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Data-Management Matchup

Three data-management heavyweights step into the ring to discuss the details of data. With Tim Lind, a senior analyst in TowerGroup's investment-management practice, as the moderator, these three experts exchange insight.

John Bottega, Director, Global Head, Products & Price Reference Data, Credit Suisse First Boston

Christian Hudson, Chief Information Officer, Swiss American Securities

Margret Hibschman, Principal, Global Head, Market Data, Barclays Global Investors


TIM Lind: Why is data management such a hot topic? Why now?

MARGRET Hibschman: The downturn of the early 2000s had cost-discovery in all areas, and market data was just one area that firms were starting to look at in terms of cost control. If data is wrong, there are real areas with real dollar-effect to firms.

CHRISTIAN Hudson: Data was wrong before, but we had the money, especially in the budgets we saw in the '90s, to bury it with human beings. With the downturned market and a focus on straight-through processing, suddenly the data issues were magnified. We realized that there's real dollars and cents involved here. We're not just talking about something that will save you a little money, but something that will save you a lot of money.

JOHN Bottega: It's about the evolution of information management. In the '80s, everything was mainframe-based, with a single database. But in the '90s, there was an explosion of distributed databases. All of a sudden, at the heart of everything, was reference data.

Lind: What are institutions doing to improve the infrastructure around their data?

Bottega: It's a three-pronged approach. It's not technology alone; it's technology, content and people. From a people perspective, there's a reengineering of the human side, both up the management chain and down to the people doing the work. And technology drives all of that.

Hibschman: It's less [focus] on rationalization, and more on optimization of our providers - trying to get more for what we spend as opposed to spending less.

Lind: What is the business case for investing in data-management technology? Is there a tangible return on investment? How can you measure that return?

Bottega: Initially, everyone was focused on cost-cutting, but that shouldn't be the driver. It's gaining efficiencies, and one begets the other. If you gain efficiencies, you lower risks, you lower breaks and then you realize that you can cut costs.

Hudson: It's not an ROI issue; it's common sense. Your data needs to be good, and if it's not, with the amount of transactions you're processing on a day-to-day basis, you're just not going to be able to survive.

Lind: What is the key to successful data-management? Is it technical architecture, people, process or senior-management buy-in?

Hibschman: Hands down, it's senior-management buy-in. But also buy-in from other areas of business. You can't expect to come up with solutions if you don't have participation of the user groups within firms. And you can't expect to get funding and support without senior-management support.

Hudson: For me, it's process. In the end, the people and the technology come together to create a process. It's up to the organization to allow a process to exist.

Lind: Do you see institutions looking to buy data-management products off the shelf, or will IT regimes build?

Hudson: IT always wants to build itself, but a lot depends on the size of the organization. An organization the size of us, we're going to end up having a combination. We have legacy applications, so we're going to have to get into the build process, but as much as I can actually purchase for a reasonable price, I'm going to go ahead and do that.

Lind: Will institutions adopt standards as a basis for internal data models, and when?

Bottega: Yes, they should. If not, they're missing the boat. But the reality is there is going to be a lot of wait-and-sees.

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