Symphony Innovate 2017: Research & Content Panel
The Symphony Innovate 2017 Research & Content panel focused on the change in expectations of discovering and disseminating content as a result of evolving technology. Symphony customers explained how research analysts are simplifying workflows to quickly find, sort, and send data to their clients - quickly and securely. Partners shared how Symphony Market applications are revolutionizing the way in which analysts and clients are discovering and consuming data with context and tags. Read the full transcript below.
Susan Gilberston, Jefferies (Moderator): I am personally thrilled to be here and to help moderate a very distinguished panel and, very quickly, what I’d like to do is make some quick introductions. Myself first, because I’m speaking first: Susan Gilbertson, I am the Deputy Global Equity Research Head at Jefferies. And now, if everyone can just quickly say who they are and then we can kick off the discussion.
Jim Tousignant (FinTech Studios): My name is Jim Tousignant and I’m the Founder & CEO of FinTech Studios.
Peter Hans (Harvest Exchange): Peter Hans, Founder and CEO of Harvest.
Daragh Maher (HSBC): Daragh Maher, Head of FX Strategy in the U.S. for HSBC.
Arnaud Girod (Kepler Cheuvreux): Hi everyone, I am Arnaud Girod, Deputy Global Head of Research at Kepler Cheuvreux based in Paris.
Andrew Brook (Selerity): Hi everyone, I’m Andrew Brook. I am the Chief Technology Officer for Selerity.
S. Gilberston: Great, thank you all. So, before we go into the more formal Q&A part of this panel, I just wanted to go over quickly some demographics in terms of why this discussion is so important and why Symphony’s product, and products like Symphony, are important in terms of the future of financial services. So if you look in terms of consumer preferences or how people are making decisions, there is a huge generational pide. And I know we found this out when Symphony came in and we were trying to introduce Symphony, and it was highly-recommended that we had younger users who could help the older folk - and I say that as part of the “older-folk” generation unreservedly.
So, just very quickly, and then we will go into the more formal part of the panel, in terms of how people make decisions. In terms of the baby boomers, you know 55 years plus, they trust institutional reviews. That’s it, they trust institutions. If you go to Gen X, which is probably about 35-55, they like user reviews and their friends (if their friends recommend it or if it is a user review like Consumer Reports). I read Consumer Reports to buy a car, I shouldn't say that. That’s how they make their decisions. And now we come to where the bulge of the population is, which is Gen Z & the Millennials. Gen Z, 18 or 17 and below, and the Millennials, 18-35, this is a different kettle of fish. They make decisions very quickly, they want change, and they want things to be dynamic. They are very tech savvy and in terms of their habits. Let’s be honest, 45% of how they decide to buy or consume something is based on recs from social media and family & friends. So we’re talking about 50% [of the population.] If we have to get the next gen to buy financial services to buy product, to consume our product, we have to learn to communicate with them using their tools.
And there are a lot of them. There are some 2 billion of them in the world. There are 77 million in the U.S.; 30% of them are married, so these are emerging families with wealth creation. They are going to change the way that demand is created and they are also going to change, and force us to change the way we collaborate on content. So I just wanted to put that in the context of the discussion that we are going to have and, you know, tap into the collective wisdom that we have seated here. So in terms of our first question to the panel the first question is, “What do you see as the trends for content distribution and collaboration over the next two to three years?” So a longer-term question and I'm going to ask Jim to lead us off with his answer.
