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Talking Reference Data with Andrew Delaney: Frying Pan – Fire

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Two major financial data providers announced their third-quarter results in the past few days. A bit of minor drill-down suggests that reference data and related services are playing a significant role and could point the way forward to future growth.

The latest numbers from NYSE Euronext, which reported its third-quarter earnings this week, don’t look great. Technicalities suggest that like-for-like net income at its NYSE Technologies group is only $2 million down, but it’s still down and it’s still $2 million in lost cash.

Meanwhile, over at Thomson Reuters, the earnings news is also far from glowing. Overall, performance in our marketplace, as characterised by the numbers for the Financial & Risk segment, show a 28% drop in operating profit for the quarter compared with a year earlier. Not stellar.

As usual, though, we’re interested in an even more granular assessment. Looking at as close to an apples-to-apples comparison between the two, how did they fare. I ask because this might give us a feel for the challenge ahead for new NYSE Technologies CEO Jon Robson, who jumped from Thomson Reuters just a few weeks ago.

(Incidentally, we’d love to extend the discussion to Bloomberg, whose enterprise division is now headed by Stanley Young, former head of NYSE Technologies, but the company is a private one and thus enjoys the privilege of privacy on this count at least. That said, the company’s major stress on enterprise recently suggests that it has reached a similar conclusion to ours on the future promise of reference and other static data, as well as enterprise data management.)

Based on their respective reports, Thomson Reuters and NYSE Technologies saw their revenues and profits decline for the third quarter. Drilling into the operating segments, Thomson Reuters – which reported first and we’ll deal with accordingly – saw the Trading group, an amalgam of the former Sales & Trading and Enterprise operating units, post a 4% drop in revenues, largely due to a retracting population of desktops.

That’s well and good but what about reference data?

As you’re doubtless aware, that stat is now buried in the results of the Investors operating group, which is the (relatively) new home for Thomson Reuters Enterprise Content, for us the most interesting part of what they do over there. The Investors group as a whole was unchanged in terms of revenue from a year earlier, though no actual figure was disclosed. The best we can do for an indication of how Enterprise Content is performing is the following statement:

“Enterprise Content revenues grew 12% (12% of Investors total revenues).”

Clearly, a bright spot, and arguably sustaining the rest of the Investors group.

Now let’s shift to NYSE Technologies. The top-line figure shows shrinkage of $12 million for the group, based on its activities primarily in the electronic trading and market data space. There is no true break-out for what we might term enterprise data, reference data or other static information that could give us an inkling on its performance in these areas.

And this, I guess, is the twist to this particular story: NYSE Technologies reference data business barely warrants a line item. Indeed, we couldn’t find one. But our research suggests that the company has been working on a whole host of administrative data sets, a broad array of meta-data that can help clients understand their trading activities and risk exposures.

Could this be what a single bullet in its earnings report alludes to?

“NYSE Technologies is currently revamping global data agreements, including pricing, to better reflect how data is used today. This is anticipated to result in more data products and more favorable pricing and is expected to drive market data revenue higher.”

We’ll have to wait and see.

But our understanding is that the company plans to provide global market participants with on-demand access to data and data-mining tools for trading, analytics and risk management in a cloud-based/hosted environment.

Among the data at its disposal is a broad range of event-based pricing and descriptive/meta data relating to major US and European equities and derivatives markets.

To make this feasible, NYSE Technologies has partnered with a range of storage system and analytical framework providers, including EMC/GreenPlum, VMWare, 1010data, OneMarketData and others.

Given Robson’s success in helping to develop perhaps a half billion dollar enterprise content business at Thomson Reuters while he was head of Enterprise and enterprise content still resided within it, could he do the same at NYSE Technologies?

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