April 2022 – Managing market data suppliers is a skill. However, it is interesting how many people become a market data specialist out of necessity; it ends up falling on their desk when the CFO or other financial manager says, “please figure this out.” Accordingly, it turns out to be a critical part of your strategic and tactical duties.
Managing market data suppliers is a skill. However, it is interesting how many people become a market data specialist out of necessity; it ends up falling on their desk when the CFO or other financial manager says, “please figure this out.” Accordingly, it turns out to be a critical part of your strategic and tactical duties.
Any information that comes from third parties needs to be managed and properly controlled, which requires a set of specific skills that are different from those of a standard procurement specialist. As part of the various tasks associated with market data management, active involvement with internal stakeholders, leadership, management, finance, legal and audit/compliance is part of the job. Market data management is very much a collaborative effort.
It is important to identify a list of objectives that form the basis of market data management. Some of these objectives are strategic to ensure maximum business benefit and value and others are tactical to ensure the proper levels of business oversight and financial and administrative control. There can be many more, however the top 10 objectives are as follows:
The actual use of each of the above objectives will vary based on the business relationship you have with each supplier. For example, the larger the spend levels and use of multiple products/services from the supplier, the more strategic the process becomes.
Market data (also called Information, Content, or Data) is a catchall term that encompasses all information that is or can be used to execute the business objectives of the firm. The data can be internal, part of the internal knowledge base of the organization, or external, sourced from third parties outside of the organization. The term ‘market data’ is usually associated with the financial industry, as the term “market” refers to the securities and exchange/stock markets, although now it has become more widely used.
There is an exhaustive list of data that is included in business of market data management. Following are some examples:
One of the most important goals is to identify the total annual expenditures of all market data as the role of managing this silo becomes focused on budgetary oversight. Thus transparency is a critical objective – having a clear understanding of all market data used within the organization and One of the reasons why this is important is that you, in your role of managing content suppliers, will be asked to account for the total content spend levels and budgetary oversight, so there must have a clear understanding on what is included and if there is spend elsewhere within the organization.
Market data sourcing is very complex and while often described as buying it is not the same as the general sourcing of other products. The term buying infers that the client is the owner of the product. That is clearly not the case with market data sourcing. There are major differences which include:
There is a wide range of thinking and practices on the part of the suppliers for how they implement their usage practices and guidelines. Some suppliers are very strict while others allow a wide level of client interpretation on what they want to do with the information. A lot of this depends on the criticality of the data and if the data can be sourced from only a single supplier. Given the complexity and differentiation in usage rules from supplier to supplier, it is important to understand how the data is licensed vs. how the user population is using the data.
The initial questions are:
Each of these questions needs to be answered prior to initially licensing the data as well as each time the contract renews and needs to be negotiated.
There must be a clear definition on why the data is required. Describing how the data will be used to the supplier so that proper contractual terms and usage rights can be negotiated is a key component of the job. In addition, it is needed to justify the funding and approval for the data to management. This process is repeated at every renewal. Revalidation of the users continued need for the data is key so as not to renew a contract where the data is either no longer required or the scope should be modified to accommodate changes.
Revalidation is particularly important if a contract has an automatic renewal clause, also known as “evergreen language” – which as the term indicates, renews by itself if action is not taken to amend or end the contract. If possible, it is recommended that renewal language be removed from all contracts. While autorenewal may seem to cut down on work, it is often detrimental in the long run.
This starts the discussion on usage, which is a key component to the whole process.
Will the data be made available to the whole organization or for a single division? Will the data be housed in a controlled environment so that you can manage usage, or will it be openly available to all users?
Suppliers offer many options for usage – this can be based on the number of users or documents used, access time, internal sharing, etc. Each of these options has a cost to consider. Assume that the wider the usage or access level, the higher the cost.
When renewing an agreement, it must be determined if usage has changed – up or down? Are there changes to the way the data will be delivered and/or stored? Many clients are looking at delivery through the cloud and storage options for the future using Data Warehousing or Data Lakes. These changes will likely have an effect on costs.
Another question is redistribution, both internally and externally. As a rule, external distribution is not allowed without the proper licensing, so be sure to consider this if it is needed for clients or market purposes.
Usage is a key component in the whole discussion and there can be serious consequences for usage beyond the contractual guidelines.
Knowing the best sources requires market knowledge of the various suppliers and current products/services that they offer. This is knowledge that is built over time based on many factors including discussions with stakeholders, suppliers and peers in the industry. The market data landscape changes constantly with merger, acquisitions and new products/services being introduced. It is important to keep abreast of these changes through industry groups, publications and events.