J. Tousignant: Thanks Susan. So, I've been in the financial information space for 30 years. I've started a dozen companies, companies like Multex. So I'm very familiar with this idea of revolutionizing the way you capture collect, organize, tag, deliver information and I'd say we're very much at the beginning of a massive, new revolution. To me, the exciting part is certainly some of the things that we're doing. So, our business is really using artificial intelligence and machine learning, natural language processing, cloud and big data analytics to mine massive datasets. So today, we're mining millions of websites, blogs, and research sources in 32 languages, tagging all of that, analyzing it, looking at trends, and patterns. And so that to me is really the exciting part because I think we're at a precipice where the state of the art today, from the major information players, is that they aggregate thousands of sources. I believe the standards now are millions and soon to go to billions when you think of the Internet of Things. So in essence, it's a massive problem of finding relevant, timely information that's about the capital markets, organizing ways you can find it, and then linking it to other data and analytics. To me that's a massive challenge. It's been in the space for thirty years because that's all about the workflow in the collaboration. If you can surface things that are relevant as a bank, or a broker, or trade or a research analyst, timely find the significant impacts, all the related activities often through analytics and through discovery, and then be able to share and collaborate with colleagues, customers, counterparties, in rapid ways across the globe in multiple languages… to me that's a massive change from where we are today and we do it all with technology. We don't have any people on the back end doing this. And so again, I think we're at a major change where how you get data, how it's organized, how you analyze it... We're well past the sort of commodity market data and particularly you look at the millennial generation, they expect a different experience, they expect a different capability. And I think with all these new technologies, it's fascinating to see the trends because I think it's going to radically change the way capital markets professionals source information, analyze it, collaborate. And again, Symphony is a key part of that because it helps, you know, obviously connect you to the right parties in ways that are relevant.
S. Gilberston: Great thank you. Peter, would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
P. Hans: So, I think that with a digital communication infrastructure, the velocity at which information access changes hands is obviously exponentially increasing. So, you know, what Jim touched upon, aggregating communications data, content from many, many sources, being able to tag that, being able to distribute it, being able to look at relevance, I think that's obviously an incredibly important first step. You know, the way I think about it, and we think about it at Harvest, and what kind of interests me, is applying models that are used in other industries, more consumer-related like Amazon. You think about how Netflix operates right? They look at not only what the underlying content is but how it's consumed and by whom. And based on the actual behavior of that inpidual--who they are personally, who they are the demographic. Then curating experiences, content in a similar fashion to that user. And then being able to take the underlying behavioral data and make business decisions based off of that. So, you know, as I think about the asset management industry, which I spent my prior career in, data has always been used in the investment-making process, right. You know, our CTO is from Two Sigma, he always says “More data is better than good data,” right, because you can manipulate it and do whatever you want with it. And then it's always used on the back end, right? Accounting, back-office, you know, things like that, but you know, throughout the operations in the business, using behavior, the way people think, to actually hone your decision-making process and content plays a big part in that as it pertains to marketing, sales, really your entire business. That is something that I'm really keenly focused on because that is truly in its very early stages right now, looking at it from that application.
S. Gilberston: Right, so you know, just to follow on that, we're hearing about a difference in terms of the volume, the type of information, the organization of the information, and how we distribute that information from both of you. The next question that we'd like to focus on is: “What changes would you like to see in financial services or research around both access to content and distribution of content based on these longer-term trends that we’re seeing?” and we're going to go first to Peter for his thoughts on this.
P. Hans: So research distribution and, you know, I suppose, to a lesser extent, access, has always been, and still is to a large extent, very analog right, you know. If you think about the sell-side and the buy-side it’s, you know, I'm going to send an email to my blast list, and it goes into a vacuum, and maybe there's a tracking tool, or maybe someone can access it from an aggregator like a Bloomberg or Symphony or whatnot. But, you know, getting back to the same thesis, if I'm putting my former capital markets hat on either as a banker or a research analyst, and I can know as I distribute content through whatever that delivery mechanism is to my client base, my prospects, and I can understand, in whatever way I define, the output. What most people are interested in, what they're searching for, if I can cross-reference that with you know a set of holdings -- people don't always tell you what they care about, right. They don’t always tell you what they're thinking about in real time, decisions that they might make in the future, but their behavior is a key input to what they might do in the future. And I think the best analogy, which I just think is brilliant, is Netflix has had so much success with their original programming because they look at what we watch. They look at what we care about and then they create their original programming based on the viewing behavior of their subscribers, right. They have a lot of superhero shows because people are really into that stuff now and those do well and then it creates more and more. So that same thought process can very easily be transcribed to the research and content delivery and consumption market.
