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Ask HN: What is so great about Bloomberg Terminal?
361 points by sreenadh on Feb 26, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments
From what I understand so far, it's just a portal that gives the news. What I don't get is why have a custom monitor, keyboard? I am not sure how is the network connected, is it a VPN. The cost of the product is ridiculous. I do not understand why are people paying for it. Is there a cheaper alternative that does not require specialised hardware? I know Bloomberg is a politician, has he managed to pass some ridiculous law that forces everyone to pay for his product?

P.S.: I do not understand Finance or the wall street world. But I am curious to know about the tech they use and why they are paying a huge amount for it.




It brings together a vast variety of otherwise extremely hard to find information. The keyboard is specialized because it literally reduces the number of keystrokes required to quickly access financial information. This is a business where seconds matter - even when you have humans talking to other humans to negotiate trades.

Literally almost every piece of useful financial information is available via bloomberg. And I don't mean relatively basic info like "What's the current yield the Apple 3.85% of 2043?" or "What's the current CDS spread for Citibank?" that you can easily google for but also stuff like "Which oil tankers are in for repair right now, and what are their capacities?" and similar info on power plants, international agriculture, equities, interest rates, etc.

Experienced bloomberg users have their most-used keystrokes in their muscle memory. Less experienced users can hit F1 twice and immediately be connected to a live bloomberg rep who will research your question for you (although it may take 20 minutes for them to figure it out).

Bloomberg Chat is also extremely important, as others have mentioned.


This is hyperbole, I've worked on dev side in finance a while now and bloomberg data is often unreliable, everywhere I've worked people have built layers on top of it, checking vs other sources and fat fingers. Also I'm actually currently working for some oil guys and they use bloomberg for some things but use specialist providers for oil macro, shipping and refinery events. I'd say their main advantages are familiarity and some information oligopolies


I would argue they have established a sort of universal minimum threshold of information within the financial industry, across a ton of financial markets. This provides a certain amount of certainty/consistency within markets(really any sort of pseudo monopoly in a knowledge space does). Particularly in the news space, it sort of lets people assess to what degree they might have a competitive advantage by the degree to which their data is more accurate/earlier than that on the terminal/data side.


It seems they must be getting the data through agreement with the companies they're collecting the data on. I wonder where the line is drawn between what they're doing and commercialised insider trading.


You're kidding right? It is more than 99.99% correct guaranteed by an SLA. You can have errors as with any system but they're very open about it and correct it when its wrong & inform you, which is extremely rare (seen it only 1ce myself)


> This is hyperbole

What I love about HN. I read one thing that sounds great and authoritative in a subject that I know nothing about. Just to have someone else rain on the parade! Which point of view is correct? I don't know (so I upvoted both..)


> sounds great and authoritative

"sounds" being the operative word. Lots of ... lets say 'articulate' people on HN, in general. Current thread excepted.


Hacker News is the ultimate waste of time. Correction: Hacker News _comments are the ultimate waste of time.


You're correct data can sometimes be wrong, but this is mainly in the basic datasets provided, and still exceptionally rare. I once highlight a figure was wrong to their helpdesk, in an obscure money supply aggregate, bt public data that I happened to be pretty intimate with, and their helpdesk were all over a solution in seconds.

For added-cost datasets, they're mainly a reseller for a 3rd party data provider and SLAs need to be checked to see what you're getting.

For checking via other sources, this is a minimum in finance. Reconciliation / validation needs to be done at every step something new is introduced, and just for the heck of it usually anyway.


A great relative comparison as far as the keyboard goes is something like vi/vim or even QWERTY.

I'm sure you could have better text editing shortcuts (power Sublime/Atom users maybe), or a better keyboard (Dvorak for example), but once people do things a certain way and develop proficiency, it's often tough to change.


That is a powerful moat. Vi users or Emacs users may die out at one point in time but they are unlikely to switch in larger numbers.


It is worth noting that while the terminal (for layout see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomberg_Terminal) is a moat there are other reasons it is hard to attack them (Fortune: "Can the Bloomberg terminal be toppled" http://fortune.com/2014/03/20/can-the-bloomberg-terminal-be-... .

While a moat makes it hard to attack it is not always the case that a moat is worth attacking. Just because the target seems weak makes it not valuable. Bloomberg is a private company so numbers are hard to get. What is obvious is that financial services consolidation, the movement to index investment and automated trading makes terminals not a growth market.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/10/business/dealbook/the-blo... > All service providers for Wall Street, not just Bloomberg, are unusually vulnerable at the moment. The financial industry is in the middle of an aggressive run of cost-cutting as it grapples with new regulations and changes in the markets. A Bloomberg contract, which can be upward of $100 million at larger institutions, is a tempting target to whittle down.

> The number of Bloomberg terminals grew only 1.9 percent, to 325,000, last year. In the 10 years before the financial crisis, the number of terminals grew at an average rate of 12 percent each year, with most companies signing on for multiyear contracts.

There may be some demand for cheaper terminals but whether this amounts to enough to build out the expensive data collection organization is far from clear. As may have pointed out quality matters. Opportunities may become larger iff Bloomberg has to cut cost and quality decreases.


I have gone from Textmate to Sublime to Atom and finally took the time to properly learn vi. vi has made my typing so vastly more efficient that I can't imagine to ever use anything else again.

I guess you have never really used vi to make such a comparison, same as op has probably never used the Bloomberg Terminal.


Do you think that using a vim key binding extension like those that are available in most modern editors would have the same effect? Or is part of the magic of vim being forced to use the key bindings?


It's definitely important to force yourself to use the bindings when you're trying to learn them. Also, the Vim bindings in a lot of other editors have subtle issues and/or missing features that make them a pain to use if you're used to using the full range of commands in real Vim.


Do you feel that way about generic text or code in particular? I haven't seen Intellisense or project templating for, say, F# at the same level as a VS Code.

Does this exist? I'd love to move more to Vim!


Well, except vscode is behind vs for F#. Try using a type provider on vscode, it runs like crap for anything non trivial.


Oh, maybe something like Js then? I just pulled the first language I thought of!


We keep creating more vimpires every day. We will outlive GUI editor users by centuries.


What gives me real hope is the insertion of vim modes into GUI editors. It lets me use languages that need IDE assistance to be practical (I'm looking at you, Scala), while still holding on to the Old Ways.


Along those lines, I'm really excited about Neovim's work to make the editor embeddable. Rather than reimplenting a fraction of Vim/Neovim, you can embed all of it.



Neither the github page or the website say what it is.


Vim is an amazingly good concept, but the actual implementations completely lack a decent user experience. Like, when you do clearly-suboptimal key combinations (like going past a 4-line paragraph by hitting j 4 times instead of just pressing } once),there should be some side-window suggesting better practices. To be fair, Kakoune does that, but there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit like that.


This particular example makes assumptions: that hitting j four times is worse than entering } once.

This depends on typist and keyboard; I use Swedish/Finnish keyboard and touch-type, and hitting j four times happens without looking or thinking. Hitting } requires me to lift my right hand from typing position, hold Alt-Gr, press 0, and then go back to typing position.


Every major programming language uses english keyboard. I'm a starter amateur coder but first thing I did was learn the en-us keyboard layout. There are options to use Alt-Gr accented letters for spanish which I use but also for combining letters which should work for finnish/swedish.


Programming languages don't use keyboards; they use some sets of characters, typically a subset of ASCII. Keyboards then can produce those characters.

And yes, typing [\]{|} and so on is inconvenient on my keyboard. I particularly detest the choice of \ over / in MSDOS and Windows path names.

I occasionally use US keyboard layout just to get around these difficulties, but whenever I arrive at some random computer, it will have the local layout.

(This is particularly confusing when going to France or Germany with they AZERTY and QWERTZ keyboards.)


4j takes half the keystrokes of jjjj, no matter which keyboard layout you're using :)


Yes, but j is where my right index finger sits in the basic typing position, so hitting j four times is still better...


Does Vim not have alternate mappings for other keyboard layouts?


There's at least one remapping to make it dvorak friendly.


I've used vim for years with Dvorak and no remapping. Works great, IMO.


Oh, I'm using it that way, too. (Just don't tell anyone I'm not using hjkl for navigating; my Kinesis Advantage keyboard has cursor keys in sensible locations.)

But there's at least one attempt at a nice remapping for dvorak.


This makes no sense. Vi emulators get into all kinds of text editors and IDEs for a reason, not the other way round. I haven't used a Dvorak keyboard so I don't know anything about that (though many sources seem to suggest its effect is debatable), but on Vi/Vim your comment couldn't be more wrong.


Oh. I'm European and I always wondered why in practically every American criminal-spy-scifi-investigative-themed TV show or movie there are people sitting at magical, proprietary computers able to find strange pieces of (personal) information in no time (but obviously always complex to use, because other characters don't know how).

I didn't know about the "Bloomberg Terminal" before, but now that makes a lot more sense where that idea comes from.


Bloomberg delivers financial information, not information on every individual.


