Markets will rebound and you want to be in a position to take
, says Bloomberg’s Dan Doctoroff
Dan Doctoroff used to run the economic development of New York, the city that never sleeps. Now he’s chief executive of market data and analytics giant Bloomberg, which with 15,000 employees in 192 locations across the globe, doesn’t have any downtime either.
Not that Bloomberg would be able to sleep with all the information that’s running through its nerve centres. At the dawn of an era where companies will live and die by the data they are able to collect and understand, Doctoroff sees advantage in describing Bloomberg in terms akin to a Facebook of finance.
“Our 315,000 subscribers exchange 200 million proprietary messages a day, they have 15 to 20 million chats a day, they’re a community,” he says.
Doctoroff admits the data from all that activity is mined but is fed straight back into the core product, the Bloomberg Professional Service (better known as the Bloomberg terminal), where it may benefit financial analysts alongside the 5000 stories produced daily by the 2300 journalists in the company’s news division.
“In a world where we’re inundated with infomation, we need new ways to manage large amounts of data,” Doctoroff says.
“Move it around, store it, get it to the right people but also to have it curated by editors and journalists.”
For all of the noise his company trades in, Doctoroff was relaxed and affable when he sat down with BRW last month, towards the end of a “seven city tour” through Asia.
He’d have needed a tolerant and adaptable nature, one suspects, to have gone from being an investment banker at Lehman Brothers – whose boss Dick Fuld notoriously arranged a private elevator to whisk him to the top floor so there was no chance he’d have to speak to ordinary staff – to Bloomberg, where policy is to avoid lifts wherever possible, the theory being there’s more camraderie and collaboration if everybody takes the stairs or rides an escalator together.
Doctoroff was New York City’s deputy mayor from mid-2001 until 2007 and has been running Bloomberg since. He befriended Bloomberg’s founder and outgoing New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, during his prior investment banking and private equity career, including a stint as managing partner at Oak Hill Capital Partners.
There, he made a fortune which allowed him to do the New York City job for $1 a year, running the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics into the bargain.
The bid was ultimately unsuccessful but Doctoroff insists it was a worthwhile exercise – for the same reason it’s worthwhile for any business to pitch for work or nominate for awards.
“Very little happens in a city’s life on a deadline and the beauty of an Olympic bid is that it creates a series of deadlines, which if properly channelled give you the ability to get things done that you otherwise wouldn’t,” he says.
In Doctoroff’s case, he got 40 per cent of New York’s five boroughs rezoned for residential and commercial projects, returning private sector confidence to an extent that when he left office, the mayor described the $6 it had paid Dan as “one of the greatest bargains for the city since the purchase of Manhattan for $24”.
Doctoroff admits that in a “perverse way”, the devastation of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks catalysed New Yorkers to support rebuilding, reducing much of the “not in my backyard” opposition to redevelopment of old industrial land.
Learning to listen also helped.
“There’s a land review process I came to appreciate – the process by which communities can give input in every case made the plans better,” he says.
“The more you do it, the more you learn to listen, reach out, anticipate people’s needs, negotiate more effectively.”
Running New York and running Bloomberg are “too different” to say which is harder, Doctoroff insists, although his greatest learning as deputy mayor is something he says has allowed him to be successful at Bloomberg.
“I joined New York just after the dotcom boom, which had provided a lot of wind to the city’s economy, and of course the 9/11 attacks. Then I joined Bloomberg and shortly thereafter we had the global financial crisis,” he says.
“I’ve come to know that the right strategy following a crisis is not to disinvest. Markets will rebound and you want to be in a position to take advantage.”
Bloomberg was one of the few firms to be hiring people on Wall Street in the year following the collapse of merchant bank Lehman Brothers, which sent total employment in the securities industry to 10 per cent below that of 2004, but has not stopped Bloomberg winning terminal subscribers.
Bloomberg in fact recently overtook its biggest competitor in the market data and analytics industry. Burton-Taylor International Consulting calculated that Bloomberg’s share of the market grew to 30.44 per cent in 2011, pipping Thomson Reuters’ 30.05 per cent.
Admittedly, Thomson and Reuters have been bedding down a merger since 2007, when together they held 36 per cent of the market against Bloomberg’s 26 per cent.
However, Bloomberg has its eyes on more than market data. After years of concentrating on selling terminals, the company has expanded into the legal and public sector data industries through acquisitions, as well as into the “middle and back office” market, helping financial analysts manage data and process trades.