On its thirtieth anniversary Bloomberg officially launched an updated $100 million version of its core terminal yesterday in London and New York simultaneously. The NEXT platform of the Bloomberg Professional Service is intended to give traders and financial services end users faster, deeper insights into the markets and to enable the market data terminal to answer questions more intuitively in future, not just present research and data, via an enhanced ‘natural language’ search function and ‘give me the answer’ front-end tool.
According to Tom Secunda, the co-founder and vice chairman of Bloomberg speaking at the launch, “this is an evolutionary step” that helps order increasingly complex markets and aids productivity, while continuing the company’s mission to deliver on “Mike Bloomberg’s famous three-legged stool, consisting of news, data and analytics”. The NEXT platform consolidates and crucially integrates these feeds better than ever before believes the company, giving users easier access to the information that exists on the terminal and enhancing the customer experience. “For example, you can ask what was US CPI in 2000 …and bang, there is the answer.” Users can then drill down into the answer for further research, added Jean-Paul Zammitt, global head of core product development at Bloomberg, pointing out that this is the key presentational change in the NEXT platform, requiring every help screen and back end process to be rewritten and updated.
Under development for the last two years, Bloomberg asserts that 3,000 technologists were involved in the overhaul of its core terminal, which is used by traders, analysts and even some large multinational corporate treasuries looking to hedge their foreign exchange exposure. A select group of existing clients, including OCBC Bank, Credit Agricole CIB, and Glenhill Capital were involved in the development phrase, allowing Bloomberg to review common keystrokes and commands across an array of functions in order to improve the customer experience.
More than 100,000 clients have already converted to Bloomberg NEXT at no extra cost in the £20,000 per year outlay since its ‘soft launch’ at the end of last year, with less than 1% converting back to their old terminal. The company said that two thirds of them are using the NEXT platform more than their old terminal and that it wants to convert all of its 313,000 subscriber base for the Bloomberg Professional Service by the end of this year.
“Bloomberg NEXT saves me time by discovering functions and data more quickly,” said Seth Hoenig, head trader at one of the ‘soft launch’ development partners, Glenhill Capital. “The new help menus enable users to find the answer that they need fast. Stumbling upon the hidden gems within Bloomberg has always been revelatory; now it’s easier.”
According to Lars Hansen, senior portfolio manager at Denmark's DIP, the Danish Pension Fund for Engineers: "Bloomberg NEXT is a major step forward. It is much more intuitive – you can see multiple pieces of information on one screen, which lets you see new interrelationships."
Bloomberg highlighted what it sees as three key improvements in its updated terminal:
• Better discoverability: Bloomberg NEXT's new discoverability features allow users to get quick, direct answers to their queries as well as pull together a wide variety of related details such as companies, research and charts. A more powerful search engine means users can type just a few words and go directly to the desired securities, functions, people and news. The streamlined menu listing puts the most relevant information and topics right up front.
• More uniformity: Every screen of the Bloomberg Professional Service has been redesigned to provide a common look and feel. This consistent interface across all asset classes, from FX to commodities and fixed income, and across all functions should allow expert users and generalists alike to more efficiently navigate often-used functions and discover new ones. An educational overview of each market segment for novices is also included in the update.
• Intuitive workflow: The functionality of the Bloomberg Professional service has been re-engineered so that a user should be able to quickly and seamlessly navigate through the series of questions and answers essential to making smart market decisions. The new workflow, with user prompts, in Bloomberg NEXT is intended to allow expert users to drill deeper into the data and to let occasional users discover new functions.
"The complexity and interconnectedness of the global financial marketplace has grown significantly. Business and financial professionals need to synthesize astounding amounts of information to make intelligent investment decisions," explained co-founder, Tom Secunda. The firm is still a big believer in a single product approach, however, he stressed at the official launch of NEXT but this, “obviously gives us challenges as markets get more and more complex.”
NEXT is Bloomberg’s response. "The pace of change in financial markets will only accelerate and with it the need for more information," added Secunda, before concluding that he believes, “Bloomberg is now positioned to quickly answer those evolving questions and ensure that our clients will always have the leading edge in making investment decisions."
Bloomberg’s new NEXT platform will go head-to-head against Thomson Reuters in the market data sector, which is increasing in value as financial markets get more and more complex and new post-crash regulations place new information demands upon market participants. Both companies are running neck and neck in terms of market data share, with estimates of 30% for each at present.
One terminal is proprietary, of course, with Bloomberg maintaining its closed market data platform in its NEXT iteration, while Thomson Reuters is now following an open access model with its Eikon terminal, allowing users to add their own data and applications. The relative failure of Thomson Reuters Eikon platform, which has sold only tens of thousands of units since launch rather than the hoped for hundreds of thousands, is what prompted the open access model from Thomson Reuters, although it does of course take time to build up a following. It will be interesting to see if Thomson Reuters move allows the firm to win back lost market data share or if Bloomberg’s updated terminal can keep it on its recent upward curve. The former is still benefiting from the 2008 merger that united Thompson Financial with Reuters, giving it synergies in the data collection and delivery areas, but the competition between the two has just hotted up.