Reuters’ Kobra Challenged

Caplin Systems, a Web technology supplier, is introducing an alternative to Kobra, Reuters’ data distribution platform; the provocatively titled Mongoose. The new system offers connectivity to market data from a number of sources, as well as giving users the ability to customise their display and access information from any Internet enabled computer.

“Market data distribution systems evolved from tickertape to dumb terminals in the 1960s, and then to the networked client-server systems in the 1980s,” says Paul Caplin, chief executive officer of Caplin. “Mongoose is entirely built on Web-based technology, and supplies the same reliability and depth of functionality as traditional market data networks, but at a substantially lower cost and with far greater flexibility.”

According to the company, it offers the complete selection of both Kobra FlexMode and Reuters Terminal Workstation (RTW) functionality as well as embedded fundamentals, charting, media and Web browsing. It accepts standard RIC [Reuters Instrument Codes], renders all Reuters 3000 series display templates, offers full Excel support and is backwards compatible with spreadsheets built for Reuters DDE. It can co-exist with Reuters Triarch and DAC systems via a standard gateway.

The system can also display data from a number of other vendors or direct from source, without the need for a ticker plant or centralised depository. Data from all North American stock exchanges, CME, Dow Jones Newswires, OsterDowJones Community News, and Standard & Poor’s ComStock is already available using Caplin’s real time text protocol, with Moneyline Telerate data to be added shortly.

Caplin sees the timing of Mongoose as fortuitous in light of the current uncertainty over the future of RTW and Reuters’ subsequent moves to encourage users onto the heavyweight Kobra desktop. “Reuters has announced the withdrawal of its RTW and MarketSheet applications in order to push Kobra and has also stated that its RMDS platform is the strategic replacement for Triarch and TIB,” says John Lee, executive vice president for US sales at Caplin, and formerly senior vice president for Reuters US sales. “At a time when budgets are seriously stretched, it seemed that the least we could do was offer the market an affordable, lightweight alternative to these upgrades.

“We have tried to offer traders a new system that has the same look and feel as the systems that traders are used to, without the associated resource demands or costs,” says Caplin. “There are a lot of other companies that are doing parts of what we are offering, but we have pulled it all together so that it does exactly what Triarch does. It is designed to be familiar and deploys data in exactly the way that users are used to.”

Caplin believes there to be several benefits and opportunities from what amounts to the launching of a competive system to Reuters’ offerings. “Technology on traders’ desks has traditionally included a data feed and a data distribution system, both provided by Reuters,” says Caplin. “People are becoming less happy with taking their data and feed from one provider, and Mongoose helps them reduce this reliance.”

Caplin also highlights the age of the Reuters system. “The technology which powers both Triarch and Tib, is about 15 years old,” he says. “It works well, but it is expensive, demands a lot of servers and maintenance, and, importantly, you can only see it over the specific local area network onto which it is installed.”

Only being able to access information from geographically specific servers is seen by Caplin as a severe shortcoming, given increasingly mobile working practices. The Caplin system provides access from anywhere, accomplishing this through the use of its Liberator product which enables real time information to pass through firewalls and be integrated with any system a customer requests (see Profit & Loss, May 2002).

“Companies do not want to install lots of software and hardware, so we are ahead of the game because we have been very active in developing Web-based systems,” says Caplin. “Web-based systems are starting to take over because they are cheaper and more efficient.”

While the product is directly targeted at RTW, Caplin refrains from taking the opportunity for direct swipes at its massive competitor. “Reuters is seeing itself more and more as a content provider,” he says. “There are some in Reuters who will see us simply as direct competition, but competition is good for both them and the market.”

According to Caplin, there are currently 10 pilots live with Mongoose, and a further 22 queuing up for evaluation of the system. Although he declines to name any clients, they are described as ranging from mid-sized brokers to tier-one investment banks in both the US and Europe, and Caplin is confident that there will be full implementations in the near future. “Anything that promises to reduce costs in the current climate will catch the eye.”

The number of live tests, coupled with the number of potential clients waiting in the wings, has given the company a great deal of feedback, something Caplin relishes. “Having such a mass of feedback is exciting because it shows that the direction we are going in is right. You can not sit in a dark room and imagine everything that a client may want and get it right first time,” says Caplin. “We have been working flat out to add more and more functionality and deal with feedback. It is much easier to add data and functionality once you have something to show a client. We are not going to take our eyes off this for a while.”

Reuters declined to comment for this article.

Julie Ros
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Julie Ros

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