylor could continue to publish the Burton-Taylor market share reports, but not take on additional assignments while rebuilding EMIS’ product and marketing team, and conducting an extensive interview process—the data from which would be used to revamp the EMIS product.

When he wrapped up the work with EMIS, Taylor found himself in demand in a different way: over the years, he had been approached by various consulting firms looking to acquire Burton-Taylor. But while moderating an event hosted by Tullett Prebon and Thomson Reuters, Tylor mentioned that he was looking to sell the business, and former Reuters colleague Frank Desmond, who was then head of Tullett Prebon Information, the broker’s data unit, jumped on the chance. They closed the deal within a month, on September 30, while the broker was also in the midst of acquiring broking assets from rival interdealer broker Icap.

The broker’s vision was to establish a proprietary subscription-based research business by acquiring an established brand, which could go from two people producing a handful of reports per year to five people producing upwards of 30 reports per year on different topics fueled by TP Icap data. One of those five people is former Tabb Group head of research and consulting Andy Nybo, who is slated to take over the reins from Taylor when his contract to remain with Burton-Taylor post-acquisition expires at the end of this year. “Andy is the faster, smarter version of me,” Taylor says.

But Taylor’s not done with data—even though he doesn’t know his next steps yet. “I’m not going to disappear. I’ve got too much energy and love this industry too much,” he says. “The market data space is getting more exciting—for example, with alternative data. It’s a great time to be in market data.”

  

Read more about the Inside Market Data & Inside Reference Data Awards 2019 winners

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