S. Gilberston: So I'd like to go to the people who actually create research content. People probably a little near and dear to my heart, I admit some preference here, if I had to say one. So Daragh, talk to us about, you know, research content and distribution, what changes you'd like to see from where you sit.
D. Maher: Sure I mean, I think I'm part of your Gen X, or Gen 10 as Apple would insist on us calling it now. So I get terrified when I hear people talking about tech. I was asked to speak here because apparently I'm an early adopter of Symphony, which again says a lot. But look, I think in terms of how we use it, it's chicken-and-egg because it strikes me: is technology leading the way in kind of deciding what the content should look and be like? Or should it have been the other way around? Is it the content that matters and can we find the most efficient distribution method for that? And I suspect, because we haven't really got a very clear idea exactly about what the content should be, that it’s your technology that's been leading the process, that's my sense. But I say that looking in from the outside and being part of Gen X,it worries me a little bit because I know everybody here loves technology and maybe I'm a little bit skeptical. It worries me because of people like me. Because, for the most part, sell-side research, we still produce PDFs, you know. We understood kind of doing the same stuff I did when I started in this industry 25 years ago. I'm writing a report that more or less looks like it could be printed out and handed to someone. And I think we're all guilty of it and I was reminded of it when I was out for beers. As I’m Irish, I was out for beers over the weekend with a friend and he was telling me very enthusiastically about how he’d just bought new wheels for his bike. He's a cyclist and he said, “This shaves,” I don't know, “14 ounces off my bike,” and he's now drinking his fifth beer. I did kind of think, “Are we are we guilty of the same thing?” We created this beautiful technology for delivering PDFs a lot of the time and I think the sell-side is a little bit too slow to change. And hopefully that will change but for me if you say, “What would I like to see evolve?” it's not necessarily the technology, it's the content providers understanding the technology better, having the patience to create content that's tagged and is useful for these tech delivery systems because at the moment I think there's too big a gap, at least in my perception, is too big between those two points of the equation.
S. Gilberston: Thank you Arno. French versus the Irish --
A. Girod: Yeah, I mean, when I hear about Daragh and his Irish story in the pub, I can just think that the human being relationship in research is super, super important. And what, you know, the sell-side industry produces research, pieces of research, products, but what we're seeing with MiFID II, very, very obviously where the price in research remains is in the human being relationship. And that's really how you share your expertise as an analyst with an investor around the table. How you really create money eventually for your clients, or not, in which case you won't come to see the client again. But what I'm trying to say here is that one of the features which really gets me excited at Symphony and hasn't been really talked so much about today, is the video conferencing platform. And one reason for that is, you know, we are getting into low-cost for the sell-side industry, and the time where you could go and spend a week in the U.S., you know, leaving Paris to market your stories in the U.S. This time is somehow gone, so it's also much more efficient, right? So, you know, sharing an investment idea through the video conferencing system in a way that is really working, because we all know we've all experienced very bad connection issues: takes a long time to set up before the meeting, during the meeting, the quality is crap. So that's one thing which gets me excited with Symphony. I want to stress as well that when you talk about collaboration, you know, our company is really special somehow because we have 100 analysts located across 10 different locations and these guys work as, really one team. So you know, maybe it'll be the same with HSBC obviously. And hence, collaboration becomes very, very important and you know the longer the distance, somehow the more difficult it gets to work with the teammates. And so, you know, we’ve got people in Oslo, people in Madrid, and these guys still need to talk to each other, and so for that, I must say Symphony is a fantastic tool. In terms of what I would like to see also I think, which is already planned, not by 2020 but by hopefully 2018, is the standardization of $cashtags, which looks like a really ridiculous issue when you think about it, but this makes our life pretty complicated with potential clients. And let me say I want to see also clients open up a little bit like on Bloomberg if you want, so that we can really interact with them much more than we are currently.
