Street Contxt 2022: Identity Management and Portability

If you’ve ever worked on the sell side in a client facing role, you’ve probably experienced this call:

“Hey, it’s John – I’ve left Hedge Fund A, and am going to Hedge Fund B – I’ll be starting in 6 months. Can you add my personal email to your distribution list in the meantime and I’ll let you know my new email once I’ve started after my gardening leave?”

Of course, this is nothing unusual – it’s just someone taking on a new role, at a new firm. Capital Markets is generally known as a pretty high turnover industry. Based on the data we see, around 20% of individuals tend to change roles in a given year. That change kicks off a series of activities that require operational and logistical coordination. There are many facets to that transition, but I want to cover something especially relevant to us and our 2022 roadmap, which is updating contact details.

So, what happens in this process today?

  • The individual changing roles (John, in the above example) has to call every one of their sell side relationship and any other relevant contacts to let them know that they will be leaving their firm

  • The individual changing roles has to provide ‘temporary’ contact information (usually in the form of their personal email address), which is a challenge operationally for many reasons, which I’ll discuss below

  • The senders (brokerages, data providers, peers) have to update their contact records, distribution lists, and CRMs, removing the old contact information

  • That updating process then has to be done again when John starts his new role with their new corporate email address

  • Entitlements have to be recreated or transferred at each sell side firm

All of this is currently done manually, and it’s an operational black hole of time for everyone involved. It also assumes that John even knows exactly who to reach out to: in many cases, it’s not clear who exactly is the sender, or where the sell side distribution lists even sit.

There are other additional issues which can’t easily be addressed today:

  • The firm John is leaving has no way of ‘transferring’ over the content feeds John is receiving to a replacement on his team/group (all of those emails will go into an archived/inactive inbox, or just simply start bouncing if the email is deactivated)

  • Not all the firms sending to John will even know that he has left (especially if John’s firm simply leaves his email, vs. removing it – as only the latter drives a bounce back)

  • Increasingly sell side firms have compliance and regulatory concerns with adding John’s personal email address while he’s on gardening leave – limiting the information access

  • John, his sell side coverage, and anyone involved in this process will have to spend hours managing it – and they have to make that investment again every time it happens

This is not a new problem. The industry has been grappling with this problem for years, but we believe that for the first time, we (at Street Contxt) are positioned to solve it in a unique and scalable way.
Launching a Contact Utility

In 2021, we started exploring the idea of building an identity utility (which we codenamed our “Contact Utility”) that would leverage email addresses. We saw the operational problems outlined above, and realized there was a massive opportunity to solve this problem. As everyone knows, email is the most ubiquitous form of communication within capital markets: everyone has an email address, no matter if they are sell side, corporate, or buy side, large or small.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem, so what gave us a unique advantage over all those that had tried to solve it before?

  1. We have broad relationships across the industry: working directly with almost 150 brokerages in 25+ countries, including many of the largest firms in the world, we are already integrated and connected to the majority of sell side firms

  2. We are integrated with those firms: we already provide updates around contact details and cleanup, sometimes directly to their CRMs

  3. We offer massive operational leverage to anyone looking to update their email address. We currently manage well over 150,000 unique distribution lists, providing unprecedented scale

  4. We are the largest distributor of email in the industry: we are delivering emails in the magnitudes of billions per year, giving us a central position to solve email address updating and changes

To understand the scope of the problem, we launched the first version of our Contact Utility in 2021: the product would allow our clients to leverage engagement data and email delivery data (especially bounce data) to automatically flag inactive contacts, helping our users automatically and quickly clean up their distribution lists. We weren’t sure how prevalent the problem would be, so we waited to see what the data said.

In 2021, we sent to over 980,000 unique individuals around the world on behalf of our clients (at 110,000 firms, in 178 countries), and to our surprise, flagged more than 180,000 of them as inactive. That product ended up being one of our most valuable features we launched last year, helping our clients automatically clean up CRMs, distribution lists, research entitlements, and compliance workflows.

In 2022, we’re gearing up to launch the second version of our product with a few significant improvements, providing updates to those inactive contacts, and then shortly after allowing users and firms to manage their identities directly with us. This will include three major use cases:

  1. Allowing individual buy side users to manage a profile with us and ‘claim’ their email address (which will eventually be extended to anyone in the industry), allowing them to update their email address centrally. Those updates will be available on the platform and via API to all of our clients, giving them operational leverage when updating their contact information. Instead of having to call hundreds (or maybe thousands) of people, they can just tell us, and we will automatically syndicate that information out.

  2. Allowing firms to distribute ‘replacement’ email addresses for employees that have left the firm. No more lost information feeds, flows, or any other content. Firms can distribute a replacement email address for any departing employee, ensuring seamless and low friction updating for all parties. Again, all the distribution list updating can be done programmatically, providing efficiency and scale.

  3. Providing updated contact information to all senders. Instead of just seeing an inactive flag, senders will now be able to automatically leverage updated contact information, saving countless hours and operational headaches when it comes to keeping client lists updated and accurate.

How can you get involved?

We’re going to be rolling out a limited beta of our new Contact Utility in H1 of 2022. We’re looking to connect with a small group of people who would like to be contributors to the evolution of our contact utility, specifically, we’re looking for individuals on the buy side who have recently changed roles/firms, and buy side firms who are looking for a better way to transition employees who are leaving, and are interested in shaping what identity management in Capital Markets looks like. If you know anyone who would be interested or relevant, please don’t hesitate to reach out and/or connect me.

Updating your email address when you change jobs is painful. Updating your counterparties with a replacement email address when someone leaves is painful. Updating clients’ contact information across a myriad of systems is painful. The countless hours that go into email address updating in this industry could be so much more effectively allocated into countless other activities (really any other activity). It’s 2022, and it’s about time that the industry came together to build a more elegant and effective way to manage contact details, and we believe we’re in a unique position to do just that.

I’m looking forward to sharing more as our beta progresses, and hopefully you’ll be managing your profile, and email address, with us before the end of the year. If you have any questions around how you can get involved, what the user experience and outputs look like, or what the roadmap looks like, please don’t hesitate to reach out. As always, we’re here to help, and look forward to catching up in 2022

Street Contxt

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