That isn't the point of the OP though? Think the point being that the inspiration for a proprietary system that does that is the Bloomberg Terminal. Although they're used all around the world, seems that their use and functionality is perhaps more in the American zeitgeist.


Yes, now that you mention it, probably ("where that idea comes from"). Nevertheless, strikes me as a totally absurd comparison - I'd never associate a bog standard Bloomberg Terminal (used in NY, HK, London, Frankfurt, ...) with some fictitious device from US movies.


It's a really strong analogy to how people think of command-line hackers, though. You type what seems like a bunch of gibberish with lots of slashes and hyphens at a hundred words a minute and then the computer turns into a rainbow-barfing unicorn. It doesn't seem that way to the hacker, because it's just another language.

Why does 'tac' mean "reverse abcd to dcba, line-by-line, on the input stream? Human brevity and wit. and then look at the Bloomberg Terminal and ask "Why does 'OTFN'* mean "empty oil tanks departing ports with a cost modifier proportional to the time left in port and risk of loading delays vs. departure cutoffs?", it's for the same human reasons: someone wanted to type as few letters as possible to get something done, and came up with something that seemed good at the time, and it stuck.

Hacking shows always show us people typing three commands and ending up at the [fictional agency of choice] here. Bloomberg can work magic beyond belief with three commands, and even more amazingly dedicated the HELP button on every keyboard to "press it repeatedly and HELP opens the chat to you", which is maybe the best approach I've ever seen.

* OTFN "Oil The Fuck Now" may or may not exist in Bloomberg Terminal, I sadly do not have access :(


Lexis-Nexis is probably the equivalent for individuals.


That's facebook's job


I know it's a joke, but as a high spend Facebook advertiser, I can tell you that Facebook only sells audience information in aggregate, not on an individual basis.


They could use their ai to match you with advertised products. You wouldnt need individual data in this case.


Still, the AI matches you into an "audience" which is targetable. It doesn't tell the advertiser that they're advertising to John, Jane, and Joaquin, specifically.


Unless you make gender a datapoint, and advertise to a group of 20, where only one is male. Oldest trick in the (face-) book.


Not yet.


...P R I S M...


That's not sold, so not comparable to BB.


Evil mode:

That's not sold

No, given freely away for "protection".

Evil mode off:

I have less problems with western TLAs as they exist today but find it very scary to think about what might happen once we see a really big data leak from FB. Or Facebook folds and is bought by someone who's set on making money from the assets.


Facebook is in the business of making money off the assets. The thing that keeps them off the worst edge is that they want to stay in business long term.


This is why I've started using the phrase "intelligence-entertainment complex".


That would be LexisNexis.


Non-Bloomberg users retain access to one component described above, the "hit F1 twice and immediately be connected" option, thanks to librarians.

A web search for "24/7 ask-a-librarian" returns a page full of different libraries that always, without end, offer a human being ready to try and help you consult through the world of knowledge. If you're polite, they'll do their best to help.

It's not like Bloomberg, where you can just interrupt your work by hitting HELP and magically get a solution provided. But it is a little-known HELP button for information research.


How do I answer questions about oil tanker availability? I don't see anything in the manual about that. I guess it might be under BMAP or BI, but nothing obvious stands out to me...


Shipping Markets

SHIP Shipping functions menu

VSRC Vessel search

VSTK Vessel capacity data

FLET Aggregated fleet data

FIXS Research daily global tanker fixtures

BFX Baltic freight index

BMAP Generate energy-related maps


Thanks!


Press <HELP><HELP>


> It brings together a vast variety of otherwise extremely hard to find information.

I disagree that the information is hard to find. I think a lot of the data is publicly available. Bloomberg "normalizes" it for you and makes it easy and quick to access. As you point out, they have depth and breadth. And that is where the value lies.

Many people have tried to compete with Bloomberg. Millions and millions of dollars have been poured into competitor products. In my opinion, you will never be able to replace Bloomberg. The key, however, is to break up the functionality. Build a better graphing tool, a better chat app, a better financial analysis tool, a data API that plugs into Excel, Python, C++, etc... etc...

Also, the value offering of bbg goes beyond the terminal. For example, Bloomberg sells a lot of their "static" data in daily or hourly file updates (for $100Ks/year). They are the central hub for RFQs and IOIs. They also pour money into machine learning techniques to provide better/faster news. They sell their news firehose for top dollar and people will pay for it.


Related question: What makes all this information hard to find and how do they do it? I wonder if there can be an alternative interface which will collate all this information? Like OP, I've also been curious about the Bloomberg Terminal and all the information that one supposedly has access to when using it. If nothing else, just to satisfy my curiosity, I'd love to poke around on such a system once.


Some of it comes from paper documents and PDFs. Bloomberg has a team of people who organize and cross-reference such documents.

If you're wondering why the original documents are not more directly machine readable, consider that some of them are published by companies due to regulatory obligations, and those companies would much prefer not to publish the information at all. So making the documents easier to consume is where Bloomberg comes in--because the originators don't want to.


The main part is not purely interface but the aggregation of data - integration with thousands of various systems, licencing agreements with thousands of proprietary data sources, automated and manual data cleanup. This isn't scalable and simply requires thousands of people and lots of work, because obtaining ocean tanker data doesn't really help you get integration for e.g. Nigerian mining industry data.


Also, error scrubbing.

There's lots of financial data available on yahoo, for example, but it's just lousy quality.


Can you give an example? Not that I don't believe you.


Ok, look at the Thai Baht exchange rate:

http://finance.yahoo.com/quote/THB=X/?p=THB=X

You see the graph on the right, it hovers around 30 USD/THB (that's 30 THB per USD, in somewhat confusing FX convention).

Now click on 5Y, then click on 10Y, and compare. The 10Y graphs probably includes some wrong blip around 700, which is why the 10Y graph scale is from 0 to 750, and you just see a basically flat line displayed at the bottom.

(The 10Y PHP graph is fine, while the 10Y INR graph has a similar issue).

So, if you do any trading strategy where you're trying to figure out whether your current value is relatively high or low by comparing it to the 10Y max and min, you'll most likely be off.

Or consider equity, for example. To properly deal with shares, you first need the trading calendar for every exchange (when is the exchange open and you can make a trade), and the settlement calendar (when will the shares actually be settled). US settlement is typically T+3, Europe T+2, UK Gilts T+1, but all according to certain calendars, naturally. These calendars vary by country, and even exchange and even function (in other words, there might be days when shares at a certain exchange trade, but don't settle, and vice versa).

Bloomberg has all these details - good luck finding it on Yahoo or anywhere else, really.


Thanks for the example. What you just did is one of the hardest things to communicate about data. A casual user would never notice this. I find "data curation" doesn't always get the importance it deserves.


Oh, man, tell me about it!

To get from raw data to data you can use can be a hard, tedious and difficult slog. I agree that it's often undervalued. On the other hand, with Bloomberg you certainly pay for it! :-)

And don't get me started with corporate actions (stock splits, mergers), dividends (some jurisdictions announce gross divs, Australia announces net divs; Korea announces AFTER the ex-date; some shares pay a dividend in a ccy different from the ccy the shares are denominated in, etc.), unscheduled exchange closures (due to terrorism, typhoons, etc.), stamp duty and taxes, 1 week holidays for Chinese New Year that screw up the rate curve (because 1d and 1w LIBOR cover the same period), quanto futures, etc.


And time zones. And daylight savings. Oh my oh my. And Asian trading sessions with a lunch break in the middle.


Haha, I loved the HK trading day with a 2h lunch break!

2.5 hours in the morning (10:00 to 12:30), 1.5 hours in the afternoon (14:30 to 16:00), who needs more than 4 hours trading a day?

Shame they extended it in 2011.


Yes, data cleanup and maintenance is why proprietary data vendors still survive.


As others have mentioned there is a large amount of expert knowledge to collecting and organizing extremely disparate data sets. There are also longstanding business relationships, lots across a lot of markets, and a reputation for great data security, that has many pricing sources and exchanges offering data almost exclusively through the terminal, and some folks putting their own data into the system. The risk with mishandling(making unavailable or available at unreliable/inconsistent times, for example) some of that data is just so high that 30+ years of reputation in some spaces is worth a (maybe perceived) premium.


Some of it is fed in directly by the providers. For example Barclays and JPMorgan interest rate swap rates.

There is a network effect: all the customers the dealers want to reach are on Bloomberg, so they have to publish on Bloomberg. If someone else comes along and says "publish on my channel too", that's extra work, so probably won't get done.


So its like a proprietary google. Google incentivizes people to put their information publicly so they can crawl it, bloomberg gathers the info for a price. I see the two as complementary-but-future-competitors.


I think most of your questions can be answered by realizing that Bloomberg was founded in 1981, and they basically got a monopoly in financial data provision because there were no other options in 1981. That is why they have a custom monitor & keyboard: in the days before the IBM PC, everyone had a custom monitor & keyboard, because these things were not standardized. Bloomberg was a technologist & businessman before he was a politician; his business success gave him the money to run for office, his office doesn't force people to pay for Bloomberg.

