Symphony made the news last month. Apparently they’re going back to the equity well for another $100 million. I have a Symphony account and I’m giving it a fair shake, but I don’t think they’re the right firm to attack the financial desktop market. I’m a big fan of what Morgan Downey is doing over at Money.Net. He gets the API concept better than 99.9% of our industry. That said, I can’t help but believe the best chance for true disruption in this space belongs to Google. It did belong to Yahoo, but, well, we’re talking about Yahoo.
In July of 2014, Rich Brown (who also contributed to this post) and I put an unsolicited proposal together for Google; which I almost never do. It has been a latent proposal thus far, but it looks something like this…
Objective: Assist Google in creating a financial platform for institutional and semi-professional consumption that becomes the de facto information platform for over half a million affluent professional users and millions more semi-professional and active trading users. This platform is particularly capable of delivering a captive audience with advertising and other potential revenue sources that are integrated into both the personal and professional workflows of the users; thus enabling a more complete understanding of user demographics, interests and preferences. In addition, with such high precision in targeting, Google can command a substantial premium from the advertisers and supporting partner participants.
In plain English, we are talking Freemium. Why Freemium? Because that’s how you disrupt the incumbents. Imagine locking millions of highly paid professionals to your desktop for nine or so hours a day. How much would Nordstrom, BMW, Rolex, etc. enjoy the opportunity to advertise to that group?
Google has strong core assets scattered across the company, including a venture group, a suite of cloud solutions, a strong news practice, chat and voice services, e-mail, document management, analytics, and of course, a financial website.
The Google Ventures team has invested in multiple FinTech and tech companies that naturally integrate to Google Finance. Some of the investments include:
- – AngelList to incorporate seed funding;
- – Farmers Business Network and Orbital Insight for agricultural products, parking lot surveillance, mine and port activity, and generic satellite views;
- – Kensho because it’s Kensho and Daniel Nadler gets it;
- – Recorded Future for event detection;
- – Robinhood for trading;
- – Slack for OTC and generic team and trading desk collaboration;
- – Weaveworks because it’s just the coolest way to turn public cloud into a market data backbone;
Next look at Google Cloud and what a smart industry veteran could do with that. They have a ready-made network for moving market data around the world (see Weaveworks above) and are naturals at the machine learning wave that is just hitting the capital markets shore. Amazon Web Services beat them to SEC 17a-4 and CFTC 1.31 compliant storage with Glacier VaultLock, but that gap is closeable and would additionally compete directly with Bloomberg Vault.
Add Google Voice, Google Chat, and Gmail with the aforementioned compliant storage and retrieval and maybe tighten the Slack integration for communications.
Underpinning the whole offering would be Google Analytics, leveraging key information from across the structured and unstructured web. But, instead of mind-numbing pages of search results on a given topic, Google should put a financial relevance spin on the results that are given. Imagine Google being able to automatically give you a one- to two-page overview on an industry based on its evolution over months or decades, showing you the industry participants – supply chain, competitors, etc., a list of the main themes or issues along with supporting and refuting evidence, links to both free and premium content (it already indexes more content than any other company in the world), all integrated into the Google ecosystem (voice, chat, e-mail, etc.) and delivered through a combination of direct search and cognitive interactions. For once, a user can get truly personalized, relevant content recommendations delivered to her/him at the right time through the right medium.
If it wanted to get a jumpstart on the traditional market data services, Google could even buy a feed handler company (there are some for sale) and create its own normalized and direct feeds for the desktop along with the more advanced systematic investment and trading feeds, leveraging the cheap historical storage in its cloud along with easy API access.
Lastly, Google Finance would be wise to emulate Money.Net (probably by outright buying Money.Net) in the open API approach. The problem with a locked-in desktop is growth inhibition. This desktop will need the ability to incorporate functionality from entrepreneurs in the space, leveraging the concepts of the application ecosystems so successful with Google and Apple. Further, there is always a need for proprietary extensions in capital markets institutions (even if they all have the exact same proprietary need), so creating an open desktop will allow individual institutions to embed their own differentiators. They may even want to create an ad-free version, which would be fine for firms that want to offer premium over freemium.
First appeared at Finextra