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TheMarkets seeks simple accessibility

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Big institutional investors typically farm out pieces of their multibillion-dollar pension accounts to the nine major Wall Street investment firms. And so, when seeking equity research and other financial data online, they need to log on to nine different password-authorized Web sites—an ordeal about as efficient as Soviet-era banking TheMarkets.com intends to simplify the process by making all the firms’ content accessible over a single portal.

A who’s who list of the leading investment banks, including Goldman Sachs & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., are teaming up to launch the TheMarkets.com.

Due to go live by March, the portal will feature content from all the bankrolling firms, ranging from equity new issue information to institutional-quality research to industry-specific analyst reports. Third-party financial news will also be included.

Other investment banks that have taken undisclosed equity stakes in TheMarkets.com are Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Salomon Smith Barney Inc., Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and UBS Warburg.

While some of these firms have worked together on b-to-b derivatives and bond trading hubs, TheMarkets.com is their first attempt at an all-purpose informational portal.

"Conceptually, it’s a wonderful idea," said Ray Chinn, senior engagement manager at Financial Institutions Consulting Group. Other, similar sites will follow in its wake, he said. "The whole screen-scraping concept is just beginning," he said.

Marketing potential

The portal also has the potential to be a brilliant Web marketing tool. Most investment banks, TheMarkets.com’s founders included, have taken a nearsighted approach to searching for a way to market over the Internet. Should it gain the traction its backers hope for, TheMarkets.com could become their bankers’ most valuable Internet-based brand.

David Eisner, CEO of TheMarkets.com, said the start-up would make the working lives of institutional investors easier by bringing all the content they could possibly need to one site.

"It’s a one-click opportunity for institutional investors to access the intellectual property and capital markets information of nine of the largest securities firms in the world," he said. It will be heavy on the type of content institutional investors crave, such as IPO and secondary offering information as well as a capital markets calendar.

Only clients of the backing firms will have access to the site. It will generate revenues by charging Goldman, Merrill and the others annual and monthly fees, which have not been disclosed.

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