The reason they're still a monopoly is because knowing how to navigate a Bloomberg is a critical skill for most finance professionals, and now that they have that skillset, they can be very productive moving around in it. A different (better?) UI would require they re-learn everything, which is not going to happen. And when financial professionals are making half a million a year, paying $24k/year for a terminal so that they can be productive isn't a bad investment.

(Source: have a couple friends at Bloomberg. One is in their UI department, and keeps having his proposals for better UIs shot down for business reasons. Also married a financial professional who had to use a Bloomberg in her days as a bond trader.)


And it's not just a UI on some public data - Bloomberg also does some hard core networking behind those screens, up to installing a decent amount of dark fiber into various exchanges around the world to ensure low latency connections between data sources and consumers.


Dark fiber means unused. How does that help?


The term 'dark fiber' is also used as a product to be bought from a network company, which the customer (in this case bloomberg) then lights up themselves.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_fibre

> A dark fibre network or simply dark network is a privately operated optical fiber network that is run directly by its operator over dark fibre leased or purchased from another supplier. This is in contrast to purchasing bandwidth or leased line capacity on an existing network. Dark fibre networks may be used for private networking, or as Internet access or infrastructure.


They GP talked about "installing a decent amount of dark fiber" not running a network over someone else's unused fiber, which I think is the "network" part of your quote.


Bloomberg and co buy lit, dark, and switched products. In NYC, they purchase these products from the incumbent players.


I take it to mean they roll out their own physical fiber, and don't just lease or ride someone else's network.


It's sounds more secret and cool?

You're right.


They're a total 80's icon, too. If you see a movie set in the early 80's and there's a computer-ish thing on someone's desk, it's most likely a Bloomberg terminal.


The movie "Wall Street" is littered with them.


Not sure if you mean the new "Wall Street" (which I haven't seen), but in the old one, those are Quotrons, not Bloombergs. Bloombergs have always been orange-on-black not green or white.

Way back when, only bond traders used Bloombergs. Equity and FX guys used other things (Quotron, Reuters, maybe?)


Oh dear, my mistake.


During an interview they told me back in the days the state of the art was delivery boys running between wall street and banks and other firms with (often unlabeled) paper notes... and that was as "real time" as you could get


The best way to think about the Bloomberg terminal is a web browser that connects you to a private network. (Bloomberg actually is the largest known private network.) Once connected, you have access to thousands of "web apps" - which Bloomberg users call "functions". Instead of a URL, you use a short 2 to 5 letter mnemonic code for each function, such as "MSG" for email, or "TOP" for top news. These different functions provide all sorts of various functionality - most of them are of course related to financial information. Functions like "CDSW" are for analyzing credit default swaps, "SDLC" gives you supply chain data for different companies, other functions analyze or curate Twitter, others correlate news events with historical stock data, etc. There are also many non-financial functions as well that reflect the "social network" aspect of the Bloomberg terminal, such as "POSH" which is basically a high-end Craigs list, or "DINE" which is a high-end Yelp.

All-in-all, the Bloomberg Terminal is like a private Internet for financial professionals.


Your remark about Bloomberg being the largest private network is interesting. By what measure it is the largest (#people, #machines, miles of links?) and which ones count as private?


SIPRNet is probably an order of magnitude larger with over four million users [1]. Even more impressive considering it isn't connected to the Internet.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIPRNet


I wonder what exactly "isn't connected to the internet" means. Every time we build a military installation, we lay a dedicated cable from its nearest neighbor? That can't be right.

Maybe it's mostly using satellite connections?

Seems like there'd be many times (particularly in the US) where tunneling an encrypted connection over a civilian ISP would be worlds better than the next best option. Maybe not even at the IP level, but a dedicated wavelength on some existing AT&T fibre, for example.


Seems like they have their own network of satellites and terrestrial wires, with less secure stuff going through the internet. This is interesting enough to me that I'd research further but the amount of jargon and acronyms has turned me away.

> Provide DISN-provided transport and information services used for > data, voice, video, and cross domain through a combination of terrestrial, > aerial, satellite assets, and services IAW DODD 5105.19 (reference c). > Transport services include information transfer services between CC/S/A > installations, facilities, and enclaves, for connections to external mission > partner and defense contractor ISs and networks, and wide area network > information transfer.

http://web.archive.org/web/20120914011329/http://www.dtic.mi...


Minor correction: it technically is connected to NIPR ("the internet") via cross-domain guards. Most information would go one-way, low to high, but very specific applications do warrant information going from Secret to unclassified in a very controlled manner, especially when it is time sensitive.

It is actually an incredibly interesting topic, but it is hard to get much information on the specifics online (I assume many details are classified or at least SBU).


The only times I've seen high-to-low transfer was through physical media, primarily optical disc. I wasn't aware that there was any wire between them.


IDK, I can't help but wonder if this is the result of everyone else moving to more modern standards and leveraging shared infrastructure while the Bloomberg folks double down on a legacy architecture.

I could buy largest private financial network, but it's hard to verify a claim like this when the Chinese network behind the great firewall could be considered a private network (measuring by the intent rather than the implementation).


I believe that the Silver Springs network in california is the largest in terms of nodes.


It's a good question. There are many reasons - and I don't think the speed of information is the real one. I almost left a single word response - "chat" - but think it is more complicated.

Another aspect is trust. If you are trading billions you want the information/trade data "currency" everyone else uses. I built backends converting MBS bid to yield and if it wasn't tuned to a 1/16 or better of Bloomberg, it wasn't usable.

Bloomberg also offers custom studies like "fear/greed" which may have some value.

TR/Thompson Reuters also has a competitive product for much less and you can't really go wrong with either for 99% of use cases.

There are also many stand alone news sources you could use. Benzinga comes to mind as one example.

Interesting note - Bloomberg is highly protective of their IP and has been know to write takedown notices of screenshots posted online.

// built 2 SaaS Fintech systems


I think Bloomberg is a lot weaker than people realize (in terms of competitive position). It offers a lot of functionality as many threads have pointed out but at any given time, the marginal user utilizes 0.5% of what it does. I sat in fixed income origination for years and the only reason I used it was to find some obscure pricing details which are now available for free elsewhere and to quickly export interest rate curves. Our traders definitely found it mission critical but there were 3 of them and 40 of us. Now if you go to someone within equity-linked securities, they will use it for a variety of different reasons but my friends there admitted they used it for 2-4 discrete pieces of functionality.

I believe one of their great data advantages is access. Buy a terminal and you will now have access to niche email distribution lists that no website sees or crawls with important market data (like fixed income bwics).

I believe it is difficult to attack Bloomberg head on as others are trying (like money.net or Eikon) but relatively easy to build really rich ecosystems in niche places outside of Bloomberg. Have you heard of a company called Intex? Probably not. In the global structured products market they are a monopoly solution generating 100-200mm in top line with 100 employees and 3 sales people. Wildly profitable but try to start something like that without being in structured products for years and you're dead on arrival. No one will give you the data you need.


PS: Here is an example of a great niche tool we loved as analysts and associates with thousands of active professional users. It was created by one person on the side (now a team of two) and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in fully automated revenue. The challenge is that those who use EDGAR frequently instantly see the utility but someone outside of the industry would not know this even exists or the problem it solved.

www.bamsec.com

ps this is not a personal plug. I do know the founder now but only after I discovered tool and reached out.


I am curious what you find compelling about Bamsec? It certainly has a cleaner interface than EDGAR, but are there any other advantages?


In a word: Speed. As an analyst and associate I spent a ton of time on EDGAR and this tool wiped out easily 20 to 45 min of work a day. It's a collection of subtle enhancements for example it pulls the title of an 8k rather than me having to guess which 8k out of a dozen contain the information I need. It now has a transcript search that allows you to search for word references across all filing (dozens to hundreds at a time) for a company which can easily save hours. There are a lot of subtle enhancements that are not worth enumerating on HN but feel free to ping me and I can go deeper into it if you want.


> It offers a lot of functionality as many threads have pointed out but at any given time, the marginal user utilizes 0.5% of what it does.

Excel also shows these monopoly effects. And there's always a plugin or alternate option for power users to do their thing.


Bloomberg (the company) became the de facto standard in the financial industry decades before Mike Bloomberg became a politician.

Mike Bloomberg started the company because while working at Merrill Lynch (in the 80ies) he thought the computer terminals banks used at the time to see stock and bond prices where ridiculous. He got funded by Merrill Lynch and disrupted the industry, overtaking rivals like Reuters (which well into the 90ies was usually considered the most trustworthy source for stock data)

You needed their special hardware only until the late nineties (the "Bloomberg box" - consider that up until around 96 or 97, only few employees would have internet access on their desktop, even inside "bulge bracket" investment banks): nowadays, you can get Blooomberg terminal on their workstation or on your own hardware. Likewise, you can run in on a dedicated connection, or on your normal internet line.

