As a research analyst I don’t do much in the way of product reviews. Sure we compare and contrast business models, but in most cases we stop short of saying which product is better. This is because we’re not actually users of those institutionally focused products.
Well in this case it’s different. I recently began playing with a new iPad app StockTouch. (full disclosure: they gave me a copy of the app so I, Kevin not TABB, could review it). No matter what market you’re trading in or watching the amount of data available and necessary to keep up keeps getting more and more ridiculous. Hence the proliferation of visualization tools. I remember seeing demos of early stock market data visualization products back in my days at JPMorgan. They were certainly very cool, especially back in those dot com times, but the reality was no trader or analyst was really going to use them. The cultural desire to change just wasn’t there and the quite frankly neither was the software. Finally times are changing.
StockTouch does a great job of providing a view of the entire US equity market (and any particular stocks you want to watch) in a very clean, easy to use interface. They expand on the tried and test green is good and red is bad approach, meaning that by glancing at a sector or two it becomes quite clear where the days market sentiment resides. This works great intraday but also over customizable time periods. My colleagues and I were able to figure out how the whole thing worked without reading any “user manuals”, which is in my eyes a requirement for any iPad app: a toddler (or junior analyst) should be able to make it work in a matter of minutes. StockTouch passes there.
They do however still have some work to do. In entering the symbols in my portfolio it became quickly clear that ETFs are yet a part of the system. They say they are working on that, but in the mean time it’s a big gap. One other key element that is needed to make StockTouch a slam dunk download – integration with your brokerage account. Allow me to not only pull in my portfolio but place trades, and things get really interesting. Clearly this is an app focused at retail investors for now, but in the institutional world platform integration is often the key feature asked for by traders; integration with middle and back office systems, integration with every exchange on the planet, even integration with in-house CRM systems. Luckily for StockTouch the retail world is a little less complicated, however I still thoroughly appreciate the legal and technical challenges of linking the interface to e*Trade or ScottTrade.
But in the end, both institutional and retail brokerages are after one thing – flow. And if this app can bring it than they have no reason not to embrace the possibilities.
If you frequently trade single stocks in your personal account or are just a stock market junkie, StockTouch is well worth the couple of dollars on iTunes. If your goal is to occasionally manage your portfolio, wait until ETF data and trading integration come on line.
This story talks about Citi’s foray into visualization to help with risk management. My comments:
“Before all of the mess started, we were in a place where companies with household names were perceived as having zero risk,” says Kevin McPartland, senior analyst with Tabb Group. “There was no chance that a major bank would ever disappear, so the thought of a bank disappearing didn’t go into their calculations of risk. But the crisis did bring a good thing to the market-it made people more aware and more conscious of the risks they take and how they manage those risks.”