Bloomberg by Bloomberg is a business bible as far as Wind Information’s founder Lu Feng is concerned. He made Michael Bloomberg’s biography essential reading for all his managerial staff, and grew Wind into China’s answer to the American media and software giant.
Lu was born to a rural family in Hubei. He graduated with a computer science degree from Shaanxi University of Science and Technology in 1992 and was allocated a job at a textile industry bureau. He quit after three days, complaining that “there are no computers”.
Following Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour, Lu went to Shenzhen to look for work but ended up empty-handed. He then turned to Shanghai for opportunities, where he was inspired by a trip to the stock exchange. Outside there were brisk sales in data sheets about listed firms. The information wasn’t sold cheaply at Rmb10, or $1.60, per A4 sheet.
Lu rented two old computers, hired a few typists and started selling digitalised financial information via modems and CD-ROMs. The start-up would go on to became today’s Wind.
In its early stages Wind mostly provided customised reports for brokerages. Enraged by broking houses that treated him like a “factory worker”, Lu made a pilgrimage to Bloomberg’s New York office in the late 1990s. After that he decided to transform Wind into China’s equivalent: selling terminals to institutional clients.
Demand for financial data, as well as for Wind’s terminals took off with major financial reforms in 2005. More than 90% of Chinese financial firms are now using Wind’s services. Three quarters of the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors permitted to buy Chinese equities, are also captive clients.
Forbes put Lu’s net worth at $600 million last year although the figure may well inflate once Wind decides to go public. Its less influential rival Shanghai Great Wisdom (another provider which tried to adopt Bloomberg’s model but ended up being sued by the American firm for copyright infringement) is now trading on a market capitalisation of Rmb12 billion.
Bloomberg is in the spotlight this month on allegations that stories deemed too sensitive for China have been spiked. That won’t bother Lu too much as he has concentrated on market research rather than breaking news.
But domestic competitors are trying to gear up with newswire services, like AAStocks.com, which is owned by Shanghai Great Wisdom. Wind is yet to make the move, though it tried and failed to broker a deal with the Shanghai Media Group in 2005.
Need to know
Employees have complained that Lu keeps “a stone face for 80% of the year”. But according to Lu, this is also modelled on Michael Bloomberg as “an angry boss stops staff from getting lazy”.
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