The key element of Bloomberg terminal is reliability: it feeds data you can usually trust and price feeds you can almost certainly trust. When you are checking prices changing several times a second across exchanges in different part of the world that's no easy feat). That's crucial when millions of dollars are at stake.

Second is the ability to access 80% of the data and information you would ever want to check wihout leaving the terminal.

Third ingredient is ease of use.

Fourth is incredible customer service.

Fifth is innovation: they continuously innovate, improve old features, add new features, introduce access to new data/information.

Once you remove the cost of the underlying live price feeds (from stock exchanges), The Bloomberg terminal is not that expensive for what it does. Bear in mind its customers are people that spend their day optimizing their financial decisions: if there was something cheaper working as well, they would go for it. If there was something working even better, they would go for it, probably even at a higher price point (because that's how the economics in the banking and investing world work).

Fun read: https://www.fastcompany.com/3051883/behind-the-brand/the-blo...


Bloomberg was a partner at Solomon Brothers, where he developed their in house IT systems.

Solly infamously demutualized, under John Gutfreund, and in that process, Bloomberg left, presumably with any IP waivers he needed (after all, they had to get partners to agree to be paid off, and that was a political battle) and from that position, it was I imagine, certainly easier, to attract Merril to invest in the new venture, as 50% partners.

Merill later sold i think all but a token stake, and Bloomberg was the majority buyer for their shares.

At no time did Michael Bloomberg work for Merill Lynch.

His timing, and trading, was impeccable.

Solly was long the 800lb gorilla of fixed income.

Coming from a former partner, the intimacy he had with the intriciacies of data (especially the archaic clearing systems he led to be automated, literally Solomon Brothers cared only for their front desks by habit, legendarily earning so much as to get away with a devil may care attitude long past when most firms would have been bust by conterparties declaring oprisk indigestible) he probably could have held a beauty parade for potential investors. Merril was probably chosen for two equally important characteristics, however: passivity as investors, and out size retail salesforce, immediate users for new equities data products Bloomberg wanted to launch.

Pretty sure they were long one of the largest Tandem customers, and may still rum Tandem for messaging. As noted in other comments, their messaging is nigh bullet proof. As is also noted in other comments, they give a real damn about latency, so make telcos (at least telco sales reps) weep no doubt more than most customers.

If there is a lesson for the startup world, i think it is this (besides way to trade to get his investment): there are apparently infinite messaging products, and a multiple thereof of features for messaging, but if you want to grow a high margin niche monopoly, or just a business period, build your messaging like civilization itself depends on it. How many hundreds of billions in capital have been made and lost in what are essentially messaging products? But name one that can count a few nines of reliability you'd entrust your capital, your family's emergencies, your daily banking, to, that is on the web?


- the custom keyboard may have been a holdover from the early versions of Bloomberg, today its not as useful. I personally think the key response on it is terrible. So I actually just keep it plugged in for the fingerprint scanner.

- bbg is about quick access to data. Most of the data is publicly available. But if you serve it up super quick and consistently, people value that

- the chat application is what the vast majority of people pay for, IMHO. This gives you access to most other people in your industry or product group. This is how business is conducted. - bbg has an army of people backing their product.. from the bbg help to data cleaners. This ensures quality for the high price you're paying


Another point - Bloomberg by an large doesn't fail. This isn't some consumer "build fast, break things, and iterate" model. I can remember one time in my two decades using Bloomberg that something broke. For half a day this year the IB chat system went down. The world of finance practically ground to a halt. But that was the wild exception. Compared to most platforms Bloomberg may be a bit archaic but it is rock solid and thats way more important when you have billions on the line in realtime.


What's amazing about this is that (at least as of the time when I worked there, 2003-2007) they've always broken just about every rule about coding style, DRY, unit tests, and so on ("We're not writing textbooks here") and yet (or because of this) were by a wide margin the highest-velocity shipper-of features I've ever known.

And this was all done while meeting the highest standards of performance and reliability. How'd they do it? I'd say two things: heavy investment in human testers, and an amazingly-rich "immune system": Deploy a bug in your new version of a Bloomberg function? Last week's code is still running alongside it, and in seconds you can route that one function over to the old instance while keeping all the other terminal functions on the new version. And an automated system might do it for you before you even get paged.


In the telecommunications industry, they are notoriously demanding customers.


I used the Bloomberg terminal until 2010 so things might have changed since then. The breadth of the data is unrivaled as far as I know, enough examples have been given in the comments. Concerning the data quality I do have to object though, in my area of expertise (mutual funds at the time) Bloomberg data was far from perfect and there were better quality data sources available. I dont doubt that they deliver reliable real time quotes from stock exchanges etc.

Excel integration was generally good, at the time I used the Terminal you had however to decide between two types of applications. The original Terminal which is linked to one PC, i.e. can only be accessed from one specific PC at work and not from home, or the 'Bloomberg anywhere' edition, which I believe was launched as some kind of remote application from a browser and could be used at any PC. The issue with the latter option was that it did not offer Excel integration.

I never liked the UI, some windows application with a lot of 'Terminal' baggage from the 1980's. I think they should re-build the whole thing as a browser based application, not replacing the old 'Terminal' application that current users are accustomed to but to on-board new users on a modern platform with a long term migration path to shut down the current application for good. Otherwise they might be replaced by a newcomer eventually...

https://www.money.net/ seems to be such a potential newcomer, especially considering the much more reasonable price point and the use of current technology.


> I think they should re-build the whole thing as a browser based application

Hopefully they understand that it would be a terrible idea. The current interface is orders magnitude more usable and responsive than a web interface could be. Despite the "terminal" look-and-feel it's constantly evolving and many parts are quite modern.


Why a browser based app? Terminal apps that you use often are much faster, more reliable and more pleasant to use.

Current technology is awful for professional use.


315,000 subscribers paying north of $20,000 per year, as of 2013.[0] Whoa.

[0] https://qz.com/84961/this-is-how-much-a-bloomberg-terminal-c...


It's interesting to think about from a different angle:

Paul Graham once wrote that "information wants to be free", and that there are very few areas in which you can make a significant revenue by selling information, financial information being the exception.

$6B ($9b) seems to be the upper bound of revenue for an information product (company). And Bloomberg has unusually wide moat.


Minor correction: it was Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog fame) who said "Information wants to be free". Paul Graham may have quoted it -- along with a multitude of others, since it was first uttered in 1984.

Actually turns out the original quote attributed to Brand is not quite right. There is a qualifier ("Information almost wants to be free"), but that qualifier dropped off along the way.

See http://www.digitopoly.org/2015/10/25/information-wants-to-be...


Thanks for the correction! I recall that I learned the phrase from pg's writing or talk, and it has stuck with me since so I mistakenly attributed it to pg.


I used to work for Bloomberg. They bring together countless data feeds, analytical tools, some analysis and news into one central location. They pump a lot of money into these data capturing efforts. They hire hoards of data capturing grunts to trawl the web for renewable energy projects and heavens knows how many more to process financial statements.

I suppose at the end of the day even though they do all this I'm not 100% sure they do it very well. I don't use the terminal or claim to know how, but it seems to have have become an essential tool for many people in the finance industry.

Although after all that I know there is a joke going around that the main reason most people fork out for the terminal is for the chat functionality.


I asked the finance guys at the asset management firm I worked at last, and they said that the #1 value to them was in the chat. So many deals are arranged via the built-in chat system. News can be acquired from many places, but if you capture the communication (or create the platform, as BB did), then you capture your audience.

It's very hard to break out of that, because doing so means you're now excluded from some of the most useful and important information. Nobody wants to be first to leave, and convincing enough users to leave en masse to create or use an alternative seems impossible at this point.


Bloomberg is also aggressive in retaining customers. A few years back, there was a scandal where Bloomberg News reporters used Terminal data to see that a target of their news story had not logged in for a bit and wrote about it. Since this was breach of trust between the two parts of Bloomberg, many of the banks starting looking into alternatives for BBG chat, and Bloomberg responded by offering the banks (their existing customers) many discounted terminals. Which seemed to have worked since the scandal died down and their chat is still the leader in wall street communication.


In case anyone else was curious about this scandal, I found the following contemporary article writing about it: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/business/media/bloomberg-a...

According to https://qz.com/83445/what-bloomberg-employees-can-see-when-t... , all Bloomberg employees could see when a user last logged in (like "w" in Unix), transcripts of all chats between the user and customer service (these chats are triggered by pressing F1/HELP twice, as other comments have indicated), and how many times the user used specific functions over the last 30 days.


Symphony was marketed by Goldman Sachs and Blackrock as a $15 Bloomberg killer, but still has not gained much traction. Bloomberg provides real-time data feeds, analysis tools, real-time secure communication with other traders, news and entertainment. When you are looking after AUMs of tens or hundreds of billions, $24,000 a year for a Bloomberg subscription is negligible.

"Potential users don’t want to get onboard unless all the other people in their ecosystem are on the service. That dynamic obviously keeps most people from joining Symphony. Most everyone working in financial markets is already on Bloomberg, and it would take virtually everyone leaving at the same time to give Symphony critical mass.