S. Gilberston: I was at a conference last week and, you know, the point about the increasing use of video came up and on the flip side of that was the Kim Kardashian-ization--and I'm going to use it as a word of presentation--where, you know, it doesn't matter if you have dubious content -- it's not a comment on Kim -- but the fact that you have to be very personable, it becomes more important that you know how to market, you know how to present, that your points can come over. Because sometimes, you know in person, that human touch can come through and overcome some failures analysts occasionally have in terms of personality.... So I'm really not being flippant about this, you know. It really then behooves a change in terms of, you know, presentation skills within the business, in terms of how we present information to leverage the technology to the fullest extent. Just one thought. So thank you for that, that was very insightful. The next question I’d like to move to is: “How are the content applications and integrations with Symphony transforming the financial sector and if you can give us some real-life examples in terms of transformational change as a result of using some of these features?” Let me turn to Andy.
A. Brook: So I'm going to start off by saying that as a technologist, I am perfectly happy to do the technology first and think about the application second. But we do understand that for this to actually have any real impact, we have to find things that can be improved. And so a workflow that can be automated, probably a cost that can be saved, an additional alpha, somewhere there has to be some practical impact. So when Selerity started, this is going back a number of years into 2009, we really focused on how do we automate a particular workflow around algo trading. So taking technology that can understand a piece of unstructured text, pull out some really specific data, let someone make a trade on it, and make a lot of money by being used a few microseconds faster than the next guy. As we grew the firm, we started looking at: how does this apply in a broader sense? What are other financial workflows that we can take a deep knowledge of machine learning and AI technology and our understanding of, kind of, how financial information moves around? It's news, it's research, it's press releases, etc. and how do we apply that to attacking other workflows? And one of the things that Symphony really opened up for us is the possibility that you now have people sitting in front of a screen, chatting with each other, collaborating, and there's workflows going on. I'll give you one example: we were at a large sell-side institution recently and they said, “Look, you don't go back very many years and there were 200 people sitting on a particular fixed income desk and now there's 20. But they're still covering the same number of customers.” I think the customer volume has actually grown and on Symphony, they're constantly going back and forth. They're receiving inquiries from clients, they're talking to clients there, they're trying to reach out to clients and get them engaged which means sharing research. It means, you know, taking in inquiries and making prices. We had technology that could understand what the content was about. If we can understand what people are doing and what workflow they're trying to solve, we can direct it. We can direct that content in the most useful way. So if somebody is coming in and saying, “Hey, I saw something in the news this morning that Amazon is getting fined or getting some additional taxation from the EU. What does this mean? Should I be worried? Is there something going on that I should be hedging?” The fact that we can, in real time, see that this conversation is happening, recognize that, okay, there's a conversation going on about this company, about this particular topic, it's relevant to this industry and then say, “You know, your research department has already produced some really great content.” And PDFs are great, you know, again, the ultimate end consumer of this is a person, and it's great to be laid out in a PDF, but expecting someone to go through and manually tag up, “Ok it's relevant to taxation and there's definitely this thing about tech in here,” that's crazy. What makes more sense is have a machine do it, index it all, and present it in real time so that, as you're the busy sales professional talking to everybody you know, talking to twice as many people, ten times as many people as you used to and you want to get a transaction done, you don't have time to go out and, you know, walk down the hall and talk to somebody and say, “Hey, didn't you write a research report recently about this?” It comes to you. So being able to deploy something like that, and actually have a work at scale, that actually makes the desk more efficient. So you can sit down with a trading desk and say, “What are you guys able to do today that you couldn't do before?” and they say, “Well you know, now we can actually talk to twice as many people because, you know, the whole chunk of our workflow is now automated.” Symphony being an open platform, I'm, you know not to name other names, but not every financial platform has all these parts exposed where you can grab the chat out and do some analysis and push some more content in and put up a new window. Symphony being open really unlocked that and that allows us to deploy the technology in a certain way. And I want to jump back to something you said about $cashtags and #hashtags, you know, that's a great example of somewhere, something where we have to do, kind of, the next iteration of technology. To say that it's not good enough just to say when to throw a dollar sign in front of a ticker and figure that's just going to work for everything. I don't know if anyone caught this in the demo that we did this morning: we have an automated system that says, you know, as people are going back and getting ready to prepare research and send it out, we’ll automate the tagging. We can automatically figure out how this should be tagged and do it in a way that's, you know, complying with the standards that are emerging from our friends at FactSet and from some of the development that’s going on in that working group. Ultimately though that really boils down to some way of applying the abilities of a machine to interactions between humans and making them more efficient. Now, I really do think that Symphony has opened up some new opportunities there.
