For many involved in the financial technology industry, the arrival of the DWT Show is like the hearing the first cuckoo, a sign that Spring is in the air. It’s been an age since the Christmas party season, and DWT is perfectly timed for getting out and meeting colleagues in both the formal parts of the event and the following social scene.
Since its inception in the mid 1990s, the show has also been a good barometer of the concerns of the industry, with its scale allowing the visitor to get a feel for things that is perhaps lost at the larger events like the SIA technology show or the circus that Sibos has become. Attendees at the early DWT events were very concerned with the plumbing: there were still several competing market data delivery platforms, and the Internet was starting to appear on people’s radar as a potential delivery mechanism. Hard to imagine now that there wasn’t a website for those early shows. This year, it’s clear that reference data is going to be high on the agenda for many attendees and exhibitors, who include Asset Control, Cicada, Moneyline Telerate, IPUG and Thomson Financial, among others. Among the vendor presentations are sessions by Telekurs, on clean reference data, and Cicada on the ‘build or buy’ question. Another contrast with the earlier shows is that all of those vendors operated heavily proprietary systems. Walk around the show and talk to the reference data vendors, and you’ll hear a lot of talk about standards – proper long-trouser International Standards Organisation standards, with all that that entails for their future development and maintenance. There has been a lot of work going on in assorted committee rooms, some of it numbingly tedious no doubt, to get us this far, but in the past year the whole process has accelerated astonishingly. Over this year, developments will be more visible, and therein lies the problem, as we report this issue. Organisations like the ISO have a whole set of hoops to go through before they endorse anything. It’s the nature of the beast, and it is important that the industry, in its rush to solve business problems, does not lose sight of the ISO process. Those involved are clearly aware of the issue, but as increasing numbers of vested interests join the party it may prove hard for them to resist the temptation of a quick fix that would have repercussions in the longer term. Oddly enough, it’s rather reminiscent of how Unix appeared from Bell Labs as a universal operating system, only to fall into the gap between the commercial demands of vendors and the efforts of the standards bodies, fragmenting to the point where there were actually 180-plus incompatible versions. The topic of standards was also top of the agenda at another event being held across the pond as we went to press: FISD’s XML for Market Data event. The event is aimed at examining the critical role of reference data standards for securities master files and STP automation applications. Our friends at the FISD hope to bring together what it sees as three core elements of automated securities processing – reference data, MDDL, and data element identification – with XML for market data. And so it is, with a Spring in our step, we anticipate worthy discussion, argument and agreement as the industry enters this event mini-season.