“I think Facebook is the best comparison,” Ayzerov says. “If Facebook had only one fourth of your friends, you wouldn’t use it. The advantage of Bloomberg is that every financial person has it.”"

See http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/3572874/banking... for some of the obstacles that Symphony faces


"BMAP is the coolest.

Pulls up a global map with "near-realtime" locations of cargo ships, offshore oil derricks and wind farms, tropical depressions and hurricanes, uranium mines, all kinds of crazy stuff.

You can zoom in on the Panama Canal and see which oil tankers under whose flag are waiting in line to pass through, where they're going and how much oil they're carrying.

You can sort the world's ocean-going cargo vessels by commodity, to see where all the orange juice is."

https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-coolest-functions-on-Bloo...


* Bloomberg Chat

* It is a well accepted reference. You will often see a screenshot of a bloomberg terminal as "proof" of something


Voting up on the Bloomberg Chat. Most of the people in Finance do not really use other functions but due to network effects, most people get 'connected' via Bloomberg Chat.


Please explain what Bloomberg chat is, and how you find people via it.


It's like MSN Messenger or AOL, except that the identities of people on it are guaranteed, and things said on it are effectively contracts. Reuters operate a similar system. There are others too but no-one uses them.


Can you expand? Are identities checked and referenced, or enforced socially like on LinkedIn? When you say things are effectively contracts, I've heard about the very solid principles that some finance people work to - "if we said it then we will stand by it" sort of things - or does Bloomberg step in to arbitrate, or are chats accessible by the employing companies, how are contracts enforced?


They are "checked" in the sense that ultimately there's a name associated with that expensive login. All chats are logged and available to compliance, regulators, etc. Bloomberg won't arbitrate but they don't have to - everyone knows that if you welshed on a deal, no-one would ever deal with you again. This is the same way that voice calls in banks work too.


I'm amazed this hasn't been exploited.


That's how the entire financial world works. The trades on the stock market are only a highly organized way to agree to a deal. The money and assets change hand three days later.

The financial world does not rely on iron-clad cryptographic security. It relies on a very well developed system of layers of trust.


Exploited in what way?


Entered the network, manipulated data, created misinformation, use social engineering tricks and tried to control stock pricing. When you have a platform only accessible to the elite, it makes the possibilities extremely tempting.


You would have more luck impersonating voices on the phone!


Biometricaly secured also. The Bloomberg terminal requires a finger print to log into it. Also its a $20k a year subscription, so you can be pretty certain the people you are talking to are important and who they say they are.


Weirdly, AOL has a bunch of clients on wall street that pay for AIM corporate accounts.


I know, when the company I worked for in the 90's IPO'd in the dotcom boom, we would talk to our broker over just regular AIM. Nowadays that just seems crazy...


Friends in London finance said that for them, most business was done over Yahoo Messenger. Crazy world!


Yahoo is weirdly popular in the energy sector


Is used to be. Yahoo altered the logging functionality such that it would not meet compliance standards.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-traders-yahoo-idUSKCN1...


Confirmed. Worked on Thomson Reuters chat, which is FREE for anyone with an email address at a bank or financial institution, and we could not crack the hold that IB(Instant Bloomberg) had.


I also worked for Reuters tho' not on chat and for many of us it was very obvious why we kept losing to Bloomberg. Reuters would send its sales people into a bank's IT department and say things like "our product uses standard TCP/IP networking!". Bloomberg would go into the front office and say "here are some ways you can make more money!".


it's everything:

- news articles

- squawk

- economic data releases

- historical and live market data

- asset pricing

- charts and analytics

- click trading

- trade execution and transaction cost analysis

- trade order management and post trade processing

- portfolio and risk management

- alerts

- chat

- mail

- Excel integration

- amazing stuff like DINE<GO>, FLY<GO>, and POSH<GO> (lol)

there's probably a ton more stuff that i don't use and don't know. bloomberg is a mile wide and a mile deep in some areas.

you can get any of these features individually from plenty of service providers in the market. some are less specialized and cheaper and some are more specialized and more expensive. if you don't want to manage fifty different contracts with different service providers bloomberg provides a one-stop shop.

bloomberg is more than just data now. it wants to be absolutely everything that a financial firm needs - front office, middle office, back office.


> DINE<GO>, FLY<GO>, and POSH<GO>

Can you ... can you order takeout from a Bloomberg terminal?


"FLY and DINE give you flight schedules and restaurant listings and reviews."

"POSH, a Craigslist for the wealthy"

https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-coolest-functions-on-Bloo...

Banking software also use this type of codes to reach different functions: post a cheque, take a draft, print an account statement, update customer record, loan balance/amortisation/payback history; in short, they do everything with short 3-4-5 letter keywords. This type of system has very high learning curve ("Hey Alex, what's the keyword for locker rent arrears list?"); but it is a joy to watch competent people operate the program to get things done.

Many business software also work this way (SAP ERP/Oracle Financials), but none of them are likely to be as fast as Bloomberg though. AutoCAD also has some commands like this (like Emacs'/Vim's ex/M-x prompt? ":"/"M-x"). I wish other consumer software also allowed access to screens/dialog boxes and functions in this direct manner without having to click menus and buttons a thousand times.


bloomberg has a history of muscling in on post-trade services with various degrees of success.

I doubt food delivery falls within their expertise or even scope of compliance, in the same way you still can't buy flight tickets from fly<go>, but if they want to do it, if they ever do, seamless has no choice but to take them seriously.


>Can you ... can you order takeout from a Bloomberg terminal?

Almost. You can ask the helpdesk, and get decent answers along the lines of a telephone number for a restaurant but not 'this place is recommended'


Bloomberg has a massive network effect which makes it difficult to displace. Particularly when you move away from exchange traded products like equities and into areas like corporate fixed income, interactions are still conducted via bilateral discussion (i.e., online chat and text price dissemination). To be in the game you need to be where everyone else is talking. There is an ecosystem of price scraping and trade processing in Bloomberg which facilitates the whole trade and portfolio management process. I can route orders via Bloomberg to any broker and monitor execution of my orders in real-time. No the costs are not cheap but it is a lot cheaper than hiring several members of an operations team which would be necessary if this was all done manually.

Bloomberg is also like an operating system. For example, there are electronic execution venues in many types of instruments which use the Bloomberg as their front-end. This is very valuable. When you are a trader, screen real estate is critical. You can have 6 30" monitors and it still isn't enough if your tools are fragmented across 50 platforms. The more you can keep things integrated into a few core tools the better.

You are also paying a ton for ultra-responsive service. When millions or billions are on the line you don't have time to mess around on a help-line. On a Bloomberg you have 24-7 ultra-responsive skilled help who are responsive in around 30 seconds.

There are other reasons but end of the day if you are a pro then 30k/year isn't cheap but its a lot cheaper than trying to hack around with amateur tools.


> 24-7 ultra-responsive skilled help who are responsive in around 30 seconds

True apart from the "skilled" part. They have cut-n-paste monkeys staffing 1st line help-help support and you know it.

Any question that actually involves thinking (bugs in their software or interesting questions about the API or details of their financial models) just gets passed through a game of telephones until you reach the actual competent people hours or days after you have devised a workaround for the burning issue yourself.


It's more than news. It also provides real-time financial data, access to trading, and a way to securely communicate with other traders.

You can find some background here on what it does:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomberg_Terminal


UCF has a great tutorial video on the Bloomberg terminal. It is an hour and 7 minutes long, but watch it and you will see why it's the standard in finance. The data/news feed is great and UX is optimized for speed, dense display of information, and filtering.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LE8HiHZcgEE


> UX is optimized for speed, dense display of information, and filtering

I often wish more software would make the same UX trade-offs.

I suspect this is why a lot of advanced users stick with the command line - a better "pro" UX is surely possible (REPLs / notebook style interfaces are a limited example) but outside of programming tools there doesn't seem to be much serious effort in this space.


> I often wish more software would make the same UX trade-offs.

It's worth noting that this is the antithesis of mainstream designer thinking right now. Designers i've worked with want to minimise the amount of information on screen to maximise its impact and clarity; lots of blank space, lots of elegance. Perhaps this works for general consumer apps, but it's not what heavy professional users want, are accustomed to, or can make the best use of.


Yes, I 100% agree. I struggle with this decision constantly on my platform (https://www.tiingo.com). People have called it a "Bloomberg Killer" but I strongly disagree. My goal is not to replace bloomberg.

But one thing I constantly iterated was getting that blend. I also found though, some users didn't use some of the features like keyboard shortcuts. Also the way iterative web design works, is it kind of runs counter to developing keyboard shortcuts. You want to develop quickly, but at the same time keyboard shortcuts need to stay the same alongside a fast UX. If you constantly change things when people prioritize predictability and speed, you run into what Excel did in 2007 when everything changed.

It's a tradeoff and I think there has to be some semblance of stability before you can optimize the UX. I think I'm now at that stage but the current paradigms of iterative development make this difficult to pull off in the short-term.


