When Thomson Financial unveiled a customized, 1,600 square foot exhibition booth at the SIA show yesterday that symbolizes the tying together of all its major brands and services - including ILX, Autex and Beta - under one umbrella, it will present a unified front to the industry.
But the spiffy new faade does not reflect a surprise management shakeup in its sales and trading group that occurred earlier this week.
On Monday, Thomson dropped a bombshell when it announced that Lou Eccleston - a former Bloomberg executive - would succeed Bernard Weinstein, who served as president of the sales and trading group. An entrepreneur who founded ILX, a market-data company, 14-years ago with funding from Thomson, Weinstein grew the company into one of Thomson's strongest brands and into the market leader in equity pricing.
"It does signal to the marketplace that Thomson is going to get very aggressive in both institutional equities and fixed income," says Sharon Rowlands, chief operating officer of Thomson Financial, who characterized Weinstein's departure as a decision to take retirement.
Though Weinstein is giving up direct duties by the end of this month, he is staying on to support Eccelston during the transition, says Rowlands, calling this an "amicable scenario."
But industry sources don't buy this assessment. "That's corporate speak," comments one veteran, who says there was ongoing friction between Weinstein and Thomson management. "I guess it got to the point where neither one of them thought it would be worth it anymore," says the source, who adds that Weinstein and Thomson didn't have a great relationship. One sore point may have been Thomson's efforts to emphasize the corporate brand over the individual products. Once, Thomson made up hats with a combined Thomson/ILX logo, recalls the source, and Weinstein sent them to a homeless shelter.
"Bernie's been a visionary entrepreneur and he's been able to create, out of nothing, the market leader on the equity-market-data and distribution side. The question becomes, Does Thomson think he's the guy who can take it to the next level - crafting together all the assets that Thomson has into an integrated platform? From their actions it looks like Lou was a better fit for the role," comments Larry Tabb, vice president, Securities and Investment Practice, TowerGroup.
With an emphasis on bolstering its market share in institutional equities and fixed income, Thomson Financial hired Eccleston to spearhead an integration effort. However, this is not a new strategy, Rowlands admits.
For the past two and a half years, Thomson has been focused on integrating the businesses, products and technologies. "I suppose we're starting to see the fruits of our labor." She claims in the past six months, "every one of Thomson's customers has seen an integrated-product launch that harnesses the power of all of Thomson's assets."
According to Rowlands, "three key strands of business activity" will report to Eccleston: retail brokerage, private-client wealth management, and institutional equities and fixed income.
"What we're looking for Lou to do is to really leverage those assets and pull them all together in a more coherent way and to deliver a superior, integrated solution for the institutional-equities markets," says Rowlands.
Today, Thomson is taking strong analytical assets like Datastream (acquired from Primark) and leveraging those through the ILX platform, the COO illustrates. It's also working on integrating Autex, the trade-order and indications-of-interest service, onto the Active ILX platform.
On the fixed-income side, Thomson plans to show the first phase of the Thomson fixed-income workstation, delivering real-time bond prices from Cantor Fitzgerald and Tullet & Tokyo, as well as Dow Jones Capital Markets News, content from Thomson's IFR and municipal data from MMD, plus Autex's FIX-based fixed-income trade-messaging capabilities.
Ironically, the integration effort is based on the Active ILX platform and the ILX infrastructure - a flexible and fast market-data-distribution platform built under the leadership of the man that Eccleston replaced.
"ILX is the foundation of our platform strategy for the whole sales and trading group," explains Rowlands, who calls it a "highly-flexible, customizable, superior-technology platform that's great for integration." ILX already has a strong position in institutional equities. For instance, virtually all of the real-time systems used on the New York Stock Exchange floor are ILX, she notes. "We can run more end users off of a server than Reuters or Bloomberg," she contends, noting that it uses less bandwidth to deliver solutions and is faster than both of Thomson's rivals.
Some sources believe that Eccleston is the right man for the job.
"Thomson can probably use somebody like Lou Eccelston," says an industry source. "They need to be straightened out. There (are) too many chiefs and it's all over the place. It would be nice to get somebody in there who can really lead the troops and, as a general, make things happen - go win some wars."
Eccleston - a 14-year veteran of Bloomberg L.P. where he headed up global sales and product strategy during the company's most explosive period of growth - will join Thomson Financial as of July 1. He left Bloomberg on Feb. 8 after Michael Bloomberg became Mayor of New York City. Sources say that Eccelston was disappointed over not being picked to be the next chief executive officer. That job went to Lex Fenwick, the former head of Bloomberg's European operations.
Eccelston joined Siebel Systems, the customer-relationship-management software supplier, as vice president and general manager, global-financial services, but didn't stay long. "With the downturn in the economy, CRM has turned from a boom into more of a bust," says Tabb, adding, "Siebel doesn't seem to be the optimal place for Eccelston. This is kind of a more natural fit," he says.
Even so, Eccleston will have his work cut out for him. "There's still gaps in the whole offering," says Tabb, noting that Thomson has to integrate more analytics bought from Primark into the platform, as well as Technical Data and other subsidiaries. "They have a lot of assets, they're not really integrated and they're not really weaved together into a comprehensive offering." In Tabb's view, Eccleston can do one of two things. He can create an integrated product or he can acquire Bloomberg. "I wouldn't be surprised if they went in either direction."
Rowlands says, "Our policy is always not to comment on acquisitions," but adds, "We feel very good about our plans for organic growth." 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