In the fourth quarter of 2018, around 15,000 Merrill Lynch wealth managers across the US will replace their existing Thomson Reuters desktop terminals with a web-based software solution from FactSet. The multi-year, enterprise-level agreement will see FactSet’s Market Data solution deployed across Merrill Lynch’s US broker network, while its data feeds will also be integrated into the wealth manager’s internal applications and client facing portals.
The deal is a somewhat of a coup for the Connecticut-based FactSet, one of the smaller financial data vendors in the top tier. According to Burton-Taylor International Consulting, FactSet currently holds just 4.5% of the $28 billion global data business, compared to 22.5% for Thomson Reuters and 33.2% for Bloomberg.
Yet the firm is gaining on its larger rivals, expanding market share in 2018 compared to a contraction for the other two, according to Burton-Taylor figures, due in part to a growing client preference for more agile, cost-effective software solutions in place of expensive desktop hardware.
FactSet acted to take advantage of this market dynamic last month with the launch of a new cloud-based platform designed to reduce upfront investment costs. In 2017, it acquired the Interactive Data Managed Solutions business (IDMS) from new owner Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), subsequently rebranding it as FactSet Digital Solutions.
These developments substantially expanded FactSet’s suite of wealth management capabilities – including the addition of customizable web-based portals and APIs, real-time market data desktops and a broad range of mobile solutions – and marked the start of an increased focus on the wealth management sector.
According to FactSet CEO Phil Snow, “Wealth management is a growing part of our business and currently represents approximately 10% of our annual subscription value. Being selected by Merrill Lynch demonstrates how quickly we have progressed in this space and is a testament to the strength of our overall offering.”
Certainly, Merrill Lynch has long been considered a benchmark account for broker terminal service providers, and as such the FactSet win represents a painful loss for Thomson Reuters, whose relationship with Merrill extends back to 1998.
At that time, Thomson Financial’s ILX Systems unit won the contract to provide market data for Merrill’s first-generation, 17,000-broker Trusted Global Advisor (TGA) network. This was compounded in 2002, when Merrill Lynch embarked on a $1 billion makeover of its wealth management workstation platform, retaining Thomson Financial as general contractor – giving the firm a valuable foothold in the sector that it continued to leverage following its 2007 merger with Reuters Group.