It is pretty simple: network effects.

Nearly every trader, sales person, and investment manager in finance has a bloomberg terminal which is guaranteed to own a lot of screen real estate on their monitors. If you need to get in touch with someone as quickly and efficiently as possible, bloomberg chat is the way to go. You are usually involved in multiple conversations at once so phones just don't cut it.

I traded two different products that were almost exclusively traded via IB (chat) or MSG (email like). There is nothing special about either of those communication channels, but market norms are incredibly powerful.

As others are mentioning, Bloomberg also centralizes a ton of different data, but this much easier to replicate than the network effects of the products above.


It's fast in terms of time takes from press release to screen, total news coverage is unrivaled (Reuters you could say maybe), forgot how many trillions of dollars they control all together. bonds they are the king, tradebook, their international financial data is a little rough, and their sales force is relentless. Try to sell me a god damn terminal every time. also they were ahead of pack regarding supply chain data, graph modeling, they are moving into Law.


Scraping press releases, collecting news from various media outlets, monitoring socialmedia and then pushing all this info to a web/desktop app in real time seams rather trivial...? Wheres the secret sauce?


first to market?


The terminal is the 'last-mile' endpoint in a centralized system that delivers real-time data to subscribers with low latency and actually allows them to take action on data. Low latency is what sets it apart from closest competitors such as Reuters.

The ability to trade is perhaps no so important these days given the advent of algo trading/stat arb, but it serves to emphasize the point that there is more to the terminal than just viewing the data.


I think it has very little to do with the end-user hardware, and everything to do with their data. Bloomberg is dominant in data quality. Really, whatever financial information you want, you can get, provided you're willing and able to pay the price.

Their data is faster and cleaner than most of their competition. Personally, I find their interface clunky by today's standards, but it's entrenched in the industry, so there's a non-trivial learning "cost" for anyone considering switching away, and even if they're able to adapt to a new interface, they're likely to find holes in the available data. Beyond their data, they connect the financial industry over Bloomberg chat, so it's got the network effect there. The hardware itself is not a huge factor IMO. Plenty of people use Bloomberg terminals, via Bloomberg Anywhere, logging in from their standard desktop with their normal Windows keyboards.


It's like Emacs or VIM for financial market professionals.


There are some good answers here about why BBG has become the de facto information tool for folks who work in finance. Speaking as someone who works in finance -- there are, in my opinion, opportunities to dethrone BBG, but the most effective attack vectors will be more niche markets where information can be easily digitized, organized, and presented in a way that beats BBG's interface.

I work with municipal bonds - long story short, the muni market is a fixed income market with several legal and structural characteristics which add complexity over the corporate and government bond markets.

For example - generally municipal bonds are structured with serial maturities and a 10 year par call option, which means issuers are constantly refinancing, paying bonds down with cash, etc. This introduces complexity around even knowing what bonds an issuer still has outstanding. To someone who works with corporates, you'd just pull up the ticker and immediately see what's there - for our market, it takes a lot of manual effort to track the bonds, digitize old documents, and present that information in a logical interface.

(Similar to the SEC's EDGAR, there is an information repository for the municipal market called EMMA, which was introduced post-crisis - so it is fairly easy to pull recent disclosures, but very difficult to track older bonds/documents.)

On the investment banking side, we have one Bloomberg terminal for our entire floor, since the subscription is fairly expensive and we don't have as much need for the info as the traders do. If a company were to simply track information about municipal bonds, starting with the largest issuers, they could undercut Bloomberg in this market and make a good chunk of subscription revenue.

I have to imagine these opportunities exist elsewhere as well. I doubt that there are many folks who use BBG functions for more than the handful of markets in which they participate. I bet that there are markets where smaller companies could do just as good a job as BBG at gathering information for a lower cost.

A thought I just had while typing this comment - to me, BBG seems analogous to a cable TV bundle, where you pay for a ton of channels that you don't use. I wonder if competing against BBG in single markets would motivate them to introduce tiered/a la carte subscription models? The one feature keeping everyone on Bloomberg is chat (and to a certain extent, the actual trading platform) - in my case, if we could have that while only subscribing to a few functions, that would probably be enough for us and could save on subscription costs.


Network effects especially for the chat function. Most of other functions are easily replicated by by Reuters Thompson, one of Bloomberg's competitors.


I think there are a few reasons that keeps them at the top of the heap vs. their nearest competitors (S&P CapIQ, Factset, Thompson/Reuters).

One if Mike Bloomberg himself. He is a rarity. He is a founder who is still very active in the company. He certainly doesn't need to go to work every day for the money. He is worth billions and is 75. I think he genuinely loves the work and he demands the same work ethic from those around him. I would imagine that when he is in the building, you can "feel" it in the air. That gravitas that was frequently on display when he was mayor of NYC is probably there every day whenever he holds court on a topic.

Second, I believe Bloomberg has grown organically. I think it's much easier to present a complete and consistent system when you've built most of it yourself. A company like TR has been built up through acquisitions and it at times shows in the product. Factset has adopted a similar strategy as of late.

Third, while the product at times has a distinctive UI/UX experience, it has always seemed super fast at least to my eyes. Less is true of their competitors.


You are looking at this from a computer engineer's point of view (perhaps). However if you look at it from the world of finance, access to a data broker with up to date(seconds) information where you can also chat with major bank traders and hedge funds the package is very complete.

Data brokers. Not a regular thing in comp.sci, but very much so in the world of finance.


I don't think you've answered the question of why custom hardware is required. All of the information resources and channels you mention could be accessed from more common hardware.


Apart from the keyboard, a present day Bloomberg is just a common PC and monitor.


Point of clarification: Bloomberg does not require special hardware to use, though they do offer special hardware that integrates well with the software. At the time I left finance, I used a regular off-the-shelf PC with Dell monitors and a Das Keyboard, and it ran all the software I used on a daily basis (Bloomberg, Office, etc.).


Interesting read on Bloomberg vs Symphony (through an EU policy lens, but has a lot of details about BBG business model I hadn't read elsewhere) http://www.politico.eu/article/bloomberg-vs-the-banks/


From the article, on encryption key management to satisfy US regulators:

> Banks under the agency’s jurisdiction that use Symphony also agreed to store message with the messaging company for seven years and to keep duplicate copies of their decryption keys with independent custodians of their choosing.


I worked on Thomson Reuters Messenger, which Symphony tried hiring ex-Thomson people to work on. Symphony is a joke and will never gain any traction in any market. Bloomberg is the king, and if you don't have money you use Reuters. Otherwise your probably not very high end on finance.


Could you please elaborate on "Symphony is a joke"? Based on the little that I've read about it, it's pricing structure and the slew of mega banks behind it seem to make it a good choice for Terminal customers who use it just for the chat (IB) functionality. Thanks.


> Bloomberg is the king, and if you don't have money you use Reuters

That is true for now. But chat is trivially implemented and the monopoly only holds due to network effects. And in the last few years Bloomberg have been so arrogant with all of their clients that there is critical momentum now to migrate away the chats and have everyone bar the actual traders share terminals.

(In unrelated news, Bloomberg's recent antics pissed our firm's senior guys off enough that made a few hundred Bbg terminal users migrate to Eikon, just to send a message...)


Well, the monopoly aspect has had a limiting effect on a few things I've been involved in, at least in government/quasi-government. Given that some data series I've used are only (? or most conveniently) available through the terminal, it has meant having only half-automated tools. You always still need to do a weekly walk down the hall to a terminal followed by a lengthy boot-up on an old box, entering of password, opening of spreadsheet. They tend to lock down those machines too.

While I guess there are APIs, I don't get the impression they're easy to just integrate into any old workflow if the terminal is down the hall or even on the other side of your desk. It's all linked to that terminal, no? Pretty annoying if you ask me, from a programmers standpoint. Not to mention another case of closed, proprietary tech in the financial sector.


In many cases it is not Bloomberg's monopoly but the data provider's. The licensing and royalty agreements between Bloomberg and the data provider have very onerous terms including restricting how many screens the data can be displayed on, what mediums the data can be transferred to, and where and for what purpose the data can be used. The terminal restrictions and API limitations that Bloomberg imposes are usually driven by these concerns.

Bloomberg offers less restrictive APIs but they are even more costly than a terminal license and often require the end user to sign agreements with the data providers directly and pay additional royalties.


You've had lots of answers but I have a few other points that are worthy to mention...

The #1 key / function on a Bloomberg terminal is the Message key. Just like people are on Facebook because other people are on FB and not MySpace is the driver behind BB's message function. Bloomberg messages are key for relationship maintenance and informal (or even semi-formal) information exchange.

BB is a little hard to learn how to use because of all the special keys and function short codes. But because of those special keys and functions, once you are trained, the system is blazing fast to operate. Blazing fast in a trading environment is especially important to grumpy trading staff.