S. Gilberston: So, you know, I think when we used to build research, or still build research departments, you sort of hire research rights and product and then you think secondarily, “Let me slap some technology on top,” right? And then figure out how I'm going to distribute, make this more commercially available, whether it's Symphony, whether, you know, whatever. So, I just want to try to hear your perspective of flipping this: if you had to start again, given the technology tools at your fingertips that we have, how would you start about constructing a research department for the next gen? And I'd love to hear your view; you've been through this.
J. Tousignant: So, Multex 20 years ago was all about collecting, organizing, and distributing brokerage research electronically. So, I’m very familiar with, sort of, that whole evolution and obviously output has historically been PDF. I think we're in a very different point now. I think the research analyst of the future has to be a data scientist. I think they have to do a lot more analysis filtering, looking at trends and patterns, looking at insights, doing something that's just covering a company, and providing the same earnings analysis, but, you know, that stuff is important, but it's not differential. So one, I would focus on New Age capabilities. I would focus on new media. I think audio, I think video all has to be searchable, all has to be tagged. I think the abilities to have virtual conversations. Again, if I'm a sell-side analyst and I want to reach ten buy-side portfolio managers on an interesting topic, that's where things like Symphony can start to come into play. Certainly the cloud offers all interesting things, so now you can actually supplement your research department. They don't always have to be in the same physical location, they can be virtual. You can probably complement it with experts. I think you can integrate a lot more third-party content that you don't have to source or produce but you can sort of effectively find and put some sort of a story around, a wrapper that ties to a thesis. I think it's got to be multilingual. I think the days of English-only are over, so I think you'll need ways to translate or superimpose or do things because clients are all over the world. I think they have to be intelligent objects. Again, everything we do is around what we call “widgets,” intelligent smart objects that can be navigated and can be manipulated and can be integrated. So I can think, as an analyst, “What are the things I'm really good at? What are the tools that I can actually deliver?” because I think, at the end of the day, a buy-side portfolio manager would highlight a sell-side analyst because it's not that his models are better, but his tools, his insight, his perspective, his abilities to do things with data that I, you know, as a portfolio manager, I've never seen before. And will pay for.
S. Gilberston: We said we wouldn't talk about a MiFID but…
J. Tousignant: I think it's a radically different sell-side research department and frankly, does it compete with the buy-side? I don't know, but I think it's a data science, it's very analytical, you've got to start using new ways to express yourself. For example we're doing stuff with Amazon Echo where you can interact by voice, right. Give me the latest research, show me the latest news, show me the trends, and it will interact. So it can understand voice and it can respond to voice. Because again, a lot of your customers and our customers are traveling. They're on the road. Looking at a PDF report on your cell phone is pretty ugly and I also think more and more your reports have to be interactive. Think of it as a great landing pad because you cover companies, people, topics, competitors. Imagine if everything in that report was interactive and dynamically linked to related data, related analytics. So now your report is really an app that's driving other tools and analytics that are related. That's powerful and if you, as you said, can look at who's using it, how they're using it, the behavior behind it, if you can autotag often much of the stuff that's unstructured and particularly in multiple languages, you know, it changes the whole landscape. And then lastly, the cloud is changing dramatically the economics. I mean at Multex we had 600 people, 300 doing data collection. We had a lot of people running data centers. Today we operate it all with virtual cloud, we can scale to any level and the reason that's important, is you can get to mass scale even as a start-up with a much different team dimension, a much different cost structure. But now, you can deliver products, services at much lower economics, not two thousand dollars a month, but 10 or 20 dollars a month, be very profitable but reach millions of people, right. So I think all of these to me are going to change the whole landscape of capital markets as we know it. And then lastly private companies. We've seen a massive trend around private companies: they're going public later. Few of them are going public, they're raising more capital. So I think covering private companies, looking at the trends because many of them are quasi-public, but again, be able to surface and mine data about private companies is three times as hard as public companies. But also, it's about the people that make up the capital markets. You know, key people, decision-makers, influence, acquisitions, mergers, lead the bankruptcies and so, looking at trends and patterns around the people in the capital market stack and how they will affect a company position, a competitive landscape. I think, again, all these speak to the fact that we’re in a very different time that some are going to get the joke and jump on board and frankly a lot of them are going to be left behind because they're still trying to do the same old thing in the same old way with the same old economics. In spite of MiFID, with the same old technologies. And this platform like Symphony radically changes what you can do and how to do it.
