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An Entrepreneur Takes Aim at the Ubiquitous Bloomberg Terminal

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One could argue that there are only a few consistent things about Wall Street: its inherent volatility and its reliance on the Bloomberg terminal. One of those things could soon change – if Morgan Downey gets his way.

Downey, who spent four years as Bloomberg's global head of commodities and 15 years running various trading desks, has come up with an alternative to the computer system that traders and bankers have been using since the early '80s. His new venture, called Money.net, aims to lower the barrier of entry for people who may not be employed by giant financial firms by giving them access to real-time market data and trends for a sliver of what Bloomberg costs. The system can be used on both desktop and mobile devices.

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The New York Post reports that Downey's platform, which has been in stealth mode until today, has 10,000 subscribers, and that individual investors pay a rate of $50 per month. Professional traders pay "a bit more," the paper says. Bloomberg reportedly charges more than $20,000 a year for a single terminal subscription.

While Downey told the Post that several banks are trying his service, he faces serious hurdles. With about 320,000 customers, Bloomberg's influence on how Wall Street communicates is all-encompassing. The terminals are known for having a sizable amount of features (try more than 30,000) like an instant messaging system, job listings, classifieds, customer lists and exchange rate comparisons. Users even have to have a biometric login.

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The Bloomberg terminal owes its existence to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After being let go from investment firm Salomon Brothers in 1981, Bloomberg turned around and invested some of his $10 million partnership settlement into his new financial services company, which would become Bloomberg L.P. A year later, Merrill Lynch bought 22 terminals and invested $30 million dollars into the venture.

Last year, controversy arose when news broke that some Bloomberg reporters used access to the terminals to take a look at the user activity and contact information of terminal customers. The terminals and the news business are two separate divisions of Bloomberg L.P.

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Meanwhile, Downey isn't the only one taking aim at the terminals. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Goldman Sachs led a group of 14 financial services companies (including J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley) in an investment of $66 million into a new venture called Symphony.

Formerly called Perzo, the startup describes itself as being "built for the exchange of high-value information," and is behind a secure messaging system. Symphony's founder David Gurle used to work for Thomson Reuters, which along with Dow Jones, has been Bloomberg's traditional competitor in the space. But whether startups like Downey's or Gurle's can make a dent in Bloomberg's business remains to be seen. 

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Edition: December 2016

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