Which gets us to deal capture... so with the BB messaging system being so popular and in the early days being used to talk about deals, Bloomberg created a deal capture element to the system. So in addition to chatting with your street counterpart, you could formally confirm the deal you just messaged with your buddy. So take the social, add the deal capture, and add the fast & reliable, you have a damn good vanilla dealing system with zero overhead beyond monthly terminal cost, which you are paying anyway.

Unlike Reuters market data client-side infrastructure, BB terminal implementation requires low technical knowledge. Leased line and a black box communications server and bango you are up and running. Reuters, you need multiple Unix servers, so you need a Unix admin plus 1 more guy in case Unix admin #1 goes on holiday, plus leased lines, plus the comms equipment, plus this and plus that.

My old firm had 1 employee dedicated to untangling Reuters bills as there were user costs, systems as data user costs, depreciation costs, real time data costs, blah blah blah. Reuters billing had elements of self-auditing and internal real time data subscription management. BB bills are a list of BB terminal IDs which are easily mapped to user X and department Y. BB real time data feed costs are tied to specific user. You could process a Bloomberg invoice in 30 minutes with a temp staff.


You are not paying for the hardware, you're paying for the platform and data. The monitor is a regular monitor (and I think it's only marginally used). The keyboard has a few extra keys which are convenient but not absolutely required (you can also use Bloomberg on a laptop).


Longtime user of Bloomberg here, both finance and coding experience.

You no longer need special hardware to use the terminal. In fact the special keys are just mappings to your F keys, and you'll know which one is which without the keyboard. They have a sticker strip if you really need it. BTW the keyboard is crap, the buttons aren't balanced meaning the keys kinda stick, making you type slower.

Data is the only reason you need this thing. It's truly comprehensive how many data sources are all accessible through a single syntax. I've traded single stocks, corporate bonds, CDS, ETFs, index options, equity options, commodity futures, government bonds, interest rate swaps, IR swaptions, FX, FX options, and so on. You can get a price chart for all of them just by typing in a code followed by "GP". Or you can get relevant news.

On the API side, it's pretty easy to pull the data you need from the terminal. There's .NET, python, java, etc libraries for you, with lots of examples. And just about every imaginable field is there.

Bloomberg Chat is useful in certain parts of the industry. You can have all your brokers set up with individual 1-on-1 chats, yet still blast out a quote request as in "USD 5Y, 100K dv01, please" and they will all see it without knowing how many people you're talking to. A lot of people are still trading in the stone age, and Bloomberg is certified for keeping records for this sort of thing. You might have heard about BBG Chat in the recent LIBOR trials.

There's also a whole pseudo-exchange functionality. Basically you can get approved to get prices from each broker, and then you can trade with them by sending them tickets via Bloomberg. I always thought that was crap, but some people like it, depends on their niche.

It's kinda ripe for disruption though. 24K is a lot for the basic package, and if you want to actually get the data, rather than just the interface into it, you have to pay the underlying provider. That gets pricy quite quickly. Also live data costs money, too, and it's not going to be fast. Unless you get the leased line (if you're in the City of London, it's not a problem), which is more money again. And not especially fast, since there's an extra hop. I'm not sure I buy the argument that finance professionals know how to use it, so bbg is entrenched. If you understand what you're looking for, you're not going to have a problem finding it on some other system. For a lot of things such as common stocks, Yahoo and Google are not going to have any less information.

I've never thought highly of bloomberg's customer service. At most they're useful for discovering functions that you don't know the shortcut for. When there's anything remotely complicated, they seem to do a huge internal goose chase and then eventually get back to you with "can't do it". Basically anything API related, the Help Help guys will not know what to do and end up waiting for a dev. Also the official account manager keeps changing and every time you get a new one they pester you to show you some obscure functionality.


> For a lot of things such as common stocks, Yahoo and Google are not going to have any less information.

This makes me wonder how much should I trust everything else you said...


Why do you say this?

(FWIW, I find many of lordnacho's HN contributions to be decent and in many cases insightful).


There are lots of things on bloomblerg that cannot be found at google or yahoo... To name only a few: intraday market data, company filings, detailed/processed financial information (product/geographic segmentation, non-gaap metrics), transcripts of earnings calls, sell-side estimates, corporate actions (M&A, IPOs/secondary offerings), information about management, customers, suppliers, institutional shareholders...


Bloomberg only keeps its intraday data for 50 days. Google does have intraday data, but you need to know how to get it via the right http call.

https://www.google.co.uk/finance?q=NYSE%3AXOM&ei=X2uzWInZGYa...

There's the board of Exxon Mobil, along with links to analyst estimates, company filings, related firms, calendar of their calls, transcripts, list of institutional shareholders, and so on.

Most of the things you mention are certainly easier to find on a terminal, but you can get them for free elsewhere. Also don't forget many things on Bloomberg require you to pay even more. Short interest data on European stocks for instance.


I don't know how to get the intraday data from Google, do you also get 50 days, quotes, trades, volumes traded...? There is some useful info in the reuters.com page linked from google. But still there are so many things that are not there. There is only very basic financial info, and I don't think you get it in google finance within minutes of it being published. Of course you could read the press release for free. And read every filing from the company yourself, and every filing from any related company, and from any asset manager who might have a relevant disclosure. And then you you can process all that data to put it in a comparable format. All for free!


> Bloomberg only keeps its intraday data for 50 days

Just for the record, I'm looking at intraday data from a few years ago right now so that cannot be right.


Basically, there isn't just "news" as in stories -- there's tons of data that's annoying, hard or impossible to find without paying various parties for it and scraping it, which Bloomberg makes available in one place, sorted and sortable and searchable, and possible to import automatically into Excel. Eg., it's the most reliable source of dates, times, and data content for upcoming and past macroeconomic announcements and earnings announcements; you can fetch stock index components with their current weights in the basket; and you can graph all sorts of things against each other using their powerful graphing software.


Chat. In other words: whoever matters is accessible through it. It's an integrated platform for trading that also includes 'social', you can do every bit of your workflow there -- communication, sales, research, trade.


I worked there for quite a while. I'll try to address some of your specific questions directly.

> it's just a portal that gives the news

A portal? Bloomberg News has its very own reporters (and jourobots). They investigate and write original content. People usually don't buy the terminal (~2000 USD/month) only for that, but if they do, they can read everything directly in the terminal.

> What I don't get is why have a custom monitor, keyboard?

The monitor is, these days, only about branding. Ten to fifteen years ago, Bloomberg offered good-quality LCD screens with integrated mounting arms for 2 or 4, at a time when that was a pretty high-end setup. As LCD screens became cheap and ubiquitous, many users don't have the Bloomberg ones, but they still have the Bloomberg keyboard. It's useful because it has special labels for a few hotkeys, plus some of them have extras like fingerprint readers. If you lack the special keyboard you can press Alt+K on any keyboard and the terminal will show you a graphic of the special keys for reference.

But to really understand why they have a special keyboard, you need to look back a good long while. That's covered here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3051883/behind-the-brand/the-blo... - the gist is that a "Bloomberg terminal" used to be a real terminal, connected to a magic box on the customer premises (which served several terminals). There have been many, many iterations of the terminal hardware, from a dedicated proprietary box, to software running on Sparc workstations, to software running on Windows, with the keyboard becoming more like a PC keyboard around the turn of the century.

> is it a VPN

No. Traditionally, customers connect their terminals back to the Bloomberg service via leased lines (i.e. not the internet). But for many years now you have the option of using the internet, though not everyone wants that.

> The cost of the product is ridiculous.

The cost of the product is much less than what some customers would be willing to pay. Most customers pay about the same monthly fee, regardless of where they are in the world, regardless of their corporate income statement, etc. So yes, it seems expensive to people who wouldn't get that much out of it. Some schools get a discount.

> Is there a cheaper alternative that does not require specialised hardware?

Bloomberg does not require specialized hardware at all. You can install it on any Windows laptop, and you are more than welcome to do so. As for cheaper--yes, there are lots of things which are cheaper, but you will be hard-pressed to find any combination of those which is still cheaper and yet does most of what Bloomberg does (i.e. has similar quantity and quality of data, and applications built up).

> I know Bloomberg is a politician

He is now, but he was not when his company went from 0 users to 100,000 users.


It's got a network-effect moat. The terminal isn't just a way to get information. It's a communication platform for members of the financial industry. And all the people they want to talk to are already there.


An alternative to Bloomberg Terminal, on the research side, is Tiingo, an amazing financial data portal. They ask that if you use it, you pay a minimum of $7 per month, though that is not currently enforced.


Founder of Tiingo.com - it made top 10 of HackerNews before (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10762913)

Thanks for the mention! The goal is to help liberate financial data and make it accessible to everyone via tools and education. I've already gone where bloomberg doesn't, like a custom metrics creator for the screener, and the podcast is top-rated. Either way, I work my butt off because I want everybody to have access to the same tools I did.

Thank you for mentioning the platform :) let me know if you have any questions! https://www.tiingo.com


The one thing that's somewhat unavailable to me is bond data. Any plans in that space?

For example, Planet Money's toxic asset CUISP: 41161PUA9, part of HVMLT 2005-10 B6. I'd be neat to have visibility into that without paying bloomberg 20k.


