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Thomson Reuters aims to click with the Internet generation

Thomson Reuters is gearing up for what markets division chief Devin Wenig calls Reuters' first proper product launch - a new flagship platform for financial products for the Google, YouTube and Twitter generation.

For the first time, all 200 financial products will be moved to a common platform, replacing 3000Xtra and making the company’s systems simpler to use.

The new product is likely to be more like a conventional web portal in look and feel when it comes to market early next spring. All 500,000 customers will be moved on to it.

“It is the first time we are going to properly launch a product,” Wenig told veteran Reuters watcher James Ashton in The Sunday Times. “We never really launch products. They just emerge. This will have proper marketing and advertising.”

Wenig said: “You see very different behaviour from a 25-year-old just out of the London School of Economics to a 55-year-old who has been trading for the last 25 years. 

“People who grew up with Google have totally different expectations of how to interact with information and media. We can’t ignore that.”

The new product is Project Utah, the final part of a $1 billion technology upgrade.

“We are not going to be the greatest technology company in the world and nor should we be,” said Wenig. “But technology is an enabler. We have to put money into it. We can’t just talk about it.”

In the 158 years since Reuters began flying pigeons with news alerts tied to their legs, it has had to move with the times, The Sunday Times said. “But the company, which merged with Thomson last year and has delisted itself from the London stock market, has never really been known for its cutting-edge advances.

“New versions of old systems have underwhelmed or been released late. Innovations such as offering instant messaging between users have often been introduced first by its nimbler rival Bloomberg, which has caused a headache for Reuters ever since it set up as a direct competitor almost three decades ago.

“It recently trailed in Bloomberg’s wake in mobile, but the launch of a news application for the BlackBerry and iPhone was a hit, drawing 90,000 subscribers in its first month. However, long-term followers of the industry see a change of tack.”

“The difference now is that Thomson Reuters is taking a more friendly approach to how it presents information,” said Douglas Taylor, managing partner at Burton-Taylor International Consulting and a former executive at both Thomson Financial and Reuters.

“In some cases they are playing catch-up but I think their expectation is to leapfrog Bloomberg.”

Despite the financial crash, underlying sales at Thomson Reuters’ markets division are still growing, although only by 0.2 per cent in the last quarter, the newspaper said.

Taylor forecasts that the $23 billion market for electronic financial information will shrink by 1-3 per cent this year, with Bloomberg holding a 26 per cent share and Thomson Reuters 34 per cent because it dominates in areas such as fixed income. Where they compete directly, the two companies are judged to be roughly neck and neck.

Thomson Reuters is trying to drive down split-second delays in its data feeds, The Sunday Times said. Some investment banks have asked the company to host their applications in its data centres to increase efficiency.

The biggest change to news provision will be Insider, a video news service for the financiers who already use its news terminals. If they pay, they can call up interviews as if they were trawling YouTube and they will also be able to search quickly through transcripts for the key points. “I don’t want to turn us into a consumer company but you ignore at your peril what YouTube and Twitter have done to online behaviour,” said Wenig.

He invoked Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion as the type of company he wants Thomson Reuters to emulate.

“We didn’t tend to think of ourselves as a product innovation company. I am trying to move the company forward and encourage people to think about new things,” he said. ■

The Sunday Times