January 2011

Stakeholder strategy

Establishing relationships with business users and other stakeholders is fundamental when implementing new products and services.  

For investment banking products/systems establishing relationships can mean many things: complex requirements, demanding operating environment, supplier/product selection, or even just getting users to think of the application as a place to go for certain purposes. Of course end users may share different perceptions regarding where that "place" is in the context of Basel III or simply where the future is unclear.    

From front to back office, establishing relationships means getting internal users or testers and eventually contracts and payments. For business development partners – for example API/widget partners – establishing relationships usually means getting functionality embedded in partners’ products (e.g. a widget on their website) for online portfolio or asset management.

One common strategy for establishing this initial relationship is what is sometimes known as the “thin edge of the wedge” strategy (aka the “tip of the spear” strategy).  I have successfully deployed this strategy within FX dealing operation and is analogous to the bowling pin strategy: both are about attacking a smaller problem first and then expanding out.  The difference is that the wedge or slippery strategy is about product tactics while the bowling pin strategy is about marketing tactics.

Sometimes the wedge can be a simple by a feature that were previously overlooked or saw as inconsequential of a previous implementation. The ability to share photos on social networks was (strangely) missing from the default iPhone camera app (and sharing was missing from many third-party camera apps like Hipstimatic that have popular features like lo-fi camera filters), so Instagram and Picplz filled the void. Presumably, these startups are going to try to use mobile photo sharing as the wedge into larger products (perhaps full-fledged social networks?).

Sometimes the wedge is a “single player mode” – a famous example is early adopters who used Delicious to store browser bookmarks in the cloud and then only later – once the user base hit critical mass – used its social bookmarking features. Other times the wedge lies on one side of a two-sided market, in which case the wedge strategy could be thought of as a variant of the “ladies night” strategy

Critics sometimes confuse wedge features with final products. For example, some users that Solvency II MI or BI report sharing is “just a feature,” or that game mechanics on geo apps like Foursquare are just faddish “toys.” Some clients so far as to argue that the Quant techie world as a whole is going through a phase of just building “dinky” features and capabilities.

Perhaps some niche developers have no real release plan and really are just building features, likely with the hope of flipping themselves to larger banks or hedge-funds. Good developers and consultants, however, think about the whole wedge from the start. They build an initial user base with simple features and then quickly iterate to create products that are enduringly useful, thereby creating companies that have stand-alone, defensible value. 

2011 Online Broker Survey


Online traders should always continuously review their operating environment. It is critical to have not just the best set of tools, indicators etc. but also to ensure that they have a brokerage relationship that is right for them.

With this in mind you may wish to check out TradeWiser who have just released their 2011 broker survey. I was a little surprised that E*Trade took the #1 spot in a sense. Here’s what you can expect to find in their results:

After several hundred hours of research, testing, etc. I am excited to announce that the tradeWISER 2011 Online Broker Review is now live.

tradeWISER.com is currently the largest and most trafficked website for comparing online brokers. We formally launched the site last year which currently reviews 20 different brokers and includes a commissions calculator for stocks, etfs, mutual funds, and options alongside direct broker versus broker comparisons and even a full broker comparison chart.
The full broker review includes 23 different brokers which is more than Barron’s, SmartMoney, and Kiplinger and is over 4,000 words of detailed research and analysis on the top brokers. Ratings are out of 5 stars and cover the following categories:

  • Commissions and Fees
  • Ease-of-Use
  • Tools and Research
  • Customer Service
  • Offering of Investments
  • Education
  • Mobile Trading
2011 online broker review

E*TRADE topped the list with TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab coming in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. View the full broker rankings for a complete list of how all 23 brokers fared.
The review also breaks down the best brokers for Active Trading, Options Trading, and includes a summary of the best research, platforms, and tools.

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