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February 1, 1998

Market Vendors Making Information More Usable: Open and Flexible Systems Are the Ticket for Busy

By Om Malik

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  • Market Vendors Making Information More Usable: Open and Flexible Systems Are the Ticket for Busy
  • Page 2

Traders are busy people, swamped in market data. So how do they find time to use this data effectively? Try market-data systems that are open, interactive and easily welded to other systems and information sources.

Speed and flexibility are the big kahuna.

In what may be a backlash against proprietary hardware, the market-data industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, moving like the rest of Wall Street from terminals and boxes to systems that are open, fast and more malleable.

Utilize Information

Technological change has swept market-data vendors off their feet, forcing them to de-emphasize hardware and to sell systems that utilize information more efficiently.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the latest avatar of Bridge Information Systems' Bridge WorkStation, which runs on a 32-bit Windows NT platform. Bridge and many of its competitors are now striving towards making their systems more interactive.

That should please Richard Holway, head of trading at Investment Advisors, a $17 billion money manger based in Minneapolis. "I want interactive technology, to allow me to track my portfolio easily," Holway said.

Holway wants an electronic blotter on his computer, where the market-data feed can be programmed to track his investments to the last fraction. "I want to look at my portfolio from every angle," he added.

Like many of his peers on Wall Street, Holway is looking to his system for information he can use. For example, he follows news alerts on the equities he holds in his portfolio, the put-and-call action, price movement, a market-maker activity list, earnings estimates and any useful information that can have an impact on his portfolio.

That's a far cry from the early days of the ticker, when rumors formed the cornerstone of investing and the tape was an unending roll of paper.

Dawn of 20th Century

At the dawn of the 20th century, in his famous and hugely popular book, "Where the Money Grows," journalist and author Garet Garrett noted that there are those on Wall Street who spent hours reading the ticker-tape, finding trading clues as the machine spewed reams of paper.

As this century draws to a close, much of the paperwork has been reduced by technological gizmos, as professional investors and traders, Nasdaq market makers included, sit hunched in front of their computer screens, looking for information as the numbers fly across the cathode-ray tube.

This is the brave new world, where market data flies across fiber-optic cables, faster than the speed of light, helping the money men and women make or lose small fortunes. With more than half-a-dozen options available, it is no surprise that a trader's desktop computer is more cluttered than the New Jersey turnpike at the height of evening rush hour.

Holway says that in the future, the industry will see a merging of trading and quote systems. His own desk uses Reuters Research & Analytics, which is bundled with another Reuters-owned product, Instinet, a system he frequently uses in trading.


The importance of technology is underscored by the increasing amount of money securities firms are spending to upgrade their infrastructure. The financial-services industry has historically been very aggressive about adapting information technology, from the use of electromechanical devices in the 1930s, to Internet technology in the 1990s.