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Hedging your bets…

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Hats off to analyst Aite Group this month for breathing new life into one of our favourite topics – STP. In its report on Capital Markets IT Spending Priorities in 2007, Aite identifies “a renewed emphasis on trade processing” and, while it does so with a degree of embarrassment, the message is clear. “While STP may create rolling eyes and visions of over-used acronyms, CIOs are absolutely focused on improving order flow,” it writes. “Settlement, trade processing and systems integration account for three of the four top systems priorities this year.”

There is plenty of good news for enterprise data management (EDM) proponents in the Aite report, as there is in much of the slew of research unleashed on the marketplace in recent weeks and explored in this issue. Another interesting nugget in the Aite report though is that hedge funds – long thought to be supremely uninterested in anything that happens post-trade – are also predominantly focusing on trade processing efficiencies this year.

The positioning of the hedge fund community in regard to the pertinent issues of the day is an interesting mix of leading and following, it seems. Because they are at the forefront of the derivatives business, their experience in dealing with the operational challenges faced in that world is often held up as an example to other more traditional buy sides seeking to get into the space (as it was at a recent London conference on derivatives operations). Indeed, it is in pursuit of the kinds of successes achieved by the hedge funds that long only managers are rounding on the derivatives space, and helping to push the combined notional value of derivatives through the $500 trillion mark next year, says analyst Celent.

Even when it comes to negative attributes – such as investor risk – hedge funds manage to take a leadership role, as is demonstrated by the fact that the principles for valuing hedge funds cooked up by IOSCO will have a knock on effect on the rest of the industry, with best practice for hedge funds likely to be accepted as best practice per se.

However, hedge funds also have a certain operational vulnerability. As the Aite Group report says: “Building power outages, key personnel stuck in traffic, server failures and other issues that seem minor to large sell side firms can mean substantial disruptions to buy side firms.”

And, as one hedge fund representative speaking at the London derivatives conference said, it is difficult for hedge funds, because of their size, to influence service providers and vendors sufficiently to get their particular requirements catered for – hence an initiative among a group of hedge funds to band together to stamp their mark on valuation and portfolio reconciliation practices.

One group of vendors that is getting quite energised by the prospect of a whole new marketplace to address in the shape of the hedge fund community is the data vendors. As Reference Data Review went to press, Paladyne Systems – provider of ASP solutions for hedge funds, including reference data management systems (Reference Data Review, May 2007) – was trumpeting the bringing on board of another data vendor partner, Interactive Data, bolstering its existing partnerships with Reuters and S&P and reflecting, it says, hedge funds’ increasing interest in working with market data vendors and a move away from Bloomberg’s dominance in this area. For its part, Interactive Data says “it is exciting to see that hedge funds and the technology vendors that support them are increasingly recognising the importance of high quality reference data within their operations”. Exciting indeed.

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