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Talking Reference Data with Andrew Delaney: No Migration Tsunami Expected from Newly Extended RICs

The great thing about writing a weekly blog is that one post inevitably begets another. Last week, I speculated on how Markit might be poised to capitalise in certain changes currently under way within our marketplace.

No sooner had I hit the ‘publish’ button than I was inundated with emails and texts drawing my attention to a significant development that I’d missed in my analysis: the fact that Thomson Reuters last month outlined the extensions to its Reuters Instrument Code (RIC) resulting from its settlement with the European Commission back in December.

You’ll recall that the settlement ended a lengthy enquiry by the Commission into whether the company’s licensing policies for RICs breached European competition rules. This, I suggested last week, hadn’t yielded quite the gold rush to Bloomberg as a replacement as some in the market had expected, in part due to the sour taste left in the mouth by revelations that Bloomberg’s journalists had snooped on clients. The net result could be an opportunity for the acquisitive Markit to snap up market share.

Thomson Reuters’ plans for the RIC – outlined in a product factsheet added with little fuss to the TR web-site in late June or thereabouts – don’t quite mark the great sea change that some in the marketplace had predicted. Certainly, they don’t appear to be far-reaching enough to drive the marketplace into the waiting arms of any of its competitors, as some had hoped/expected/wished for. As Thomson Reuters points out below: “These licenses embody what we agreed [with the European Commission].”

The new extended RIC licenses are designed to allow users of Thomson Reuters real-time consolidated data feed to switch to a similar feed from another market data vendor. They include rights to navigate to and retrieve non-Thomson Reuters data using a RIC, access to a RIC mapping utility and provision for third-party development of vendor switching tools.

The company has introduced three licenses related to its real-time consolidated data feed, Real Time Service. The first and perhaps most important is the EU Commitment – Extended RIC License (ERL). This allows customers that subscribe to the Real Time Service, previously known as Reuters Datascope Real Time, to use RICs with another vendor’s real-time consolidated data feed for the purpose of switching. This license includes a RIC Mapping Support (RMS) utility to support the change from RICs to another vendor’s instrument codes and was made available on June 20, 2013, for a period of five years, although subscribers within the period will have perpetual rights.

The second license, the EU Commitment – Extended RIC License Option (ERLO), is designed for RICs users that are not sure whether they will subscribe for an ERL in the five-year time period. It must be bought in the five-year timeframe and extends their option to subscribe from five to seven years. It offers no extended RIC usage rights and no access to the RMS.

The third license, the EU Commitment – Developer RIC License (DRL) – allows third-party developers, excluding market data vendors, to develop, sell, maintain and update a RIC-enabled switching tool for use by ERL subscribers.

Chris Broad, global head of business operations at Thomson Reuters, tells Reference Data Review: “We have pinpointed the precise requirements of the European Commission in this solution. The Extended RIC License is designed to allow users to navigate to and retrieve non-Thomson Reuters data with a RIC. We have always allowed mapping to intermediate codes, but we have never allowed the results of this to be used to retrieve data from another source.”

The mapping service provides firms that want to switch their supplier of real-time consolidated data with RIC to ISIN or other appropriate data mapping. The ISIN is then used to map to another vendor’s security codes.

Broad says: “The RMS is an online request/response service. We give license holders an application programming interface they can use to access the utility and request details of RICs and their associated reference data. The data is available at the same frequency that is used for updates to reference data across all our data services and the service runs 24 hours a day, making RIC updates available as soon as they are processed on our own systems.”

Thomson Reuters suggests switching real-time consolidated data feed vendors is likely to require clients to run tests with the new vendor, perhaps running the Thomson Reuters and new service in parallel until ready to cut over to the new data feed. Indeed, it is this process that continues to represent a significant barrier to switching supplier, according to many practitioners.

Broad says: “Thomson Reuters will provide enough information to map RICs to the new vendor codes. If there are cases where there is limited reference data we will provide everything we have. Users of the RMS service, or tools provided by third-parties under the developer license, could, if needed, access the full universe of about 8 million RICs in a usable timeframe for reference data.”

The ERL allows customers to subscribe initially to a number of RICs that is no greater than that subscribed to under the Real Time Service, but immediately after subscription the number can be flexed up or down, but only to meet switching needs and subject to applicable fees. On this issue, Broad comments: “The initial fixed number of RICs relates to the concept of switching supplier, but firms would be hamstrung if this number did not flex, which is why the ERL allows the number of RICs to be switched to increase or decrease.”

Broad describes the service as low cost, with fees based on a monthly per RIC charge, subject to a minimum payment of $750. The fee schedule was initially published in the company’s November 2012 Commitment to the European Commission and looks like this:

Extended RIC Licence (Switching) Fee Schedule (2012 rates) – The fee schedule below applies to the Extended RIC Licence.

 

Number of unique RICs per month

Incremental charge per unique RIC per month (USD)

1 – 50,000

0.010

50,001 – 500,000

0.005

500,001 – 3,000,000

0.002

3,000,001 – no limit

0.001

 

Broad expects large financial firms to carry out the mapping of RICs to other vendor codes in-house, with smaller firms opting to use third-party vendor solutions built in line with Thomson Reuters’ Developer RIC License.

Reviewing the changes made by Thomson Reuters, he concludes: “We agreed a settlement with the European Commission and its enquiry has been closed. These licenses embody what we agreed.”

That appears to draw a line under the RIC investigation. On to the next one: who could that involve?

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