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Our global and diverse client base increasingly needs to localize accounting operations to meet country-specific requirements and regulations including GAAP and IFRS accounting standards.  This week we were happy to announce that the latest release of PORTIA has improved the flexibility of its calculation and posting rules, enabling asset managers to support an unlimited number of accounting bases to meet these unique operational requirements.

PORTIA provides greater flexibility and configurability to help customers account for costs, track fees, define posting rules and address other unique accounting requirements.  Enhanced reporting tools provide transparency into regional accounting practices and address regulatory requirements.

“SS&C PORTIA provides substantial new functionality to assist asset managers implement multiple accounting bases and support accounting requirements that vary by country or region,” said Christy Bremner, Senior Vice President and General Manager, SS&C. “Customers are upgrading to take advantage of the functional benefits to improve the efficiency and quality of their accounting operations.”

questionsAs the asset management industry returns to growth and becomes increasingly complex, firms are competing more so than ever on a global scale and seeking alpha from new sources. Our recent whitepaper titled “Now is the Time to Invest in Technology that Enables Growth and Performance suggests the question for most asset managers now is how do I prepare my business for growth and differentiate in a globally competitive marketplace?

 Unfortunately growth can be limited by operational capabilities, as well as the underlying systems and technology that support operations. While investment teams must be able to change investment strategies quickly to react to opportunities, it can be far more difficult for operations to keep pace with business changes. Asset managers need to determine whether they can meet the growth requirements by examining their operations and the systems at the heart of their middle-to-back office technology ecosystem.

 Whether systems and technology are “legacy” is not the pertinent question. Legacy is vaguely defined and implies years of operating experience is somehow bad when, in fact, asset managers benefit significantly from the functionality and capabilities that can only accumulate over time. Also, a proven track record is critical to reliability and predictability of services. What is important is the ability of your provider to support growth plans. To determine whether your firm is capable of meeting your growth needs, ask the following questions:

  • Are your systems able to easily keep pace with your firm’s growth and increasing operations volumes resulting from growth?
  • Are you expanding to other markets or countries, and can your operations accommodate expansion?
  • Do your systems provide enough flexibility to quickly address ad-hoc client requests?
  • Can your systems be easily customized to meet new operational requirements? Are you able to manage your system independently and cost-effectively as you grow?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of the questions above, your organization may be relying on systems that could get in the way of your firm’s ability to launch new products, enter new markets, optimize workflows, control costs and reduce human error and operational risk. Ultimately, all of these issues culminate in a larger problem – impeding your growth plans.

If you’d like to learn more about SS&C PORTIA and how it can help to power growth at your institution, please visit our website.

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Recently, PwC released the results of its 17th Annual Global CEO Survey – Asset Management Sector (full details and analysis of the survey can be found on the PwC site by clicking here). The survey set out to learn how CEOs and business leaders around the globe feel about the future of their business and the outcome was… optimistic!  

While the recovery of the financial services sector has been slow, PwC’s research and survey shows that conditions are favorable to expansion. Business leaders in the asset management sector are projecting both organic and inorganic growth over the rest of the decade. Here are some key statistics:

  • 97% of the survey respondents are confident about their revenue prospects over 3 years
  • 58% percent of CEOs are planning to hire in 2014
  • 41% are growing through M&A, joint ventures and alliances
  • To support this growth, 81% of CEOs see technology as a tool to transform their business
  • 89% said that IT needs to be prepared to capitalize on transformative global trends
  • As a result, 53% of CEOs are changing their technology investments.

This prospect for growth is leading asset managers to ask themselves “How do I prepare my business for growth and differentiate in a globally competitive market place?”

As asset mangers gain more confidence in the recovery, they are implementing more aggressive strategies to capitalize on the growth potential. For example, front-offices are pursuing more complex and diverse investment strategies to compete in a global marketplace. But as firms look to execute these strategies, many are finding that their operations platforms are not keeping pace with the needs of the market. Modern accounting systems are growth enablers, whereas poorly developed and maintained systems are costly, risky, functionally lightweight and can inhibit growth.

Implementing a proven accounting solution, such as SS&C PORTIA, allows asset managers to grow while ensuring the integrity of their operations. Accounting solutions must offer global processing to support revenue growth, provide visibility and control of operations to reduce risk, and be manageable by operations teams to reduce total cost of ownership. SS&C PORTIA provides a clear advantage for asset managers who need an accounting solution that can grow and adapt with their business, which is why firms ranging from small, domestic asset managers to the world’s largest and most global financial institutions rely on SS&C PORTIA to power their operations and fuel their growth.

-          Matt Bellias, Head of Strategy and Marketing

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Click to Download Whitepaper

As financial institutions weigh the need for an Investment Book of Records (IBOR) and what type of system is needed to address this issue, they must also consider the risk of not implementing an IBOR solution.

An IBOR is a necessity for organizations that have their assets held in disparate systems – either in multiple deployed systems siloed throughout their organization or as part of outsourcing relationships with one or more custodians or service providers. Without an IBOR in these situations, financial institutions are vulnerable to a number of risks:

  • Inability to assess investment risk – without a holistic view of positions and exposures, the financial institution cannot effectively assess and manage investment risk, which could lead to unexpected and major losses if the company is overexposed in a distressed area.
  • Poor decision making – if a financial institution cannot produce an accurate and timely view of positions, investment professionals cannot make informed decisions, leading to poor performance and loss of client trust.

