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July 31, 1999

Behind The Buzz: SIA Technology and Management Conference vendors showcase today's most talked ab

By Daniel Marcus

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The 1999 SIA Technology and Management Conference held in June was a great success. Numerous vendors were crowded into every corner of the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Attendees included everything from information providers to flat screen manufacturers to risk management software makers, and just about everything in between. Somewhat akin to an open market itself, with each exhibitor audibly vying for attention, the conference could have been somewhat overwhelming if you didn't know quite what you were looking for.

Still, as the impact of technology on the trading industry increases, interest in the SIA Technology and Management Conference will grow as well. With more vendors than ever before, and with participants reporting increased traffic, this year's conference was unquestionably one of the most successful.

Separating Yourself From the Competition

As the popularity of the conference grows, and more and more companies look at it as an opportunity to showcase their products and services, space comes at a premium, making it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. This is true of the technology market in general. With a large number of vendors plying many products to the trading industry, there was plenty of overlap at this year's conference. As Leslie Owren, director of marketing services, at ITS Associates, Inc., confirms, "With over 200 vendors, standing out from the crowd can be very tough."

One of the biggest challenges these companies, both the new ones and the more established ones face, will be separating themselves from the pack. Rick Cunningham, VP of sales and marketing at The MacGregor Group, suggests, "People are looking for a clear choice, or a market leader. New entrants to the market may carve out enough clients to sustain being alive in the business, but the majority of the people coming to the market looking for some type of solution are going to look at the clear and safe choice, and that's the market leader." As time goes on, it is doubtful that there is a large enough market for all of these competitors to last.

The survival rate for these new companies may depend greatly on how quickly a company or product can develop and entrench itself into a niche market. Sometimes, however, value can be added by moving beyond one particular specialty into more broad offerings. John Albert, Chairman of the Wall Street Source, an institutional based equity service, has decided to offer a broader selection of features. "Everybody tries to be a niche player in certain little markets," says Albert. "We've seen all these niche players and combined these things into one area. We have adopted a model that builds more and more products into one, to give people the benefit of a less expensive, quicker, much more user-friendly interface."

Many of the conference vendors have devised techniques that they plan to use to ensure their longevity in this crowded market. Like much of the financial services industry, words like value and service are cornerstones to any successful company, and this is no different for the technology companies present at the conference.