Exchange group keen to give companies a taste of next-generation tools
NASDAQ OMX significantly expanded its corporate solutions business last summer with the acquisition of the IR, PR and multimedia units of Thomson Reuters, a purchase that added 10,000 user accounts to NASDAQ’s existing 2,000. Nine months later, the exchange group is gearing up for the first in a series of major IR product launches.
The corporate solutions team expects to debut its new IR mobile platform at the end of April. The April release will be a web app, working across all devices, browsers and operating systems. It will be followed by a new stand-alone mobile offering that doesn’t require a full desktop license, a native Apple version of the app and the firm’s next-generation IR desktop suite.
The new mobile app is a completely redesigned version of Thomson Reuters’ IR Mobile product, which NASDAQ OMX inherited as part of the acquisition. ‘We’ve put a significant team on [mobile] to make sure we can give our existing customers a sense of where we are going on the next-gen platform, but [also] give it to them as quickly as possible to show, prove and validate that we are investing very, very heavily in this space,’ says Mike Piispanen, vice president of NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions, who joined the exchange operator last summer after 12 years at Thomson Reuters.
For Piispanen, mobile tools make huge sense for IROs who are constantly on the move. ‘You don’t have to be in the office to interact with the software’, which enables executives to ‘do thinking in the margins of their day,’ he says. ‘We did a lot of research with senior IROs and, often, when they make the best decisions isn’t when they are in a meeting or at their desk.’
At the moment when you sign up for an IR desktop product with NASDAQ OMX, you get the mobile app as a companion. Over the summer, the exchange plans to bring out an option to add mobile users who do not have a log-in for the desktop, allowing additional individuals to view reports and other output without buying a full license.
Piispanen predicts the mobile-only users will include members of senior management. We can ‘make it easier for IROs to get information into the hands of the C-suite or perhaps the board,’ he says. ‘We’re able to extend our footprint inside the organization… it’s getting them a seat on the senior management team’s mobile device.’
He also sees a market for the mobile-only offering in parts of Europe and Asia where price becomes more of an issue. ‘If you have a more cost-effective solution, we can drop it in there rather than sell full-on, all-in desktop capabilities,’ he explains.
The decision to bring out an Apple version of the app – due for launch in the fall – followed analysis of NASDAQ OMX’s users, which showed the majority of traffic derives from iOS rather than Android devices. The Apple app will make full use of the iPhone’s functionality, such as voice-recognition software Siri, as well as the offline access a native app allows.
‘Roughly 20 percent of our user base today uses our IR mobile app,’ notes Piispanen. ‘We hope to double or triple that by the end of the year. I think we have a good chance with these investments of being able to do that.’
A central plank of NASDAQ OMX’s new offering to the IR community will be its next-generation desktop solution. This is what Piispanen is spending most of his time on. In fact, he started thinking about it prior to the acquisition, when Thomson Reuters was exploring a sale of its IR, PR and multimedia businesses. ‘We had done some work, as part of being divested, and one of the things [we explored] was what our business would look like should we ever stand alone, and we knew we would have to build a new desktop product,’ he says.
The new product plans were put to Bob Greifeld, NASDAQ OMX’s CEO, who backed them. ‘We had a unique opportunity, a chance to redefine that space, and we took the opportunity and now we are on that path,’ says Piispanen. NASDAQ OMX plans to offer a sneak peak of the desktop product at NIRI’s annual conference this year, with the solution commercially available by June 2015.
One of the principal challenges for NASDAQ OMX following the takeover has been to reassure thousands of Thomson Reuters’ clients about the change in ownership of their IR tools. That process was not helped when the NYSE said its subsidy program, which helps listed companies pay for the cost of IR services, would not cover Thomson Reuters products after they transfer to NASDAQ OMX. The withdrawal of support left hundreds of companies facing the prospect of either stumping up more cash or changing to other vendors still covered by the subsidy.
‘I think the NYSE’s unilateral choice to announce the end of the subsidy was done in a sudden way. It was not popularly received by the customer base, and we were able to step in and back-stop it quickly,’ says Chris Collett, vice president of NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions.
‘In terms of our overall strategy, I think we’ve come out of this situation quite positively, and with a higher level of customer acceptance and goodwill, which I think will serve us very well in the near and long term. We are certainly committed to working with each affected customer and have had positive responses from the majority.’
The top concerns among NASDAQ OMX’s new clients have been content and usability, says Piispanen. ‘The first thing they want to know is what’s happening with the content. We have a long-standing agreement with Thomson Reuters for the content; we’re very happy with that – we have no risk there,’ he explains. ‘When clients hear that we’re investing tens of millions of dollars into design over the next couple of years, they are excited.’