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Competition is good, right?

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We all know that competition is good, right? But can competition be good when you’re talking about industry organizations, supposed to be there to facilitate cooperation among commercially driven, competitive business entities? What happens when the industry associations suddenly become competitive themselves? Will it impede progress or will it provide further impetus to progress the work of these industry bodies?

In the reference data space, there have been several industry bodies, what with RDUG, FISD, Redac, ISO 15022, ANNA, and others, all vying to work on standards and recommendations for easing issues around data and its management. They’ve all got along pretty well so far by focusing on different problems and every now and then talking to each other. But now there’s a new player in town: cheeky Mike Atkin left FISD after long-standing differences with its SIIA overseer and is starting up his own venture the Financial Data Coalition (Findac). And it’s focusing on, you guessed it, exactly the same issues as the FISD.

Now both groups will be fighting over membership and as Findac aims to garner support for its fledgling venture, FISD will be fighting hard to retain support from its existing members. There is an argument for membership to both organizations, but this will be hard to justify when the agenda is so similar and will likely result in duplication of effort.

So what will the outcome be? The FISD is a well-respected organization with an established membership base and existing relationships with many other industry bodies and practitioners. There has been disquiet in recent years over the scale of membership fees (with some big players threatening to leave), and its heavy U.S. focus. But while its new chief Tom Davin may be new to reference data, he is well versed in mar-ket data and is aiming to come up to speed in our favourite topic, and most importantly, keen to succeed.

Findac, meanwhile, will be all about Atkin’s relationships with key industry players, at least in the initial phase. His experience in leading an industry body and liaising with other industry groups spans the past 20 years. And we don’t doubt his enthusiasm for the work will help his cause. He will no doubt be hoping that if he can get the required critical mass of support for his cause, the FISD may shift its focus onto other issues. We are reminded of a similar situation back in the 1990s when FISD pioneer and Mike’s predecessor Leo McBlain left FISD. He subsequently teamed with Tom Jordan to create the competitive Financial Information Forum (FIF), causing a similar stir at the time. They have since sorted out their differences with FISD focused on real-time data and administrative issues, while FIF went down the transactions and connectivity route. So while people may be keen to try to do everything, ultimately it is the membership that drives the trade bodies to the areas of business they want them to focus on.

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