S. Gilberston: Yep I hear you. Arnaud, any thoughts about that from your perspective?
A. Girod: So if I had to set up all the lower set up, you know, from scratch?
S. Gilberston: Yes, the New Republic of France.
A. Girod: Yeah, well, sounds very arrogant to say, but the set up, how it is with our companies so far is really unique. So that I wouldn't change, you know, the fact that we are very close to our companies across Europe. So that I wouldn't change. Now what's really changing, I must say, and that's where Symphony comes into play is that there is this idea: I don’t know if you guys are very familiar, if you frequent analysts a lot, but they are very inpidualist people. That's his arm, you know, my company is my sector, my coverage, and as a matter of fact the world is getting global. You know, the trends are global most of the time and so you know there's no way that, you know, all alone in front of your desk you're going to be able to get, to capture everything that is really relevant in your space, even on your coverage. So from that standpoint, collaboration is key. I also completely agree with this idea that the analytics are getting extremely important because, precisely, things are moving fast. If you can predict how the iPhone is going to sell over the next three months, it is clear that you have an edge over your competitors and that you can both generate money for your investors. So from that standpoint, if you want, I think analytics are extremely interesting. Now what I wonder is to what extent, if you want, beyond the consumer world you’ll probably find some feeds with the Amazon the shopping experience and so on? And so, in the social media, what I would be very interested to to hear, you know, is [information] on other sectors, you know. Telecom sector, utility sector, banks, you know. “How can I predict the amount of loans that currently Bank X is producing?” for example. So on that field I think that there's a lot still to be researched.
S. Gilberston: Hmm I have to say I really appreciate that you still remind us that a part of it lies intelligent human beings who make the heart of a research.
D. Maher: Can I be awkward and disagree?
S. Gilberston: And then I'm going to hand it over to Daragh who is going to…
D. Maher: No it's just from what you were saying...for me the idea that we need to differentiate and add value to a client and give me something, that has been true of financial analysis from day one. It was always about differentiating yourself. I think having extra layers of data analysis at your disposal relatively cheaply and quickly aids that process, but at the end of the day, in the marketplace you're not differentiated by price or margin up until this point. You're differentiated by relevance, by being interesting. I used to joke that in currency for customers, everybody knows it's impossible to forecast currencies. So let's not pretend. You have to be either right or interesting,l and given you couldn't generally be right, you concentrated on being interesting. And I think we can't lose sight of that amongst all the data that fundamentally clients want to read interesting stuff. And they want to have something that's provocative and wonderful if it's done with, and I'm going to sound like a real Luddite, some data hanging in the cloud that we've been able to tap far more cheaply than ever before. But ultimately it comes back to the analyst’s being able to create ideas, give insight, and in a timely manner. And I suspect that's what's changing. This kind of technology lets you deliver - subject to compliance - ideas to more people, more quickly. But I still don't actually think at its core what analysis does has changed really that much.
