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New Technology To Revolutionise Equity Research – Seed Alpha

Seed Alpha, a new technology that changes the way institutional investment research is managed and delivered, was launched today in Hong Kong. With early adopters such as Ballingal Investment Advisers, it solves the issues that both buyside and researchers face as regulators around the world look to change the way equity research is paid for.

The cloud-based platform provides a single space for buyside firms to manage their research while delivering them content from research providers in a format similar to popular online music platforms. It provides a completely transparent audit trail showing who is using the research and what was paid for it. For researchers, it provides instant access to a universe of potential consumers who otherwise would have been time consuming and costly to reach.

“We, along with the rest of the industry, have been looking for ways to manage the research bill that allow us to demonstrate best practice to our clients,” said Andrew Ballingal, Founder and CEO, Ballingal Investment Advisers. “Seed Alpha gives us the ability to effortlessly manage the vast amounts of research we consume, while providing an audit trail for customers and regulators. We’ve seen increasing demand from our investors to know exactly what their money is paying for in terms of research and commissions and this is a great way to easily demonstrate that what we’re paying is adding value and alpha to their portfolios and investment process.”

Seed Alpha solves the problems that have plagued the research industry since it began. Much equity research is provided free in return for dealing commissions, but estimates indicate that as little as 10% is actually read[1]. Where research is paid for, it’s funded from assets under management, not fees, yet there is no audit trail to prove to end investors or regulators that the research being paid for is actually providing alpha-generating ideas.

Now, with  the practice of using dealing commissions to pay for research in flux in Europe, no matter the final settlement of these issues under MiFID II, the one certainty is that there will be a dramatic shift the way research is consumed, priced and valued right across the globe. .

“These changes cannot be underestimated – they will have repercussions across all regions,” said Seed Alpha co-founder Edward Stockreisser. “Most asset managers are not set up to meet these proposed changes, and this is where Seed Alpha can help. It’s about improved transparency, accountability and efficiency.

"Additionally, the technology solves the challenges the buyside face in sourcing ‘best research’. It’s always been hard for managers to cut through the noise to find research that really generates alpha,” said Mr Stockreisser

“Seed Alpha is as easy to use as an app, it answers the access, payment and regulatory issues for the buyside and provides an extremely powerful sales and customer relationship management tool for the research providers.”

The technology solves the challenges the buyside face in sourcing ‘best research’. “It’s always been hard for managers to cut through the noise to find research that really generates alpha,” co-founder Shan Han said. “Seed Alpha solves that problem by gathering all the research on to one searchable, intelligent platform that learns and adjusts according to user behaviour.”

Mr Han said he fully expected Seed Alpha to create waves within the industry. “Bringing sudden and full transparency to a previously opaque industry is going to be uncomfortable for some, no question about that,” he said. “But what you’ll see as this kind of technology gains traction is a genuine change in favour of quality providers. If their research is good, the buy side will demand it. We want everyone to be talking about ‘best research’ and finding it through Seed Alpha.”

How it works

Seed Alpha is underpinned by proprietary algorithms that learns how each user interacts with research, and makes suggestions about other research pieces and providers that might be relevant. It also provides a ‘warehouse’ for research, unclogging buyside inboxes and transparently managing the consumption of research so managers can prove to auditors and regulators that research they’re paying for really is adding value.

Buyside users can buy research on a case-by-case basis, removing the need for expensive and complex subscription arrangements and ensuring managers are only paying for what they actually use. Research reports can be annotated within the system and shared with other users within the firm, increasing the value of the research to the team. Users can communicate directly with specific researchers to ask questions about reports, commission bespoke reports, or request trials from new providers reducing the time spent in pitch meetings. Users also can run Seed Alpha alongside a news feed to determine which providers have responded first to market moving news, and see who has the most time-sensitive research.

Seed Alpha Chairman, Peter Allen, said that for Research Providers (RPs), Seed Alpha solves the problems of access to the fund management community. “Right now it’s very hit-and-miss as to who RPs reach out to in the fund management universe to promote their offerings. It’s equally difficult for fund managers to find ‘best research’. Seed Alpha matches Portfolio Managers’ (PMs) interests to research expertise. For RPs it’s a marketing/sales and CRM  platform – while for PMs it’s a fabulous discovery engine. This will be an incredibly valuable feature in the future, as the amount of research available from investment banks falls.

Researchers can use Seed Alpha to highlight specific reports to fund managers who may not be aware of them. It allows providers to benchmark their research against the competition, a previously impossible task. It also helps manage intellectual property preservation with sharing restrictions and watermarking.

Seed Alpha does not charge commissions on research sales or consumption, instead charging a flat annual fee for all users. Mr. Stockreisser cites this as “a key reason we can focus on developing a holistic solution for actual buy side and research provider needs, rather than shoving the wrong content in front of people for the commission.” Seed Alpha aims to feature 2,000 research providers by the second quarter of 2016. “There’s no barrier to entry for the providers – they just need to sign up,” Mr Stockreisser said.

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