One of the many consequences of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is that it has brought to the fore a number of business and operational imperatives for capital markets firms, not least of which is the need to go back to basics and focus on their raisons d’être. After all, as much as buy-side and sell-side firms might argue that they are technology and data businesses, their core functions remain the provision of financial services to their clientele and not managing complex, expensive and often laborious data management functions—especially when there are specialist providers that can oversee those tasks better, more cost-effectively and more efficiently than they can.
The benefits of the data utility proposition are clear: operational efficiency, cost reduction, shortened time to market, significantly improved data quality, reduced operational risks and access to a support team of subject matter experts with an intimate understanding of clients’ challenges based on first-hand experience addressing those same issues while working on the buy side and sell side. These benefits were factored into the collective thinking of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and a third tier-one bank when the three institutions entered into a joint venture with SmartStream in 2009 that led to the establishment of the Reference Data Utility (RDU) as a means of improving the quality of their listed derivatives data. This whitepaper outlines the history of the RDU, charts its development, scrutinizes its underlying technology and articulates the business benefits that users can reasonably expect on the back of subscribing to it.