Financial technology, better known as fintech, is a super hot field at the moment.
On the supply side, investors are pouring billions into startups around the world which are trying to retool finance with new technology.
And on the demand side, banks are looking to cut costs, meet new regulatory burdens, and find new business models through technology.
Thomson Reuters — the financial data and news giant — wants to own the space.
“The fintech activity has infused all the thinking of our customers,” Albert Lojko, Thomson Reuters’ Global Head of Desktop Platform, told Business Insider. “Their desire to think about how they leverage the cloud, how they reinvent their businesses — that is definitely there.”
He adds: “There’s been a lot of regulation, a lot of changes in the market that they have to keep up with. Our customers are thinking very differently about the structure of their businesses today than they were even a few years ago.”
Lojko runs the Eikon business, Thomson Reuters’ software version of the Bloomberg terminal that’s used by hundreds of thousands of finance professionals in banks, asset managers, and other institutions.
He could see the rise of fintech as a threat. After all, Thomson Reuters can trace its roots back 150 years and has a market cap of around £20 billion — it’s precisely the sort of legacy Goliath many nimble startups are looking to slay.
But Lojko says Thomson Reuters is trying to ride this wave rather than be swept away by it.
“Our approach was very much that there was an opportunity, particularly in financial technology, to create a platform for the financial industry,” Lojko says. “We want to create a canvas for customers and other third parties, what people would traditionally see as competitors of ours — other fintech vendors.”
To that end, Thomson Reuters launched App Studio last October — a kind of finance version of Apple’s App Store. Developers can build application that will run within Thomson Reuters’ Eikon software, offering anything from charting tools to analysis of Twitter sentiment. Lojko says: “The broad idea is that when you have competition, customers win.”
“What people really want is connected workflows — if I’ve got to go from one application to the other and I loose the context, it’s kind of challenging.”
And for developers? “There’s a huge distribution you get by being in Eikon,” Lojko says. “Our view was that there’s a lot of innovation in financial technology but the constraint, often times, is to scale. It’s difficult to get the mind share and the real estate — you’re not going to have 25 different applications on your desktop.”
Lojko says demand in App Studio has been “extremely high” since launch, adding: “That’s representative of the fact that the market is looking for choice, it’s looking for openness.”
While the new App Studio lets third parties build stuff for the platform, Lojko says that doesn’t mean Thomson Reuters will take its foot off the gas when it comes to building tools for customers. “We will always play a pretty central role,” he says.
But he says: “Frankly, we’re leading the charge here because we see the marketplace evolving in that way. We’ve got a unique opportunity to do that with our distribution, our brand, and all the other things we offer. We want more innovation to happen rapidly and we want to be the platform that consolidates that.”
Right now you’re in this massive meteoric rise of fintech companies and that is going to ebb and flow just like all things do
“Right now you’re in this massive meteoric rise of fintech companies and that is going to ebb and flow just like all things do,” Lojko says. “There’ll be consolidation and whatever else and I’m sure people will say it’s the end of fintech.”
“Like I said, those peaks and troughs will be pretty steep but regardless, there’s a need in the market for this kind of thing. What we see as the constant is that we are the underlying platform that everyone has.”
He adds: “Without getting into any companies, the philosophy and our approach pre-dates the Symphonies of the world. I think more broadly what that represents is that the market is saying we want choice, we want openness. We’re open in the truest sense of the world, we’ll connect up with anyone in the industry.”