Very few products are single sources and the “only show in town”. Some suppliers may have more detailed information or a further “niche” value. In addition, some users are adamant on the suppliers they need to serve their business purposes. Some firms will support this position while others are more focused on the costs.
When evaluating the renewal of a specific product/service, consider looking at alternative products that may have come to the marketplace since your last renewal. Sometimes changes in usage of products/services can be financially motivated – targeting cost reductions and at other times there is a better product to satisfy the business requirements. The point is – do not assume that the current mix of products is the best, test that assumption at each renewal.
In any business situation where negotiation is involved, you need to know and have a working knowledge of who is on the other side of the table from you. Regardless of the individual supplier, there is a difference in how each approaches the marketplace, how they set their fee models and how they negotiate. It is important to understand these nuances before beginning the negotiation process.
It is essential to understand the full and complete level of business the firm is currently doing with the supplier. This should include all current agreements; spend levels and other relevant factors. In a global organization, the spend must include the total across the entire organization, even if individual agreement are managed in different regions.
Consider a situation where an organization has multiple agreements in place with the same supplier at various locations servicing different end user groups across that firm. Different Account Representatives from the supplier managed each agreement thus globalizing the agreements is a challenge. However, it is important to insist on seeing all the global usage data, which will likely be larger than expected. The overall point is that a firm has more impact and leverage negotiating a $5 million aggregate spend as compared to working on individual agreements for $500,000 each.
Understanding the organizations’ relationship and history with the supplier before starting the negotiations is key. Has the relationship been positive or contentious? Have there been any issues with the product/service, data delivery, service level, etc.? Knowledge of past dealings with the supplier including being familiar with what has been achieved in prior years can be useful in new negotiations.
Finally, be aware of how each supplier approaches to the marketplace. Are they consistent or do they adapt their negotiation strategy to each client? Are there certain market issues that are particularly important to that supplier. Some suppliers are more negotiable than others. There are several that do not negotiate and have fixed and standard fees. These suppliers have products that are critical to the end user and there are few if any alternative marketplace options. Other suppliers who have products/services that can be acquired elsewhere in the marketplace will be more negotiable. Understanding the specifics in advance will save time and effort on the negotiation.
The number of individuals and level of knowledge on the team will differ based on the size of the organization and the importance and criticality to the business process for the information products/services included in the negotiation. Logically the team will include the following:
It is important that all members of the team make a commitment of time to the whole review and process. The Team Leader needs to keep other members informed of status and current discussions and open issues.
It is very important to get legal involved as soon as possible. Requesting a supplier’s standard contract or MSA at the start of the negotiation is helpful to allow legal to start to review them as soon as possible. Further, knowing who will sign the agreement and where that person will be located on the day that the agreement needs to be signed is key.
Understanding the importance of a product/service to the business process of an organization is a key factor in how to prepare for negotiation with the supplier. Simply put, in some cases it determines who is in charge.
Most products/services fall into one of three categories:
Determining which category the data falls into helps determine negotiation strategy. If a product is a Must Have, required by the Stakeholder and critical to the business process, business terms must be reached with the supplier. Conversely, if the product is a Nice to Have, negotiators can take a firmer approach with the supplier as there would be minimum impact if terms were not reached with the supplier.
A key question to answer is if there are alternatives and similar products/services available in the marketplace. Following are examples:
The key learning point is to be clear on how important the product/service is to the users, what are the options in the marketplace, what is the approach and stance taken by the supplier and what can be reasonably achieved. Negotiation strategy should be set based on these results.
Understanding how the data is used within the firm is a key factor in managing suppliers. Once the usage has been defined, the follow up action is the review of the actual level of usage and how that compares to the contracted usage guidelines.
Reviewing and checking usage validates that the firm is getting the proper value from their investment with that supplier. Some suppliers have very good usage information, which is readily given to their clients. Other suppliers are hesitant to share usage data or will tell clients that they do not have the operational processes to capture the data. There are some homegrown systems where the clients can capture the data themselves.
Most suppliers do have usage information and it is important to obtain that information on a consistent basis. The purpose of the usage review is to ensure that the users are using the product in the manner that was intended when the initial agreement was signed. Further, reviewing the usage data during the term of the contract could provide opportunities for cost reduction (if allowed) or at least provide the ability to renegotiate properly at the end of the term.
One of the more critical, and often misunderstood steps is setting a timeline for how you are going to approach the negotiations. The key reason for developing a timeline is to be in control. By not being proactive of the time frame there is a risk of being set up to be controlled by events and the actions of others.
