WorldStreet Corp. is looking to reengineer for investment managers its Web-based financial news and data aggregation and contact management system, WorldStreet Sales, with a little help from American Century Companies. The mutual fund group - the only buy side firm to take part in a $17 million equity financing round led by J.P. Morgan Capital Corp. - sees in WorldStreet Sales the potential for a powerful data aggregation product that could simplify the lives of money managers, says Harold Bradley, senior vice president and portfolio manager at American Century.
WorldStreet first launched earlier this year with an online service that combines client management tools with market information and news, allowing broker/dealers to create predefined criteria to alert them to movements in the market that affect either one or a host of their clients. At the time of the release, Michael Po, head of technology, explained, "We take disparate parts of data and associate it together so that when you're viewing a particular equity, you understand what sector it belongs in, as well as price, related pieces of research, earnings, fundamentals, all the information associated with it."
Although the focus at the time of the launch was the combined client relationship management component, Bradley, as a portfolio manager, is more interested in the data aggregation capabilities.
"As a buy-side firm, you might ask, what do I care about sell-side contact management," he questions. "The biggest issue is not sell-side contact management. The real issue is how do you make information more relevant to customers. We are customers of the Street, and what customers expect in the Internet world is...information when they want it and how they want it."
Explaining the difficulty that investment manager's face when trying to comb through copious amounts of financial data, Bradley says, "I'm a portfolio manager, first and foremost, and Wall Street turns a fire hose on me. WorldStreet is the first Web-enabled technology that allows me to spray the plants that I think need water."
WorldStreet currently aggregates data from sources like CNBC Dow Jones Business Video, Comtex Scientific Corp., Dow Jones, First Call, Hoover's Online, Interactive Data Corp., Standard & Poor's Comstock and Technimetrics.
Bruce Fador, WorldStreet's president and ceo, admits that some work will have to be done to massage the typically broker/dealer contact management system for the buy side, but does not believe that it will be a difficult process. "As we talked to buy-side guys, we saw lots of interest in our core asset, which is the integration of real-time content and, in general, all content," Fador says. "Yes, there are differences between what the buy side and sell side needs. While they may not need CRM functionality, they clearly want to see all the financial information that pertains to their portfolios or investment profile."
Bradley says that the firm is also impressed with the "openness" of the WorldStreet's system architecture. Pointing to other American Century investments like Archipelago, an ECN, and W.R. Hambrecht and Co.'s Open IPO, he says, "they are all open structures. Those that think they can win alone in the Internet space are delusional. You want to work with people who understand that building open systems is the way to win eventually."
Looking down the road, Bradley believes the WorldStreet architecture could provide a platform that allows the buy and sell sides to communicate electronically with one another. He adds that, in his "view of the world," an order management system would be a natural fit for the system down the road.
Fador could not say what the buy side product will look like, as the company has only begun preliminary discussions on the project, but he anticipates that a buy side WorldStreet system will be on the market in 2000.