Watson Financial Services is born out of IBM’s purchase of Promontory Financial Group

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If Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest had a big data eating contest brother, IBM would be a serious contender for first place. Today the tech stalwart announced that it had come to an agreement to acquire Promontory Financial Group. 

To make sense of this deal, you have to avoid relegating Promontory into the small box of financial services. Instead, it’s most practical to think of it as a big data company that also has a services business. While it’s true that it works with some of the largest banks in the world, it has slowly amassed a collection of regulatory and compliance data. Promontory also has a workforce that includes over 600 experts in the space.

Earlier this year, IBM closed another equally obscure deal to acquire The Weather Company. However, these two deals have a lot in common and indicate that IBM is hungry for companies in non-traditional spaces that have access to large stores of information. The Weather Company deal gave IBM Watson access to a large collection of weather data that helped to augment and add value to the Watson system in a very short time frame. The Promontory data will do much the same.

Watson has grown to become one of IBM’s crown jewels. In the company’s Q2 earning report, IBM announced that its cognitive solutions division had posted revenues of $4.7 billion, up 4 percent year over year.

This deal puts IBM up against companies like Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg that have their own regulatory and compliance solutions for the financial services industry. These services are focused on tracking, monitoring and analyzing regulatory changes. Other companies like Palantir have developed legal and capital markets solutions for analyzing unstructured data for tasks like fraud production.

IBM hopes its new, smarter, Watson can more effectively take on tasks like “financial risk modeling, surveillance, anti-money laundering, and Know Your Customer,” according to a press release from the company.

IBM will be adding a new Watson Financial Services unit to the company’s new Industry Platforms Business created back in August.

Assuming the deal closes, Promontory is expected to continue to operate as its own business unit. This means that clients of the company will continue to receive traditional services, even as the company puts Watson through school. Gene Ludwig, CEO of Promontory, is also expected to stay in his leadership role throughout the transition. If no additional issues arise, the deal can be expected to close late this year.

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