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Thomson Reuters remains committed to Eikon - product chief

Thomson Reuters is committed to Eikon, the market data desktop launched with much fanfare in 2010 but poorly received by its target customers, and will be rolling out new capabilities in 2012, the company executive in charge of the product said in an interview on Thursday.

“It is still clear to me that the product is the future of the company and that commitment has never waned,” said Philip Brittan, who joined the firm in May and now runs its Eikon group as global head of desktop/mobile platform. “I think it’s exactly the right strategy to bring all of our customers onto one single platform and allow our customers to leverage that set of assets in a much more powerful and flexible way.”

Market observers say a confluence of factors contributed to Eikon’s sluggish start, the website Wall Street & Technology said.

It said that with the news that chief executive Tom Glocer is stepping down, the industry is questioning what went wrong with Eikon. Thomson Reuters had high expectations for it, reportedly investing close to $1 billion in the product, holding launch celebrations in 78 offices worldwide and live events in 14 cities that brought in Wall Street decision makers for demonstrations and executive speeches. An advertising campaign – the company’s largest in its history – touted the product as a market data platform for “The New Eikons of Finance”.

All seemed to be going well. Members of the executive team even rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell on October 4, 2010, and Devin Wenig, CEO of the markets division, gave interviews.

“Nine months later Wenig unexpectedly quit along with five key members of staff, after reportedly being asked to make faster and more extensive structural changes than planned. A few months later Glocer expressed regret for the fast pace of Eikon’s launch, and one month after that in early December, the company announced Glocer’s replacement.”

Industry experts say that it was a confluence of factors. “In an economy where cost cutting is rampant on Wall Street, it’s hard for any company to make a major platform switch,” says one industry executive, who requested anonymity. In addition to the cost of the new platform, there are integration and training costs associated with a major platform change. These costs are not easy to swallow in a difficult economic environment.

The executive added: “Eikon was not nearly as successful as Thomson Reuters would have liked, which is to a certain extent why Devin is gone and I’m sure had something to do with Glocer leaving.”

But Brittan says Eikon is exactly where it should be according to the company’s metrics. He admits, as with any new product, there was some “teething” that had to be worked through early on. “There is a process to maturing technology and getting the early kinks worked out,” Brittan says. “There was no one smoking gun that everyone experienced, just some little things like ‘this isn’t showing up right’ or ‘when I do this giant flex sheet it uses a lot of memory,’ or ‘the layout on screen isn’t how I want it’.” These things were fixed very quickly, he said.

Brittan says speed was another issue that came up early during the release. “Speed is something that we are constantly optimising,” he says. “Speed of retrieval of news stories was sluggish according to some, and now it is multiples faster. Creating charts and downloading data into excel, all these things are dramatically faster.

“The product we have out today is dramatically different from the Version 1 roll out of a year ago,” he explains. “The initial product had some gaps, which we’ve been filling.”

Brittan adds: “Our goal is still to transition existing customers to Eikon and to best serve our customers. We’ve got new customers and we’ve got a bunch of customers who have successfully migrated over. We’re not forcing customers to change. We realise it’s an organic thing. We will naturally see the migration in time if the product is the best product. It is relatively new just one year out, so we will move customers at the pace that they want to move.”

What’s next? “We'll be rolling out new capabilities on close to a monthly basis. And in six months we’ll have a bunch of new capabilities. I don't want to talk about them. I just plan to deliver them.” ■

Wall Street & Technology