Elimination of 'soft dollars' will hurt investment in IT and data - TowerGroup

Elimination of 'soft dollars' will hurt investment in IT and data - TowerGroup

The impending elimination of 'soft dollar' commission payments will have a detrimental effect on IT spending by buy-side firms on front office technology and market data, according to research by TowerGroup.

The research suggests that, even without regulatory intervention, soft dollar spending will decline by more than 11% over the next five years.

TowerGroup says if soft dollars are eliminated, buy-side firms will be forced to find 'hard dollars' to pay for the research and front office technology currently sustained by soft dollars.

Rob Hegarty, vice president of the securities and investments, TowerGroup, says the use of hard dollars to pay for these services "will undoubtedly lead to a shake out among less valued research providers."

Furthermore, a ban on soft dollars could also lead to order flow shifting from brokers to electronic venues, where buy-side firms are more likely to have lower trading and transaction costs. The move could also result in investment managers moving away from using external research.

Hegarty recommends a phased approach to any changes in the soft dollars process: "A better approach might be to increase soft dollars reporting requirements while laying out a plan to gradually phase out their use - or even to shift soft dollars arrangements to look more like a consumer reward programme such as a frequent flier programme, where soft dollars are earned as you go, not committed up front."

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