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Trading Technology

11:55 AM
Ivy Schmerken
Ivy Schmerken
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The End of an Era: Farewell to an Icon

After more than two decades of writing for Wall Street & Technology, I am leaving the media brand. It's time to reflect on our mutual history and the road ahead.

News travels in microseconds on Wall Street, so it's not surprising that I have received many emails asking me if the rumor is true that Wall Street & Technology is closing. Unfortunately, yes, it is true.

The Wall Street & Technology site will remain live on Information Week so readers can have access to the archives. But the iconic brand and its reporters who have been covering strategic use of technology in capital markets for 32 years will be signing off.

Our parent company, UBM, has decided to become an events company, focusing on its portfolio of large trade shows, such as Interop, Black Hat, and Game Developers Conference. So the company is closing its three financial services technology brands -- Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, and Insurance & Technology -- by the end of the month, and our vertically focused products don't align with this strategy.

This means that after more than 25 years of reporting and writing for the brand, I will be leaving at the end of this month. I am sad to see the brand close, but it's been an amazing journey, one that I will always treasure.

When I stepped into the offices of Wall Street Computer Review at 150 Broadway in May of 1985, I didn't know much about technology, but that's what made it fascinating. Learning about the business of trading and investments, coupled with technology and regulation, became my passion. My first in-person interview was at Morgan Stanley with Rick Bookstaber, a former academic who had written a book on options pricing and strategies for investing. When I did my first story on arbitrage trading systems and Ivan Boesky, the person I called was Seth Merrin – a young trader back then who would soon found the first order management system and later sketch out the idea for Liquidnet, a buy-side-only block trading platform, on a napkin. WS&T was an upstart at that time, and none of the mainstream financial brands were covering technology yet. Of course, that would all change within a few years, as many other media competitors would spring up.

In the early days, we wrote about the IBM PC and minicomputers such as the Digital VAX encroaching on big iron mainframes. Retail brokers like Dean Witter, Smith Barney, and Prudential Securities built their own quotation systems, while market data vendors such as Quotron and ADP were vying for their business, and upstart ILX was the first to use a PC. Soon that morphed into stories about the New York Stock Exchange's Designated Turnaround System, or DOT system, and program trading. Visits to the New York and Stock Exchange and the AMEX floor were frequent as reporters were invited to the floor to learn about handheld computers and other innovations.

Wall Street & Technology Magazine was known for its illustrated covers. The first issue came out in July 1983.
Wall Street & Technology Magazine was known for its illustrated covers. The first issue came out in July 1983.

The securities industry was very manual: Customers called in their trades to brokers, traders wrote their trades on paper tickets that had to be typed into back office systems, and paper tickets littered the trading floors. Artificial intelligence was a hot topic as vendors promised expert systems and knowledge-based systems, some of which turned out to be vaporware.

In the '90s, distributed computing took off, and vendors like Sun Microsystems landed on the trading desktops at Salomon Brothers. It was a trip to Chicago to visit the trading floor of O'Connor & Associates that ushered a new era in financial engineering. O'Connor was using NeXT workstations from Steve Jobs' company to develop real-time risk management for managing currency options. At one point, firms were renting time on Cray supercomputers to price derivatives. Another classic battle was Windows vs. Unix, a debate over operating systems that preoccupied Wall Street developers. Our cover story predicted that Unix would be the death knell for Windows. Then there was the grid-computing trend, where firms were using idle machines and parallel processing to calculate risk overnight.

In 1993, I finally became editor-in-chief. I recall one of my early editorials was about Bloomberg allowing the terminal data to be exported into an Excel spreadsheet. It was a big deal at the time.

While investment banks were buying trading systems, fintech was still a new phenomenon. Since the major bulge bracket firms built their own software, vendors had a difficult time generating business. Firms were seeking a proprietary edge and they were willing to invest capital in IT. CIOs would talk to reporters about their latest projects. Yet we were constantly speaking to vendors selling software, hardware, and data.

We often reported on the feuds between market data vendors such as Dow Jones vs. Reuters or Reuters vs. Telerate. What were they fighting about then? Well, you will be surprised to hear it was often about fixed income data. Cantor Fitzgerald was supplying Telerate with Treasury prices and charging it a lot of money. Bloomberg, which began with prices from Merrill Lynch, was already a force to reckon with and was adding news and analytics. And there was always drama and intrigue. In the '90s, Reuters was planning to build a Bloomberg killer, and later it was Bridge Information Systems building a juggernaut. A decade later, upstarts like ACTIV Financial would apply hardware acceleration to speeding up market data for options traders.

As we transitioned into the 2000s, the big topic in IT was Y2K, and soon decimalization would set the stage for penny pricing in stocks, leading to dramatic changes in equity market structure, the proliferation of ECNs and Regulation NMS. Fast-forward ten years -- who could predict we'd be writing about high-frequency trading, complex order types, and dark pool investigations, not to mention electronic trading in fixed income and swap execution facilities for derivatives, all of which has been fueled by groundbreaking advances in technology. And this barely scratches the surface of what's ahead for capital markets with crowd-sourced earnings estimates, robo-advisers, social investing platforms, digital currency exchanges, and big data analytics, already evolving and attracting investments.

As the Internet impacted everyone's business and lives, WS&T's content evolved to meet our readers' needs. WS&T went online, published digital issues, created daily online newsletters, and offered webcasts, face-to-face events, and roundtable discussions. We also experimented with virtual trade shows.

Regardless of the medium, WST's content has always stood for quality, independence, objectivity, and professionalism. I am proud to have worked with some of the best editors in the business, starting with Pavan Sahgal who created the brand, tirelessly building it from startup to success, along with Elizabeth Katz, our first publisher. I also want to acknowledge Kerry Massaro, who took over from me as editor of Wall Street & Technology, and who later launched Advanced Trading, a WST spinoff about electronic trading on the buy side. Writing for Advanced Trading was very rewarding and the brand had many fans. I also want to thank Gregory MacSweeney, our editorial director who is not only a terrific editor and journalist, but someone who has courageously led WST and our entire group through website redesigns, strategy shifts, and transformations from print into online, digital, and social media.

None of this would be possible without trusted sources and relationships with industry professionals who have shared news and patiently explained complex topics to me. I value these relationships and I hope to continue them in the future.

As I say farewell, I am optimistic that I will stay in touch. My email address is [email protected] or via Twitter, @ischmerken. You can also reach me on Linkedin.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Wall Street & Technology through the years and has valued our insights. Rather than say goodbye, I view this as the beginning of a new adventure. I plan to keep writing about the industry, so catch me on other venues. See you around.

Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio
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