BloombergBlack: A Threat to Its Terminal Clients?
A data terminal company. A newswire. A broker-dealer.
Bloomberg is all of these things. But did you know Bloomberg is also now a registered investment advisor?
Bloomberg Wealth, which does business under the name BloombergBlack, is not yet a big operation. It employs just 33 people, only nine of whom perform investment advisory functions.
There's a twitter account @bloombergblack but it's never tweeted, follows no one and has only 11 followers (I wasn't able to confirm that this belongs to the brokerage). And there's a blog with some relatively banal market news and investment advice.
Odds are that many Wall Street customers of Bloomberg have never even heard of BloombergBlack. Certainly Bloomberg's marketing so far has been very quiet, perhaps because it feels a little awkward about going into business in competition with the people who pay $20,000 a year for Bloomberg terminals.
But it is definitely up and running as an online wealth management company—kind of. It's more or less in beta, as the tech folks say. Right now BloombergBlack is only accepting a "limited number of investors." You have to request an invite—and you can't even put in a request unless you have somehow received a referral code. If accepted, you'll get a 60-day free trial. After that the service will cost you a hundred bucks a month.
What's the service?
It bills itself as a "premium service for wealthy investors."
More particularly the website promises:
•"Gain greater control as we help you easily monitor and manage all your investment accounts in one place. (You won't have to move any existing accounts.)"
•"Feel more confident knowing that BloombergBlack is watching over your investment strategy—tracking your goals, helping you find funds that best match your preferences and proactively alerting you about opportunities and risks in the markets."
•"Make smarter decisions with guidance from BloombergBlack investment strategists and content culled from across our vast resources and then targeted to you."
•"Talk to your team of investment professionals, whose job is to help make you a better manager of your wealth."
That first bullet point seems almost like an attempt to salve any future wounds Bloomberg's wealth management business might inflict on the customers of the terminal business. Look! We're not telling customers to leave you for us! This isn't competition! We're complementary to you!
But is that realistic? At $100 a month, BloombergBlack is priced pretty steeply. Even the affluent customers Bloomberg is targeting may balk at the idea of paying fees to more than one wealth manager.
What BloombergBlack has going for it—other than the well-known brand—is a huge information infrastructure already in place. Customers will presumably have access to lots of information that is otherwise difficult to uncover. Investors who believe that more information will make them better investors will find this enticing.
This is never going to be a source of revenue on the scale of the terminals. Online wealth management is a pretty low-margin business. But since Bloomberg already has so much of the underlying data infrastructure in place, it makes sense to find new ways to generate revenue from that infrastructure.
As long as it doesn't tick off the folks paying for the terminals too much.
(Disclosure: Bloomberg is a competitor of CNBC in reporting and distributing business news on the Web and on television.)
-By CNBC's John Carney. Follow him on Twitter @Carney.