It is not uncommon for an individual who is managing a supplier and an upcoming negotiation to pull the file from the last negotiation out the night before the first meeting with that supplier. It happens all the time. In this case the Account Representative has likely done their background work and is coming to the meeting with their goals and objectives at the ready. To be successful, the right level of background work is imperative for the end user firm to take the lead and be in charge.
There is no guideline for setting the negotiations timeline; it is going to vary based on the size and importance of the deal. It will obviously take longer to negotiate a complex enterprise agreement for multiple products that is used throughout the firm as compared with a simple and low volume database or a list of publications and books. In the case of complex deals, ongoing discussions throughout the year are likely. Thus, the specifics of the upcoming negotiation have likely been considered well before the time.
Large firms maintain an inventory of all market data contracts, terms, conditions, costs, etc. Smaller firms may not have invested in an inventory system and opt for maintaining the information within spreadsheets. At a minimum, it is important to set up a contract inventory schedule with key dates, paying particular attention to contract cancellation notification clauses, the last date that you can cancel the agreement. These can be 30 to 90 days or more, before the renewal date. This is often the case with automatic renewal contracts, when the agreement can renew automatically, which then limits the opportunity and leverage for any negotiations.
Keep in mind that some suppliers will use time as a factor in how they negotiate. Specifically, they will deliberately take a long time to respond and hedge in providing a timely proposal. This is done on purpose as the supplier benefits if the client is faced with a short amount of time to react. In this case, it is possible to be forced to consent to terms that are less than acceptable. This is particularly the case with suppliers who have a policy of terminating services if the contract has not been executed. They will try to get as close to the renewal date as possible, which limits the time to review and make a counter proposal. Do not let this happen. The buyer should be in charge.
There is a difference between setting negotiation objectives and setting a negotiation strategy. The objectives represent the result, and the strategy characterizes how to achieve that result.
The objectives can encompass many things and will vary greatly based on the suppliers and the various products/services. Most of the objectives are going to come from the Stakeholders and End Users.
Following are some sample objectives:
The list is going to vary based on the business requirements of the Stakeholder, the firms’ financial objectives and other factors.
Some of the objectives can come from market knowledge and insight obtained through dealings with those on the outside. For example, if the supplier has made concessions or given additional service to other clients in the marketplace, the new negotiation should include this in the ask.
Also, be aware that that the supplier will have their own list of objectives. This can include increased usage levels, having the client look at a new product/service, and/or other similar goals. Asking the supplier to state their objectives at the start is a key negotiation strategy. It may be evident that their goals are less onerous than anticipated.
There are many factors that are going to impact setting the negotiation strategy, for example:
The responses to each of these questions, will impact your strategy.
If you have a situation where the product/service is critical to your business process and your stakeholders must have the product, the strategy is very clear. The negotiation will follow the policy and guidelines set by the supplier with the goal of the firm to minimize both financial and operational risks. In this case, the supplier is in charge and the firm will pay the fixed rates and live within the usage guidelines and practices of their standard agreement.
If the supplier has a mix of products that are used by the firm, and there are other market options for similar products, a strategy can be set to obtain additional usage at no cost. The strategy may include presenting the importance of the requirements to the supplier while being clear that there are other market options, and concessions are required if the supplier wants to maintain the account.
If the product/service falls into the Nice to Have category, and industry information provides details whereby lower costs can be obtained, then the strategy would incorporate telling the supplier that they must lower their fees if they want to maintain the account.
Remember that a strategy is nothing more than an approach to help obtain the stated objectives.
Successful negotiations are not just about money. It should be about the value.
Money is important and, in some cases, it needs to be the primary factor. Marketdata is expensive. The level of data that is required by companies is on the rise and for some business sectors the market data budget can be a material expense. Further, every organization has budgets and financial oversight, which include projections for the increase levels for market data expenses, and the individuals who handle the negotiations must work within those projections and guidelines. But there is more.
How is value defined. A cross section of clients identify what they want from their market data products:
This is a wide range of requirements that goes well beyond money. The totality of all these requirements defines the value that companies attach to their content and data products.
As previously stated, each negotiation is going to be different. Seldom will there be a situation where all the value factors listed above will be included in the negotiation. But odds are that the negotiation will always include multiple factors. If negotiations have a single focus on money, then it puts the other value factors at risk. Each firm will need to determine what is important for that negotiation on a case by basis.
One of the reasons why some people fail in the negotiations process is that they do not understand or fully comprehend what the negotiation process entails. We know that a negotiation is a process where two or more parties, who each have their own point of view or set of objectives, must come together to a common point of view to meet a common goal or business requirement. The key point is to understand and accept that each party’s objectives must be reflected at some level in the outcome of the negotiation.