An alternative for who? Certainly not professionals.


It seems as if there's a lot of behind the scenes data aggregation and analytics, which is good. But surely somebody has created a cheap variation on the rest of it? I.e. software with keystrokes to quickly access open financial data? I mean there's nothing to stop someone doing that, getting custom keyboards made, and selling it for a tiny fraction of the price right?

I'd imagine that there are quite a lot of people who fancy trading as something of a hobby but who will never pay for Bloomberg.


The data is what's valuable. You can't get up-to-date data for free, and if you can then you can't re-publish it.


There's Eikon from Thomson Reuters, which is considerably cheaper


I don't know if I'd say considerably. It all depends on what data you need. They have more fine-grained purchases than Bloomberg though, so it can be cheaper, depending on your use-case.


The most important thing is it's ubiquitous in Finance. If everyone has it, it's very hard for someone else to introduce a competitor that others don't have.

It's also got an interface that everyone is used to. Not a great interface, but one that everyone knows.

There are cheaper alternatives, as well as easier to use alternatives, and alternatives with better analytics. But in general they just layer above BBG, they don't replace it.


This podcast will shed some light on your query: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/podcast-wall-streets-just...

“Bloomberg just wants you to be locked into the ecosystem and never, ever leave. It’s like the Hotel California of financial data.” — Robin Wigglesworth


The depth and breadth of financial data along with excellent integration with Excel is simply unmatched! I actually looked into alternatives a couple of times and each time didn't find anything even close! There're a lot of rivals though including Factset that have great products but nothing really comes close to Bloomberg especially if you have to work with FI instruments.


Things might be different now, but Bloomberg used to be unique in what it offered:fixed income price feeds, analytics, news feeds and messaging service for market participants.

Another killer feature was that there were addins to excel spreadsheets.

Now, there are probably competing products, but Bloomberg has a large user base who are very familiar with its product.



Dealers need bbg, the social network in bbg chat drives some network effects, there's also a bit of tradition involved too. They tend to have less data issues than most but there's plenty still there.

Analysts and research roles aren't so beholden but bbg does data well while reuters does news well.


My friends at Intrinio (https://intrinio.com/) here in St. Pete FL are responding to this question with a lower-cost, developer-friendly way to pull financial data into Excel, Google Sheets or your own application.


i think it's a locked down software system that provides near real time data on in various financial markets around the world. the reason why this is useful is alot of stock info you find online is 5 -15 minutes old.. which is kind of useless if you need to buy and sell in realtime.


Wow, great comments about Bloomberg. It makes me wonder, is there similar system for Cryptocoins traders?


This is a really interesting idea. Certainly, there's a huge need in the cryptocurrency world with getting information accurately and in one place. And it's only going to grow.


I'm a quant developer and have had Bloomberg terminal for years. Bloomberg has a lot of different benefits.

1. It is a all-in-one news source. There are a lot of features that allow you to monitor the news from many different sources in real time.

2. It is a social network. The built-in chat and email service is _really_ basic. But, just about every one working in Finance is on it, with their contact details and resumes. As a trader, you can legally close financial transactions on the Bloomberg chat, as one would over the phone.

3. It is a data sharing platform. Banks and other market participants contribute to Bloomberg data by sending information that is normally not visible in the market. For instance FX volatilities are quoted by banks on bloomberg in real time. This information is only available in few places.

4. It is an API that allows its users to use its data for custom analytics.

5. It is an execution platform, where you can book trades, follow their values and risk when the market moves, etc.

6. It is open to 3rd parties: some banks and other data vendors have their own pages on bloomberg (which I never had access to).

7. It has many many other stuffs. There is a restaurant review system. There is a classified section. There are things to monitor the weather. It has videos, maps, it's just huge.

Now - that is what people are interested in.

And then there are the things that Bloomberg shoves down your throat. Like the keyboard.

Bloomberg _forces_ you to buy their keyboards, at a very heavy price. The justification is the fingerprint reader, but that's really just a scam, because they put a $10 fingerprint reader onto a $10 keyboard, and sell you the thing at $500 a piece. So you either need to buy the keyboard, or you need to buy the B-Unit, which is Bloomberg very 2-factor authentication device which I assume is also quite expensive.

There is also the additional price you pay for API access, or to be able to see very specialized data. You pay for your private circuit to their servers (yep, it usually doesn't go through the internet).

Also a few words on the UI: it is f-ing terrible. Hit Escape, and you will find yourself on the start page. It doesn't matter that you were in the middle of typing an email or pricing a product, it just restarts your terminal. Most of the features are accessed by obscure four letter codes, that one has to learn to go back to. There is a search feature but everything is mixed in, and so you have to be pretty lucky to find anything useful using that. After a while though, the fact that the UI is so bad makes you feel "part of the club", I think many people would hate it if it changed.


It's not the terminal pet se, it's the information it is connected to.


Does anyone here know how difficult it would be for BBL to change their GUI? I am using the terminal quite often, but I wish it would be more EIKON like.


It's not mostly news, it's mostly finance data that only Bloomberg has aggregated. To get the data you have to buy the terminal.


Is it possible to access the bloomberg terminal chat via some sort of api?


Try:

$ apt install wallstreet

$ wallstreet

I created that for Ubuntu, as a follow-on to:

$ apt install hollywood

$ hollywood

Purely for fun. Try it!


http://packages.ubuntu.com/zesty/wallstreet

"fill your console with Wall Street-like news and stats"

[Tried to "apt show" it, I'm not on zesty.]


where's the source ? can't find it


"wallstreet" is part of his "hollywood" project: https://github.com/dustinkirkland/hollywood/blob/master/bin/...


If anybody is looking to disrupt the industry, I would be interested to partner in.


Bloomberg would be very hard to dethrone. It's key selling point is all of the data they have access to, which takes forever to setup integration with all of those providers. They continually expand data sources as well so it's not like they are asleep at the wheel.

Finally, Bloomberg chat has strong network effects so even if you had all of the same data, many traders still wouldn't switch to you because they can't communicate with others still on Bloomberg.


By way of an introduction: My name is Alap Shah and I spent years as an analyst at Viking and Citadel using Bloomberg and CapIQ in my day-to-day workflow. 5 years ago, I left to begin building Sentieo, a modern financial platform underpinned by deep search that incorporates the latest in web technology.

My team of former buy-side analysts and engineers have built an advanced research platform with search technology and data analytics designed to significantly increase the speed and depth of your research process.

Sentieo aims to help accelerate fundamental investors' workflow by picking up where traditional financial platforms leave off:

• Quickly search through public company documents: Sentieo’s Document Search is the fastest and most powerful way to search through millions of SEC filings, international filings, broker research, transcripts and presentations.

• Effortlessly organize your research: Sentieo offers research management seamlessly integrated at its core. The Sentieo Notebook is where your investment ideas begin to take shape---analysts organize and develop their ideas while allowing Portfolio Managers to monitor and influence the ongoing development of an investment thesis.

• The financial data terminal reimagined: Sentieo offers a modern take on the data terminal, with a sleek design that facilitates easy consumption of relevant financial metrics, statements, charts and more. In addition, the Excel plugin provides access to all of Sentieo’s datasets in Excel.

• A visualization engine built for analysts: Plotter, our powerful visualization engine, allows you to create and track complex graphs for data series across any number of tickers, with customizable financial metrics for each ticker. In addition, Sentieo’s Mosaic tool adds a powerful additional piece to your data mosaic: alternative data on web traffic, search interest, and Twitter mentions. Seamlessly overlay that data against our financial datasets to quickly identify the opportunities where data has predictive power in forecasting unreported revenue and earnings growth. Our user interface presents all of this data in a manner that’s easy to analyze.

• Sentieo's power in your pocket: Our suite of mobile apps enables intuitive and fast access to the Sentieo platform while on the road (e.g. at investment conferences and 1-on-1s). Integrated note-taking allows for collaboration with others at your firm, with notes seamlessly syncing with our cloud servers once your mobile device regains wireless Internet access.

After years of development, we launched just over a year ago and already have 200+ hedge funds and sell-side shops subscribed to our equity research platform. Our team numbers nearly 100 strong across San Francisco, New York and New Delhi.

I'd be more than glad to walk you through Sentieo, its unique features, and our approach to being at the forefront of trends in:

• Financial search technology

• Research management systems (RMS)

• How funds are using a host of new datasets to generate Alpha via web traffic, search volumes and twitter mentions

• Predictive analytic tools that allow analysts to make better forecasts of business performance and to generate Alpha

Please feel free to visit our website is at www.sentieo.com to get a glimpse of how we are re-imagining the financial data terminal and re-defining how fintech can aid analysts in improving their workflow and generating investment insights.

Cheers,

Alap


This comment seems kinda spammy (not to mention the fact that it's appeared and reappeared at least 3 times so far). It would appear less so to me if it were much shorter and much lighter on the marketing speak. Just a quick, maybe 5 sentence introduction and a link would suffice.




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