BondLink expands its platform, partners with ICE Data Services

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Technology is changing the municipal bond market in major ways as participants navigate the space amid a global pandemic.

The most recent development happened when BondLink, a Boston-based financial technology firm, partnered with ICE Data Services to provide issuers a cloud-based market data dashboard on a real-time basis.

Now municipal bond issuers who use BondLink will have full access to ICE Data Services benchmarks, pricing information and other data to help them with pricing their new issues and monitor secondary trading activity.

“The whole market revolves around issuers, and yet issuers have fewer opportunities to leverage technology than any other market participant,” said Colin MacNaught, BondLink’s CEO and co-founder. “I know from first-hand experience that the lack of internal resources is a major challenge for public sector CFOs and finance directors. We’re changing that. The new dashboard will connect issuers more closely to the market so that they’re better able to manage their bond programs.”

Market data sets such as interest rate yield curves, secondary market trades and real-time bond pricing provide critical information to issuers needed to properly gauge market conditions prior to a bond sale, BondLink and ICE said in a release.

“This data is planned to be offered as a new tool within BondLink’s technology platform, starting with ICE Data Services’ daily interest rate curves, adding to the company’s existing functionality including investor intelligence and analytics, compliance solutions, and deal preparation.”

Digital workflow tools in the municipal market are increasing efficiency, freeing up talent to focus on the end client without completing tasks that would take far longer manually.

Over the last four years, BondLink has continued to grow its issuer technology platform. It’s new dashboard will include ICE Data Services’ daily interest rate curves, adding to the company’s existing functionality including investor intelligence and analytics, compliance solutions, and deal preparation. BondLink has previously announced similar agreements with other firms in the municipal market, such as Fidelity Investments, Ipreo, and Municipal Market Analytics, as it continues to enhance its partnership network that a growing number of municipal issuers rely upon.

BondLink and Ipreo by IHS Markit already have a collaboration between the two companies that provides issuer credit data to institutional bond investors via technology.

“Muni data takes time and resources to gather, understand, and use effectively,” said Matt Fabian, partner at MMA. “It’s not easy. Bondlink curating information for issuers could make their interaction with our market more efficient, which should mean they turn more readily to munis when they need to raise capital.”

With the entire financial industry mostly working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdowns and the market turmoil of late Q1 and Q2, MacNaught said he sped up BondLink’s software development efforts and introduced a new suite of tools for issuers in the municipal market.

ICE agrees.

“By working with BondLink, we’re able to leverage our strength in the fixed-income markets and greatly expand the solutions we offer to municipal issuers,” said Mark Heckert, chief product officer at ICE Data Services. “The additional transparency that we’re providing will help make the municipal market more efficient, and can assist issuers with their financing process and can help lower costs.”

Commenting on its growth and momentum, MacNaught pointed out that BondLink now works with issuers in more than 30 states, and through June, about 14% of all bond issuance in the market used the firm.

“We’re excited to work with ICE and its team,” MacNaught said. “It’s a global leader in financial technology, and a leader within the municipal market. With this collaboration, we’re clearly giving our clients an edge when it comes to their pricing. And we’re going to keep developing our all-in-one platform to provide issuers with more and more efficiencies.”

ICE Data Services has been a growing presence in the municipal market. In August of 2019 it hired Pierce Lord from Bloomberg BVAL.

In short order, ICE hired Varun Pawar, formerly global head of Bloomberg LP’s BVAL, in another move to bolster its products and data services, they said.

In early March, ICE hired Sowjana Sivaloganathan, who was municipal markets product manager at Bloomberg for the past 20 years, to focus on fixed-income product management.

Late last year, meanwhile, Lumesis expanded its data services in the municipal market harnessing technology with the goal of creating more efficiency with the digital platform, which also provides users the ability to refine parameters and comparable securities to reflect their own professional judgment. This is another expansion of technology-based products in the municipal space, adding to a growing list of tools.

IHS Markit enhanced its existing Ipreo suite of muni products last year representing a milestone toward creating what is the first electronic primary platform that directly connects asset managers to the live new-issue process and information from the municipal bond dealer community.

MarketAxess in April expanded its electronic trading platform to U.S. taxable municipal bonds through its trading venues in the U.K., European Union and Singapore in an effort to streamline buying and selling of taxable munis for foreign buyers.

“The municipal market is a bifurcated and complicated space in which to navigate, so the more tools investors and issuers have at their disposal, the better for the entire industry, especially now when the entire world is facing dramatic changes,” a New York strategist said.

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