When negotiating with a supplier there are several basic business assumptions. There is a business need for market data and the supplier has a product/service offering that meets or comes close to satisfying the business requirement. These are the basic assumptions. The specifics are focused on the financial, usage and operational & administrative terms. How much is it going to cost, how broad are the usage guidelines or restrictions, where will the data be stored, can it be shared and distributed internally and/or externally, what are the payment terms and service levels, etc.
In the first meeting, the supplier will present their perception of the value of their product/services and how that supports the firms’ business process. If usage has been high this will become one of their main points of discussion and value. The supplier will also talk about any new product developments and additional enhancements they are adding to their products and marketplace offerings.
The initial meeting is where both parties present their initial objectives. Sometimes a supplier brings a first draft proposal. It is best to take that under advisement and not respond immediately. The only exception to that is if the proposal is far outside of the range of your objectives; either change in usage that impact the business requirements, large fee increases, etc. In that case, it is advisable to state the position that the proposal is outside of the guidelines set by the negotiation team and there is little chance that it will be accepted as presented. Send them away with the statement – “you need to rethink your position” or “go away and sharpen your pencil”. It can be stated that the next proposal needs to fall within a specific range. Remember that it is in the interest of the supplier to have a successful negotiation and execute the agreement.
In most cases the back and forth will evolve at its own level, however it should be within the timeframes established in the initial meeting with the supplier. It is not uncommon for the supplier to try to backdoor their negotiation with the Stakeholder by using intimidation tactics and trying to cause a divide between the negotiator and the users of the products. There needs to be a common position by all members of the negotiation team.
By the end of the back-and-forth discussion with the supplier the negotiations team, terms that are acceptable to both parties and reflect market reality will have been reached. If there are still serious roadblocks, involve a higher level of management. This often comes down to two factors – money and business risk.
The current Information marketplace is both static and changing. The biggest change is always the increase in the cost and usage of market data. Needs are evolving, usage keeps growing and the number of suppliers has increased alongside demand. In addition, as the world improves on the technological front, new and different ways emerge for both delivery, storage and access.
There have been several trends and changes over the last five years. Following is a summary of major points:
All these factors will impact your negotiations with Market Data Suppliers. There is a definite trend for suppliers to take a firmer approach with their setting of fee and usage models and negotiations strategy. Further, there has been an increase in the number of instances where a supplier will ask for a one-time increase that falls well outside of the standard fee increase levels. These cases, which were outliers in the past, are becoming much more the norm.
As the business appetite and requirements for market data continues to grow the business practices for procuring data and managing suppliers will become more complex and require more staff and tools to effectively oversee the process. Individuals managing the negotiations and managing suppliers will play a critical role in this whole process.
The measurement of success depends on the firm, their objectives and their budgetary constraints.
The most logical measure is how has the firm maintained the aggregate increase levels for all suppliers and how does that compare to the budgetary guidelines. If firm management has set an information budget with an increase level of 5% across all market data suppliers and renewals have been negotiated at a 4.7% increase level across the board, then the financial objectives have been met. This objective often assumes static usage levels, which is seldom the case. In most cases there will be changes in usage levels based on business requirements, either up or down. Or, perhaps a supplier had a change in their fee model or increased their product offering and proposed a fee that was an outlier.
Beyond the financial measures there are numerous business measures. Are stakeholders and user groups satisfied that they have the best mix of products/services to meet their business requirements to give them a market edge? Do they have the best possible usage rules? Does the firm have positive and workable relationships with their suppliers? These are the true measures of success and they come from a combination of negotiations with individual suppliers as well as the holistic picture of how well the entire portfolio of products/services have been managed as well as how well they support the business requirements of the organization.
In closing, it is clear that the role of Market Data Manager and the team will have evolving roles as the marketplace grows and changes.
The roles and titles that relate to many of these duties are varied – ranging from Information Sourcing Professional, External Content Management to Market Data Manager. Where the role sits in the organization is also varied – ranging from Information Technology, Operations, Compliance, and more recently, Procurement.
Many of these roles are interesting, innovative, and dynamic. They are often new to the organization, moved from a part time role to support the various responsibilities, to full time and focused roles. Few organizations started with the business objectives to develop a market data vendor management or sourcing group. In the past these tasks have been managed by each area that requires the data. This is called a decentralized environment. Most firms have created full time positions to effectively manage the high costs of data.
There is a high value level attached to these roles. Individuals will interact with critical business leaders that include stakeholders, finance, operations, IT, and senior management. The skill set for the market data manager is increasing organically and firms should be sure to engage these professionals to create transparency, control spend and most of all provide ever-increasing value.