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Making a List, Checking it Twice

Executives are making wishes, hoping to overcome some of their toughest market-data struggles.

With the holidays around the corner, market-data executives are writing letters to Santa. Instead of mailing them to the North Pole, though, these executives voiced their wishes at the World Financial Information Conference in Washington, D.C.

During one panel, organized by the Software & Information Industry Association's Financial Information Services Division, market-data customers outlined various initiatives they would like to see the industry address.

According to a survey of 30 buy- and sell-side market-data users, there are various factors every vendor product must embody, says R. Tee Williams of Tee Williams Associates based in The Plains, Va.

Williams, who moderated the panel, says all vendors must provide good service, stable and manageable products, fair and reasonable billing, efficient global service and deliverables in compliance with standards.

Stable-element master files topped the gift list of John Bottega, product manager in Environment-Enterprise/Data Solutions in Global Markets and Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch. He says he'd like to see standard identifiers for elements, as well as a single container at each firm to hold data. "The impediment with implementation of an integrated security master is the fact that everybody calls the same thing something different," explains Bottega.

In addition, Bottega notes integration as another common challenge for achieving a single security-master file. "Someone can put the perfect security master on the roof of the building, and we still won't be able to implement it," he says. "Emerging vendors could get into that and provide some support in helping firms integrate their solutions within the firm."

Keith Michaud, services manager at Capital Group Research, says he'd like to see market-data vendors focus on improving global services.

"There's a plethora of products out there now, so we really don't need additional products," says Michaud. "We need improvement in certain ways - better availability, reliability, portability, and to be able to mix and match those products."

Strong Capital Management's Dave Van Hecke says market-data departments are grappling with administrative reporting between firms, vendors and exchanges. Van Hecke, Strong's systems administrator of market-data feeds, proposed various solutions to this challenge.

One remedy, he says, would be a widespread reporting standard that could allow firms to integrate administrative data into existing systems. "Everybody does things in their own way right now," he explains. "At least standard fields would be helpful for user or entitlements."

But the path to administrative standards is laden with difficulties. Van Hecke points out vendors don't have enough incentives to adopt them. If firms could join together to make demands on the vendors in this space, he suggests, it would encourage vendors to participate in standards to stay competitive and retain market share.

Another one of Van Hecke's propositions is to build a centralized industry interface for administrative information. "That's really on my wish list. I think we're pretty far from it," he admits.

Van Hecke continues by noting some vendors offer information portals, and there is discussion of more portals to come. For example, Reuters offers a client-administration system that functions as a portal for clients.

Alas, none of these portals are industry-wide administrative-reporting portals. Van Hecke notes, due to security and data-entitlement concerns, the potential of a portal has yet to be realized. In addition, he says, "everyone is kind of stretched" financially right now.

However, Merrill Lynch's Bottega notes wishes only come true if someone initiates solving the problems. "There has to be a push from consumers," he says. "But where is this on the priority list?"

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