S. Gilberston: Peter, any perspective on this?
P. Hans: I think he's exactly right. I think being an analyst means adding value and that’s what they get paid for. The means of adding value is going to, you know, change in terms of what’re the inputs. But that's analogous to some like the track stars of the future are going to be fast and need to lift weights, you know? It's the exact same thing. So, you know, I started a research firm before, and ran it, and if I have to think about what I would change if I did it over again today now, it's that I think the underlying operations of the business ar not very scalable because the distribution mechanism is a salesperson which is really just a client service person, right? So then, in order to scale your business, you're adding more salespeople, and more and more salespeople, but, you know, where digital comes into play is in the distribution and the relevance. The underlying job of the research analyst remains exactly the same. You're either really good at research or you're not and how scalable is that business? And that, I think, is where technology can come into play because you can get more relevant research in front of the end buyer, you know. If I'm the buy-side analyst, I'm not having to go through an inbox of 30,000 emails just because I'm on every distribution list. I'm getting something curated to me based on what I actually care about and then if I'm the end, you know, master client relationship manager, I'm looking across my client base and seeing, you know, what are they reading, what are they searching for, whether they - oh I didn't know they cared about this stock, or this sector. Well maybe I should, you know, send them something there. So there is, there will always be a human element to the business because this is inherently a human business. But I think if you're looking at the way research is going to change, it's not going to change in terms of the core value of what a research analyst does and the value that they provide to the client. It's going to change in the underlying cost structure of the business, right. How is it set up, how are people compensated, how is your sales force scaled and leveraged?
S. Gilberston: Thank you. We have six minutes left so we'd really like to throw it open to the audience, just if anybody wants to ask a question. Sir?
Audience Member: When you think about the job of the research analyst, you seem to be saying nothing changes on the way we consume information, the change is on the way we put it out and distribute it. At least that's what I understood you saying. I would strongly disagree with that. I think there's a lot changing on the input side that is: the range of data available, the tools available, the ability to use alternative data sets to gain insight into how companies performed even before the quarter is over. I would think that those things would fundamentally change the research business because they're not only available to the sell-side research analysts they're available to everybody - that data. I'm interested in how you think about the platform and the tools as how they help you do your job of producing the, you know, the insightful analysis.
P. Hans: That's a really fair point, you know. The access, I guess, to the underlying data, if that's, you know, more readily available by more parties, theoretically the, you know, the edge that any one particular research analyst has diminishes. That's a fair point, you know. It's not something I think about a ton in terms of the inputs, I just kind of think of it very binary, right. Either you put out good research or you don't. So the inputs you do to get there, you know, it is what it is. Though I think that the consumption of research changes. I think both the distribution and the access are, you know, inherently correlated. So those things have to change together. But yeah, very fair point in terms of the input of the process.
J. Tousignant: I completely agree. I think where some people are not, at least from my perspective, getting it is they think the way research analyst did it before is the only way they need to do it now. Maybe the channels have changed, but that to me is thin veneer layering. I think fundamentally, we’re at a radical change, that an analyst in the future is not like an analyst in the past. The tools they use, how they get paid. Look we're not gonna talk about MiFID but the fact is, buy-side firms will pick specific analysts they want to follow and not pay for anybody else. So if that analyst doesn't add deep insight, doesn't really know the story, doesn't add a layer of intelligence over traditional stuff, I'm not going to buy that analyst’s views, opinions, models, or anything. I also think when that happens, you're going to see a radical shift of players. A lot of people work for the sell-side are no longer going to work with a sell-side. They may work for the buy-side. We've talked about it as if what this is is produced on the sell-side. More and more buy-side firms are producing their own intelligence, their own research for their own consumption and for others, and then you have the crowd. How many smart people are out there that, with the right tools as the next analyst, the next broker, I could create a site, analyze it sector or company, do interesting analysis, maybe I have good connections to suppliers, and you know, players in the company, and I can really have a layer of insight, but I only focus on it in these companies? But there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of smart people out there that could start to be virtual analysts, that in the right sort of environment could be surfaced, could be looked at, could be compared. I think analytics, I think big data, I think AI, are going to sift through all of that so that a buy-side portfolio manager will have access to literally hundreds of thousands of smart people talking about different aspects of a company topic in way that has been delivered not before. It's not a PDF report. I really think it’s going to be an interaction. So there's always a people component, but I'm going to talk to them, I'm going to have a virtual meeting, I'm gonna collaborate through a chat session, I'm going to share a model, I'm gonna link. I think it's fundamentally changing and so, in my view, thinking it's the same way you do it, although maybe we add some cloud to it, I think that's where people are gonna get trapped.
