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The leading knowledge platform for the financial technology industry

A-Team Insight Blogs

Final Thoughts on Sifma, Past and Present

The first SIA (now Sifma) show I attended was in 1986. In some ways, it was quite different to the event last week, while in other ways it was pretty much the same.

Entering the main show floor in 1986, one would be confronted by the big Quotron booth, with sales head George Levine in residence. Quotron, and of course its prime position at the show, was acquired by Reuters a few years back (well, actually I think parent Citigroup paid them to take it off their balance sheet). But George remains a fixture on the booth, and that’s reasuring for many of us.

George can probably remember what it was like in the financial technology world of the mid 1980s better than I can. It was a frothy time, not unlike today, with deregulation leading to massive investment in trading systems. Now, it’s regulatation that’s driving a lot of that investment. Financial tech vendors always find opportunities to sell.

I have certain recollections of the show floor back then. Imnet – a joint venture between Merrill Lynch and IBM – was present. That initiative went belly up a little while later, and many pointed out that the notion of a sell-side firm being in the technology business was just plain daft. Daft it may be, but these days, the sell side can’t get enough of firms offering order routing and algo trading technology – now seen as important components of strategies to win order flow.

I also remember vendors like Micrognosis, FD Consulting, CP Technology, Bishopsgate, Program-IT and many others all competing in the digital and video trading room market data distribution business, in which Reuters and its Triarch system was probably the leader in terms of sales, if not quite in terms of technology. Just about all of those vendors got acquired, went bust and dropped out of the trading room marketplace, as Reuters got a stranglehold on it, most recently with its RMDS offering.

So it’s with a significant sense of deja-vu that this time I observed companies like Activ Financial, Wombat, 29 West, Infodyne, QuantHouse, and Reuters of course, all competing in the new-ish market for low latency architectures. What’s going to become of all these players? Well, if I were a betting man, I’d try to learn from history.

Until next time … here’s some good music.

[tags]sifma,reuters,quotron,imnet,micrognosis,wombat,29 west,activ,infodyne,quant house[/tags]

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