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To Support Data Tech Innovation Surge, Spread a Little API-ness
By Andrew Lewkowicz

"Financial markets firms are demanding changes to the way they access and analyze financial data, leading to a rise in technology innovation among companies leading the charge to meet this demand and change the status quo," says Andrew Lewkowicz, managing director of Edgar Online.

For years, enterprises, investors and analysts were virtually tethered to large desktop terminals, spending long hours sifting through for specialized data points. Fast forward to today when nimble companies are providing distinctive data and analytics, and focusing on data­driven, automated solutions that deliver the right data in the right context at the right time. This means that rather than relying on the standardized data points of net sales, revenue growth and employee figures that are clearly stated in 10­Qs, 10­Ks, 8­Ks and other filings, savvy executives can access and analyze unique data points that help them more easily evaluate possible acquisition targets, conduct competitive reviews, and strengthen sales and marketing strategies.

In recent years, the capital markets industry has welcomed innovative financial services technology providers, big and small, that can deliver the solutions to make this possible. For example, analytical developers and internal teams are searching the Web for numbers and obtaining data through to create specific datasets for qualified analytics. Technology companies such as are pursuing a partner­supported API strategy to facilitate their partners' and clients' ability to access and deliver the right content, at the right time, in the right format. They are providing delivery solutions that cater to specific workflows and end­user experiences, aiming to provide a single delivery platform for clients to access all current and future Edgar data and filings. Furthermore, they are expanding entitlement options and product packages (e.g. smaller datasets) to provide greater flexibility and meet client needs while reducing custom work and ongoing support. This can be lucrative if tapped correctly.

According to reports, the rise of API programs is expected to increase over the next five years, with more than 85 percent of large companies having formalized communities. This technology is becoming essential to firms, as it is establishing and boosting mobility programs, fueling partner connectivity, driving cloud integration, enabling internal developers and fostering the external developer ecosystem. Additionally, APIs will enable easier client onboarding, as well as increase the speed of launching applications through better documentation and interactive sandbox environments. API technology is putting data and content at the center of the organization, resulting in better­informed decision making, organizational governance and strategic planning. There are 18.2 million developers worldwide, working across the full range of business challenges, including databases, client/service applications, B2B/ecommerce and Web applications, among many others. Being able to tap the right content, at the right time and in the right format, is critical to being able to effectively and efficiently solve the problems facing these businesses.

APIs are enabling the flow of data into mobile solutions, workflow tools and decision engines, which are traditional use cases for financial data. By supporting mobile components, APIs are breaking the traditional mold and enabling broader use cases and out­of­category opportunities. Technology is driving new consumption models, putting data and content at the center of multiple devices and formats. APIs open the channel for new use cases and expanded reach of publishers' data and content. Unlocking financial data for easier access and delivery will fuel mobile growth and innovation, helping to bring financial data into more places, commingled or as mash ups with news, business intelligence, social networks, job seekers, etc.

We've all been in elevators with screens displaying weather, news headlines and market indexes, and we are increasingly seeing connected devices, such as web TV, streaming DVD players, refrigerators and connected cars, among others. Imagine being able to access your financial portfolio in these places. Opening the data with more configured options and greater delivery options will allow data providers to reach beyond the traditional market and use cases and help drive innovation. Consider how LinkedIn started out, connecting individuals for networking and lead generation. It has grown to be a go­to destination for job seekers, with extensive company profiles, news and research. Similar to this trajectory, the opportunities for "mashups" and integrating financial data into innovative tools is limitless when the data is unlocked, easily accessible and configured to a partner's unique needs. Specifically, companies like Pellucid and ChartIQ are using Edgar Online's data to build and support mobile and browser­based workflow tools, and mobile charting, respectively.

The companies that are demanding and answering the need for an increased data flow are steadily driving innovation within the financial data and analytics market. These firms are developing new ways of accessing data and transforming these data points into constructive, valuable information that executives can act upon. They are empowering technologists and developers with additional tools to support their efforts, reducing the size of data delivered and providing additional formats that are better suited for mobile development. When leveraging APIs, developers and their end users (such as analysts) can easily co­mingle data from multiple sources, so Edgar fundamental data can be called for and worked into financial modeling tools side­by­side with firms' proprietary data, market data or macroeconomic indicators when accessed through APIs.

However, other market players are not giving up the fight, and continue to push data distribution via outdated, cumbersome technologies. These companies provide large datasets with many extraneous data points, rather than offering the select set necessary for optimal decision­making, governance, risk and compliance purposes. However, as investors and organizations move from merely collecting data to analyzing it for operational purposes, their demands will continue to fuel the market evolution. Traditional methods will continue to fade into the background as innovative companies usher in new technology formats for data delivery. These analytical technology companies that are bringing sector­specific, deeper datasets will transform the market and continue to push the boundaries of data consumption and analysis.

Simply put, APIs open up access to financial data with easily configurable data, much as the travel and consumer goods industries have done by opening up their reservation systems and product catalogues to drive new markets for growth, advertising and payment platforms. Opening up financial data with newer technologies (e.g. JSON for mobile development) will change the game for how financial data is consumed and used for analysis, strategic decision making, research and investing. This revolution that has been taking place largely under the radar for the past several years is now being recognized and utilized by forward­thinking firms, and is advancing how financial data is collected, consumed and analyzed. By offering broader and deeper datasets on demand, these agile firms will continue to propel the entire market forward.

Andrew Lewkowicz leads RR Donnelley's Global Outsourcing and EDGAR Online's data solutions business development efforts in the U.S.

Dave Gardella
Chief Financial Officer
Donnelley Financial Solutions, Inc.