Opening Cross: Do You Like Your Data Deep-Dish or Thin and Crispy?

Max Bowie, editor, Inside Market Data

As the Inside Market Data team shifts gears from last week’s European Financial Information Summit in London to this week’s IMD Chicago event, our thoughts naturally turn from crispy European flatbreads sprinkled with fresh leaves and olive oil to hearty, deep dish Chicago pizza pies—because whatever audience we talk to around the world, the basic problems are usually the same, defined by regional twists and interpretations of the same theme. Yeah, I went there: Market data is like pizza.

Let’s start with the base: do you use high-performance algorithms with a hearty appetite for a stuffed crust-style pipe delivering massive datafeeds, or perhaps a desk of a few traders that needs something slimmer, more manageable, and easier to digest? Then the sauce: a basic level of content—exchange prices, news, economic data—that we all agree on, with some regional differences. Next, the cheese that binds the pie together, like an administration layer, monitoring and reconciling usage, ensuring a smooth blend and texture of data content and delivery. And then come the toppings, which add the individual flavor: depending on what assets you trade, and what strategies you use to trade them, what specific ingredients do you crave? Then bake it all together, and bon appetit!

Of course, the toppings aren’t the only element that people disagree on—the price tag being perhaps the biggest problem. Who needs the $1,000 pizza from Nino’s Bellisima Pizzeria, with ingredients such as lobster and six types of caviar if a quick plain cheese pie from Domino’s or Papa John’s will do, where—like the data world—price competition is more intense? Do you want your pie fresh from the oven and delivered as quickly as possible, like real-time prices, or a slice that’s been under the heat lamp, i.e. delayed prices—though if so, make sure you read and understand the small print about sharing plates: Thomson Reuters is to start charging for delayed Nasdaq data, after initially misunderstanding the exchange’s distribution policy.

Also, what item from the menu fits your needs and budget? Are you ordering an extra large to feed a family, or grabbing a quick slice on the go? After all, with ongoing economic uncertainty causing budget pressures in end-user data departments—a theme that came up again and again during last week’s conference—some firms are looking to tighten their belts and save a few dollars by picking a smaller item from the menu. Others are using their purchasing power to negotiate combo deals that also include a soda and bag of chips (think additional content sets at discounted rates for bulk subscriptions), while others still—as described at last week’s summit in London—are looking to leverage any investment to get maximum value not just for the originally-intended data consumer, but anywhere else in their organization that could leverage the same content or technology that they’ve already paid for. You know, like saving leftover pizza for the dog or tomorrow’s lunch.

But like pizza, if you try to make data last too long, it will eventually turn old and stale. And right now, with budgets still tight, many firms are facing the quandary of whether to hold their nose and try to take another bite out of that old slice from the fridge, toss some ingredients together themselves, or dig into their pockets for a steaming fresh pie.

And those firms that do splash out some dough are taking the opportunity to review other options besides the big names, to see whether tastier deals are available elsewhere. But be prepared to look further afield for new sources: The best pizza I’ve ever had wasn’t at Lombardi’s in New York, or even in Italy, but was served to me by an Englishman in a back alley in Tokyo—which just goes to show that sometimes pearls of wisdom can be found in the most unexpected places. So listen up at the conferences—you never know who will say something that could change the way you do business.

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