Mike Meriton: The Man Who Wrote the ABCs of EDM

This year's inductee to the Inside Market Data Hall of Fame is Mike Meriton, co-founder and COO of the EDM Council.

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For many years, reference data and data management practices within financial firms fought to win recognition and funding. Data professionals struggled to make their individual voices heard, and to articulate the benefits of data management programs to the higher-ups. But because those programs didn’t directly contribute to front-office revenues, it often proved hard to make a case for investment.

As a result, enterprise data management (EDM) existed in theory, but actual use cases were few and far between. Market data and technology groups had industry associations representing their interests, but reference data and data management were generally handled as sub-sets of market data groups. It wasn’t until Mike Meriton—then CEO of reference data platform GoldenSource—co-founded the EDM Council in 2005 that these areas had their own forum to elevate their voice.

Meriton, who is this year’s inductee into the Inside Market Data Hall of Fame, served as chairman since the EDM Council’s inception, and became COO full-time after leaving GoldenSource at the end of 2014.

What had begun in 2005 with a dozen banks and five vendors, has now grown to 200 member organizations and more than 10,000 individual members.

Delivering that level of growth requires an entrepreneurial spirit—something that Meriton says he developed early on, being the middle child of three brothers, which naturally fostered a competitive nature and drove him to graduate from Yale with a BA in psychology at the age of 20. Though he didn’t pursue psychology professionally, he says it provided insights into understanding people and how they interact, and what attributes make the most creative thinkers.

It was something that would prove useful later in his career as he navigated his way to the top of technology companies, identifying the key allies and partners that would not only support him as CEO, but would also enable him to rally support behind a startup that is now quite well known—the EDM Council.

The Winding Road

Meriton’s father, a doctor of nuclear physics, traveled the world building nuclear power plants, so the young Meriton lived as far afield as Spain, South Africa, and California before the family settled down on Long Island, New York. Similarly, Meriton’s career led him through many different roles and companies on his way to the top.

He started his career as a customer executive at British-American Petroleum, before following his fascination with computers into roles in data processing and then sales at ADP and Oracle. From there he switched to Dun & Bradstreet as Northeast regional manager, where he became familiar with many of the vendor’s financial clients. A couple more career changes later, Meriton was running CheckFree’s Reconcilement and Compliance Solutions division, when the opportunity arose to run a 250-person technology firm that—through his leadership and ability to reshape its business—would become the company we know today as GoldenSource.

Then, the company was called Financial Technologies International (FTI). It was at this time that he groomed Mark Zill to take over at CheckFree. (Zill had also worked with Meriton at D&B and later at GoldenSource, and is now a senior advisor on platforms and member engagement at the EDM Council.) Meriton took the reins at FTI.

Originally a spinoff from US Trust, FTI collaborated with IBM to create the Global Financial Data Model common data language, which it renamed “StreetModel” and which it used as the basis for its StreetEnterprise modules for portfolio accounting, reference data, and corporate actions.

“The board of directors of FTI was looking for a new CEO to focus the business on core competencies and move it forward,” says Meriton, who joined as president and CEO in 2002. That year, he raised $35 million in new funding from investors and some of the vendor’s largest clients, and identified the company’s strengths and weaknesses. “FTI had a full front- and middle-office solution for finance, but it was clear that its most valuable work was its core data management platform.”

From there, Meriton opened centers in India, and expanded an existing location in Austria to be able to scale the company using lower-cost centers that could still deliver quality development, ultimately growing staff numbers from 250 to 400 during his tenure. In 2005, he rebranded the company GoldenSource to avoid confusion with other companies, and better articulate its new focus.

A Community

At a point along that transformation, the question came up of whether to set up a GoldenSource user group, or to attempt to create an industry-level association. Chairman Ray Debbane saw the potential of a broader group to meet the underserved needs of reference data and data management professionals, and encouraged Meriton to enlist key industry executives as participants—which would lend the organization sufficient credibility to grow—and funding to support the venture. It was here that the EDM Council was born.

Since starting as a public forum to address broad data management topics, the Council has expanded its remit to cover data standards, emerging areas of interest such as semantics and graph databases, regulatory engagement, and its DCAM (Data Management Capability Assessment Model) program. In addition, whereas the Council began with a rigid focus on financial services data issues, its agenda and membership have expanded to cover data management across other industries, from automotive manufacturers to pharmaceutical and life sciences, and potentially retail businesses.

“One of our greatest currencies is our neutrality. We bring companies together who would usually compete, and we collaborate together on industry initiatives” Meriton says.

A precondition for being able to expand in this way is an eye for under-served areas, and a willingness to share—rather than hoard—knowledge and experience. In that same spirit, Meriton says he believes in giving back, whether it’s as a mentor to the Fintech Innovation Labs organization, helping startups develop their strategy and technology vision (and to avoid repeating mistakes already made by others), or as a volunteer for non-profit Rainbows for All Children, which helps children dealing with the loss of a loved one.

And since the success of initiatives like this—whether in business or at non-profits—depends on sharing knowledge, Meriton isn’t shy to share the credit, citing those who have supported and inspired him over the years. For example, he highlights his long-term partnerships with Zill and John Bottega, who as Wall Street’s first chief data officer was always a key participant in EDM Council activities, and now serves as the Council’s president.

Past inductees into the IMD Hall of Fame have included the innovators and engineers who created pivotal products, and the dealmakers who shaped the companies within the financial data industry, as well as others who have created the groups that have given that industry a voice and driven standards and fostered cooperation. As one of those visionaries, perhaps Meriton’s greatest impact was being able to assemble, unite, and motivate these different skillsets to create a force for good in the industry.

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