I was speaking to a customer last week about the uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and how it’s made forecasting even more difficult, and it struck me that it’s not easy being a business economist today.
The financial services industry continues to struggle with increasing automation, low returns and a growing regulatory burden. That environment has put economists under pressure to present hypotheses, analyses and ideas to deliver outsized risk-weighted returns. But their first hurdle is to comb through an ever-growing volume of financial and economic data.
More than 64 zettabytes (about 6.4 trillion gigabytes) of data were generated in 2020, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) – and the amount that will be created over the next three years will be more than what has been created over the past 30 years. IDC estimates that the part of the global data sphere that is subject to analysis will grow by a factor of 50 to 5.2ZB by 2025.
There are now tens of thousands of sources of data in a staggering variety of formats, making data almost impossible to navigate.
From 5 million to 245 million
When I founded Macrobond back in 2008, my vision was to build a platform that helps people seamlessly source and analyse a fast-growing universe of time-series data, with as few interruptions and as little manual labour as possible.
We had planned to provide up to 5 million time series, which seemed a huge number. Fast forward 13 years and our customers now have real-time access to more than 245 million time series and securities globally, including third-party and proprietary data, making Macrobond the world’s most comprehensive database of its kind. We cover everything from real estate prices in Guangzhou to fresh salmon prices in Norway to EPS growth in Vietnam.
I had learnt from previous business ventures that data only serves its purpose if people can find it, trust it and analyse it. So, from the moment we started Macrobond, we decided to build a scalable and easy-to-use data navigation structure.
All our data comes with extensive metadata, making it easy to backtrack every single time series in the database to the original source and release. This helps users compare data across countries and sectors. Our customers are constantly astounded that with just two clicks, they can change, for example, a multiple regression model from the US to China without having to rebuild and find equivalent data.
It probably sounds like it should be easy to do, but only the other day, a chief economist at a large investment bank told me our data connections saves him one day out of every week. When you do the maths, that’s a lot of hours of work over a year.
Demand for macro data
We continue to enhance our products to handle the ever-expanding universe of data. Our latest update – Macrobond 1.24 – includes a great feature that helps customers work with lists of series, making it even easier to organise large sets of series on the platform.
As assets under management continue to hit new records, and as macro drives returns, I see growing demand for macroeconomic and financial data, especially high-frequency data, to rise. This growth will come in combination with an increase in demand for new content sets such as ESG, point-in-time and proprietary data sets.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the focus on data and technology well beyond our expectations. We’re proud to be a trusted partner to our customers in providing relevant data, analytical tools and data management in a world that will continue to evolve rapidly and pose new challenges and opportunities.