Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wall Street Sings the Executioner's Song

Yesterday, Sara Hansard at Investment News wrote a brief update announcing that the SEC will soon be releasing new guidance on soft dollars. Although there is no indication that the SEC plans to mandate the explicit separation of research dollars from execution dollars, it seems clear that they endorse the value this separation of services brings to investors, and will be watching carefully to be certain that firms are providing this level of transparency to their clients.

In the article, Jennifer McHugh, senior adviser to the director of the SEC’s division of investment management explains that the separation of research and execution has “had a positive result.”

Although soft dollars (or CCAs/CSAs) were not immediately embraced by most large U.S. brokerage firms, the inevitable separation of research from execution services is leading many large firms to seek opportunities to partner with independent research providers (IRPs). By doing so, these firms are hoping to keep a tight leash on their execution dollars - even if it means abandoning their own in-house research offerings for the more lucrative/less overhead option of IRP partnership.

To no one’s surprise, in-house research may once again face the internal firing squad, as their execution-focused counterparts have increasingly less success selling their commoditized research.

The New Arm Candy

While IRPs may be the new arm candy for execution providers to shop around to clients, this could potentially be a detriment to the end user. Great research will have a difficult time setting itself apart from the pack as more providers gain the ‘endorsement’ of execution firms who are looking to coattail on IRP trade ideas by securing the execution business on the back end of the trade.

For this reason, anyone using independent research will need to be very selective about research providers they choose to work with. The vetting process for finding quality research is a critical component for finding top quality ideas and insights.

Click here to learn more about StreetBrains vetting process.