FactSet Research Systems’ mission is to provide financial professionals with everything they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
In the 1970s Charles Snyder and Howard Willie were workers at Wall Street firm Faulkner, Dawkins, & Sullivan. The company provided financial analyses to clients. Like most such firms at the time, it bought raw data directly from vendors such as Compustat, then had programmers make it user-friendly. The end of the decade saw a rise in enterprise computer usage – giving the two an idea.
They believed that computers could help transform the financial reporting industry by simplifying various processes. So in 1978, they left their jobs and founded FactSet, a company that would offer computer-based financial analysis. Their first product, “Company FactSet” was a four-page company profile produced using the Value Line Database. It was simpler to read than offerings at competitors, and delivered directly to clients on paper, typically by bike messenger.
In 1981, Snyder found a method for downloading data directly from the FactSet computer into a system called Visicalc; this discovery would enable customers to transfer information from a database directly into a spreadsheet. The whole downloading process became faster. In 1984, the firm introduced screening capabilities, and in 1989 it unveiled its Private Database Service, which allowed users to store proprietary data and integrate it with their own to conduct custom analyses.
The next decade saw a number of major milestones. The company released FactSet for Windows in 1990. It began expanding internationally, opening up a London office in 1993 and a Tokyo office in 1995. By the end of that year it had almost 400 customers, including 84 of the top investment managers in the U.S. It also officially changed its name to FactSet Research Systems. The company went public in 1996. The next two decades saw many acquisitions, enhancing its capabilities.
Business model of Factset
FactSet has a niche market business model, with a specialized customer segment. The company targets its offerings at financial services firm professionals, including investment bankers, investment managers, hedge fund managers, portfolio managers, risk managers, and research analysts.
FactSet offers three primary value propositions: accessibility, convenience, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing information regarding companies and securities from hundreds of third-party databases in major markets around the world. Further, its acquisitions of numerous companies have enabled it to build a large collection of proprietary content.
The company offers convenience by combining all of its information into a single web-based platform. The data can be streamed in real-time and is presented through powerful reports and analytics that anticipate user questions. The solution also allows users to easily export data to Microsoft Excel, combine commercial data with their own, and audit the original source.
The company has built a strong brand due to its success. It serves over 3,000 client firms and 63,500 individual users. It has a client retention rate of 95%, and this figure has remained above 90% for over 15 years. It has also won many honors, including Best FX Trading Platform Technology (Portware) at the WSL Institutional Trading Awards (2016), Best Research and Analytics Tool at the Systems in the City Awards (2015), Best Buy-Side EMS at the Buy Side Technology Awards (2015), and Best Overall Research Provider from the Hedge Fund Review (2012). Lastly, 2015 marked FactSet’s 35th consecutive year of sales growth and 19th consecutive year of earnings growth as a public firm.
FactSet’s main channel is its direct sales team, through which it acquires most customers. The company promotes its offering through its website, social media pages, and attendance of various conferences and symposiums.
FactSet’s customer relationship is primarily of a dedicated personal assistance nature. It assigns each client firm a consultant who gains deep familiarity with user needs and processes. The consultant can provide personalized training sessions if desired. Customers also have access to FactSet Consulting Services, a phone support service available 24/7. Lastly, the company offers classroom courses and live online learning webinars for clients, and free training seminars to the general public.
Despite this orientation, there is also a self-service component. From their online account, clients can access on-demand eLearning demos and complete eLearning courses and series. In addition, the company’s website features a “FactSet Insight” section that includes industry analyses, market summaries, white papers, fact sheets, webcasts, and product updates.
FactSet’s business model entails designing and developing its software solutions for customers.
FactSet maintains the Channel Partner Program, whose members are service providers that have mutual clients with the company. Partners can download FactSet data into their applications, integrate their content into the FactSet workstation, and establish a direct connection between their applications and the workstation. The company claims that program benefits include increased revenue, improved lead generation, enhanced retention, and standardized workflows. Specific partners include Bloomberg Polar Lake, CYMBA Technologies, Eagle Investment Systems, Envestnet Tamarac, Eze Software, INDATA, Interactive Brokers Group, MathWorks, and NYSE Technologies.
FactSet’s main resource is its set of data centers, which enable it to process significant volumes of data and transactions quickly and efficiently. The centers are located in Manila, the Philippines and
Hyderabad, India. The company also depends heavily on its human resources in the form of its 1,400+ consulting employees who provide advisory and education services and its customer service personnel, whose support contributed to a global client satisfaction rate of 97% in 2015.
FactSet has a value-driven structure, aiming to provide a premium proposition through significant personal service. Its biggest cost driver is cost of services, a variable expense. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/marketing and administration.
FactSet has one revenue stream: the month-to-month subscription fees it charges for access to services, database content, and financial applications. Buy-side (e.g., investment management) firms are responsible for 82.5% of annual subscription value, with the rest coming from sell-side firms (e.g., investment banking) that conduct equity research, capital markets services, and M&A advisory work.