Max Bowie: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Max Bowie, Inside Market Data

I’m writing this in the style of US Vice President Joe Biden—on the Amtrak train from Washington, DC, where I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity, hosted by comedian and political pundit Jon Stewart. The rally, which drew over 200,000 people, tried to combat the fear-mongering and divisive rhetoric on all sides of the political spectrum and the media, and focus on facts rather than focus groups.

I stood alongside people with a range of views—but with the common desire to get the country on track through collaboration and not political posturing, and who believe that whatever our politics, we can get along and work together for the greater good.

This sentiment is just as true for those in the market data industry dealing with internal politics in addition to the daily challenges of their jobs. And just as among Stewart’s fans, a movement is under way. Data and software vendors are creating communities of partners and end-users based on collaboration—because in many cases, they must team up in order to win business, which is especially true for niche providers.

More and more, says Michael Porch—a veteran of Reuters, Thomson Financial and Dow Jones—firms are tailoring the tools and content used by their investment banking divisions, utilizing specialist content providers within a generic container, while these specialist providers are joining up to offer the basic features one expects from an integrated product suite, such as single sign-on, symbology and taxonomy, delivered via easy-to-integrate widgets. It’s like iTunes for financial data and applications.

For example, Microsoft recently announced its DataMarket offering as part of its Azure cloud-based marketplace, where users can buy on-demand tools and content from vendors such as Infogroup, Barchart and Xignite, though single sign-on and billing processes, administered by Microsoft.

Aside from opening these vendors’ content up to a much broader, “mainstream” audience, who will be able to access their data directly from Excel 2010, this initiative should make it easier for users to acquire the content they need, without having to draw on their IT departments. Chas Cooper, director of product marketing at Xignite, says IT departments may resist this move to “shadow IT” initially because of concerns about software outside of their control or data audits, but should begin to see benefits when the minor but time-consuming requests to enable a new content set start to diminish as users begin to perform this task themselves.

Meanwhile, agency broker and technology vendor UNX is seeing similar take-up among vendors wanting to make services available via its online marketplace of third-party offerings that can be integrated into its Catalyst execution management system. “As a trend, users are looking for better integration and providers want to co-mingle their services,” says UNX CEO Thomas Kim. “It is in the interest of our community to have this access—quality products have to start somewhere, and we offer an ecosystem that allows them to leverage the investment we have made in an open platform that can expand their reach,” he says.

These initiatives are being driven by vendors because they need to deliver what clients want—whether they can provide it in-house or must partner with a specialist—whereas end-user firms might be less likely to work together.

Emilio Mercado, director at the Collaborative Software Initiative, says a major hurdle to client participation in “open” initiatives is “being able to separate out what is proprietary technology to the firm and what gives them a competitive advantage over their rivals,” to determine what is suitable to collaborate on, versus what they want to keep in-house and under wraps. “The challenge,” he says, “is getting past the thinking of why we should make it easier for X bank to do something better and potentially close the gap between us and them and getting instead to an understanding of how they can benefit from the experience of the industry as a whole.”

This is as much a political issue as those in Washington. And sometimes it is important to reach across the aisle to an opponent to make something work for the greater good.

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