Old habits are tough to break. Can technology—combined with effective communications—change the mindset of individuals to transform a centuries old business? MarketAxess, a new online bond-trading platform, had the opportunity to fundamentally change the bond market – but that would only be possible if people actually used it.
Before the Internet, the last great invention to affect the bond market was the telephone. In the late 90’s with the advent of dot-coms and technology, the bond market still transacted business the old fashioned way. This process was cumbersome, prone to mistakes and time consuming – it may take all day to complete one transaction.
MarketAxess came to The Torrenzano Group looking to distinguish itself from the multitude of other bond-trading platforms available, while building acceptance among its key constituents: institutional investors, traders and dealers.
In the beginning of 2001, more than 120 online platforms were trying to capture market share. As 2001 drew to a close, only 20 to 30 platforms still existed – MarketAxess saw an opportunity to emerge as an industry leader and seized it.
Our challenge was to differentiate MarketAxess from the multitude of platforms in existence while validating its innovative business model. Concurrently, it was vital that we gain support for the MarketAxess model from the investment community and financial media. Without them the platform couldn’t succeed.
RESEARCH AND PLANNING
While a company may only list one stock, it can have 10 to 100 bonds outstanding – many that only trade once a decade. Because of the bond market’s uniquely fragmented nature, The Torrenzano Group conducted anonymous “soft soundings” with the media to ascertain their understanding of the complexities involved in building an online bond platform. Soft soundings were also done with institutional investors to gauge their willingness to change their behavior and trade bonds online.
Our research revealed that the media had little understanding of the intricacies of the bond market, not to mention the magnitude of the challenge MarketAxess faced. Institutional investors understood MarketAxess’ endeavor, expressing that it would not be readily accepted.
Because MarketAxess’ business plan was unprecedented, it was essential to educate its core constituencies about its distinctive trading model and the support and commitment it had from its dealer partners – Wall Street’s leading global investment banks.
The Torrenzano Group employed a three-tiered approach: 1) collateral material development; 2) media relationship building; and 3) platform demos.
It was necessary to start from scratch to position the company as key player in transforming the bond market. We created educational materials that simplified the complex nature of MarketAxess’ business model for the media, which included a “tale-of-the-tape” peer comparison, a fact sheet, FAQs, a sales kit and a web site.
After we introduced MarketAxess to the trade media with our collateral material, we arranged one-on-one meetings to better inform reporters about the system and the bond market in general.
Once the platform was rolled out, we scheduled media demos to reinforce the client’s unique trading model, positioning them as an industry innovator.
Partners in the platform grew from three to twelve investment banks, representing 50% of the global market share in fixed income trading. The overwhelming support of the world’s leading dealers is matched by its client base, which has grow to over 3,000 users serving more than 700 institutional investors.
Industry analysts covering MarketAxess, including Forrester, TowerGroup and Celent, rate it as one of the leading platforms for online trading and one that is sure to survive industry consolidation and emerge as the “industry standard”.
Through our proactive media relations efforts, we successfully positioned the company as an industry leader and generated continual coverage – amounting to an average of five stories a month – in: The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Securities Industry News, Euromoney, Global Finance, Pension & Investments, Bond Buyer, BondWeek, Bloomberg News, Bridge News, Reuters and Dow Jones, among many other media outlets.