D. Maher: Well, I'm not saying anything like that. I didn’t mean to imply that you’re doing it the same way. I mean, my job is different from 25 years ago. 25 years ago I'd get a central bank bulletin and I’d have to type in every number by hand. Now I get it, so let's not pretend, but I say at the core of what an analyst has to deliver is differentiated, relevant information. How he gets and how he does that maybe is changing. And I didn't know if there are any buy-side people in the room, the idea that they might now have access to a hundred thousand clever people, possibly strikes terror into them because already they hate the fact that they’ve got twenty clever people wanting to speak to them any given morning. Now the idea they might have to filter - and I know your technology will filter for them - but, you know, this is the difficulty, you know? And this is why we have a debate. Would have been a boring panel if we all agree.
J. Tousignant: Here's the knowledge I often use around breadth and depth of content, because if you can filter it and analyze it right, you can get to exactly the one story from the one source that matters, right. But if the analogy was cable TV, would you want black and white cable TV, TV with three channels, or ultra high def interesting, interactive cable TV from forty thousand channels on every subject and topic? And a deep level, again, the answer is often, “Of course I'd want that.” But what if I want to get to that Home Shopping Network or that environmental channel or whatever. So the point is I think this persity and breadth is going to radically change how people produce content, how they get surfaced and how they get consumed. And ultimately people play a big part of that and again Symphony to me is a huge advocate of ways that are going to reach new people in new ways and build connections and analysis around data that has never been surfaced before. So to me that's really fascinating.
S. Gilberston: We have one last question from the audience.
Audience Member: Now that Jim has said you guys weren’t able to discuss MiFID, I did want to bring it up. We know the client side of MiFID. What I’m really interested in is, as the research I’m bundling goes forward, does that mean that everything you guys have been talking about, the need to differentiate, the need to add more value, becomes much more important and how do you go about doing it? Because now, everything is transparent, and there are going to be more choices, and there is going to be more focus on the investment managers really going in and weeding out, not just who is delivering the best value from a cost perspective, but who is actually delivering something very different and intelligent.
A. Brook: That's the number one thing that we get when we talk to people on the buy-side: that use case. Okay, I have the 40,000 channels, and it was fine when they were all free and it was a hassle but it was fine. Now if I have to pay for this stuff, directly or indirectly, or if I just I'm getting swamped by it, the ability to actually filter out a lot of information, really drill into the things that matter, and human relationships are still important. Being able to say I know this guy, this guy knows he was talking about, I'm going to follow his stuff. That's the easy case and that part still works and is still important. What's really hard is, okay, but what about everything else? What about the things I don't know, the guy I haven't heard of, this person what's that one trade journal somewhere that you know is talking about this industry in a way that I simply don't get from my sell-side analysts, that I don't get from one of the more traditional sources? So that's a very common pattern that actually comes up in our conversations with the buy-side.
S. Gilberston: We would love to continue the conversation, it's an extremely important point, but that's all the time we have. I wanted to thank this panel for a really educational discussion.
This panel was recorded live at the Conrad Hotel in New York City on October 4, 2017.
Moderator: Susan Gilbertson, Deputy Global Head of Equity Research, Jefferies
-Jim Tousignant, CEO, Founder, FinTech Studios
-Peter Hans, CEO, Harvest Exchange
-Daragh Maher, FX Strategist, Director, HSBC
-Arnaud Girod, Deputy Global Head of Research, Kepler Cheuvreux
-Andrew Brook, CTO, Selerity