There are additional risks for financial institutions that outsource their middle-to-back office:

  • Data quality issues – although the outsourcing service provider is responsible for processing client data, it is ultimately the financial institution’s fiduciary responsibility to ensure accuracy. If the financial institution has no way to independently verify that pricing data, corporate actions events, transaction activity and positional data is accurate, they will be held accountable for any errors and the ensuing ramifications.
  • Lack of redundancy – if something happens to a custodian or service provider, the financial institution without a shadow book of records may not have quick access to client data to continue “business as usual” for clients, hindering their ability to provide quality service and affecting performance.
  • Overreliance on vendors – when a service provider is the sole owner of the financial institution’s data, this can create too great a dependency on that vendor, making it difficult to switch vendors should the relationship require changing.

Since an IBOR gathers and processes investment information in one place, it can help mitigate these risks by validating accuracy before data is distributed and by providing a common set of investment data to users and up/downstream systems. It also gives financial institutions control over their data, allowing them to make more informed investment decisions, better assess investment risk and meet fiduciary responsibilities.

To learn more about what an IBOR is and what to look for in an IBOR solution click here to download a copy of our whitepaper “SS&C PORTIA: Why You Should Consider an IBOR”.

This blog post is the third in a series from SS&C PORTIA on the importance of implementing an IBOR solution. View our recent posts titled “What is an IBOR” and “What to Look for When Selecting an Investment Book of Records (IBOR) Solution.

-          Matt Bellias, Head of Strategy and Marketing

Thumbnail IBOR 2In searching for an IBOR, financial institutions need a solution built to address the need to record, process and distribute investment data in the different views required by stakeholders. The IBOR doesn’t have to be the single system used throughout the organization; rather, it needs the capabilities to interact with systems that are already in place so it can be efficiently implemented without disrupting existing systems. This provides each financial institution with the freedom to select and utilize systems that are right for their business strategies.

Since financial institutions vary in their business needs and operational infrastructure, an IBOR solution will not be the same for every organization.  There are three basic forms an IBOR can take:

1. A single book of business

For an asset manager with a simple and streamlined operational model, an IBOR solution can be synonymous with an investment accounting solution. The solution needs to be robust and flexible enough to handle all middle-to-back-office operational processes such as pricing, corporate actions, valuations, performance measurement and reporting, while also providing the front office with the information they need to make accurate and timely investment decisions.

2. Multiple business lines

For a more complex organization with multiple lines of business, a single IBOR may not be feasible. A financial institution that has, for example, a global operation and offers institutional asset management, insurance and wealth management services may have multiple books of records to satisfy distinct business needs. The challenge is that investment information is needed from each of these systems for analysis and reporting.

Some financial institutions in this situation consider using data warehouses to meet their IBOR requirements, but this approach can be problematic. Attempting to aggregate the data from these different platforms into a single repository can be a daunting task. Normalizing data from multiple formats takes time, and requiring an additional system adds overhead and operational complexity. Maintaining data warehouses is costly, time consuming and not necessary to holistically access information.

A more feasible solution is to leverage data aggregation capabilities that combine investment information from multiple books of records and deliver it in a customizable format that addresses the variety of views needed by end users. This provides access to the underlying data from multiple systems without the need to reprocess all the data into a single data repository.

3. Firms that outsource operations

For organizations that are outsourcing middle-to-back-office processes to custodians or other service providers, an IBOR serves an important role as a verification and contingency solution. Most firms that outsource operations to a third party are not able to independently verify valuations, calculate fees and ensure that client data is accurate. This poses a large operational risk, because firms who outsource still have fiduciary responsibilities to clients and are accountable to regulators regarding operational integrity. By having an IBOR serve as a shadow book of records, financial institutions can independently reconcile the accuracy of positions, valuations, pricing and corporate action events, using the data vendors they choose, thereby ensuring the integrity of their data.  In addition, an IBOR provides access to client data should something happen to the outsourcing provider, such as a bank failure, helping address the concerns from regulatory entities like the Financial Conduct Authority and others regarding contingency planning and operational risk mitigation. In this situation, the IBOR acts as part of a disaster recovery plan should there be a severe disruption of service from the outsourcing provider, ensuring that financial institutions are able to protect and continually service clients.

IBOR solutions must be customized to meet the unique needs of each firm’s business, but ideally should be used as part of a broad operational ecosystem that exceeds the expectations of the front office, regulators and clients.  Implementing a reliable and proven product such as SS&C PORTIA as an IBOR solution allows financial institutions to tailor their solution to meet their business needs to ensure the integrity and improve the quality of data through their organizations.

To learn more about what an IBOR is and what to look for in an IBOR solution click here to download a copy of our whitepaper “SS&C PORTIA: Why You Should Consider an IBOR”.

This blog post is the second in a series from SS&C PORTIA on the importance of implementing an IBOR solution. View our recent post titled “What is an IBOR”.

-          Matt Bellias, Head of Strategy and Marketing

What is an IBOR?

January 15, 2014

Thumbnail for IBOR emailSince the financial crisis of 2007-08, financial institutions have been re-thinking their operating models to adapt to new market conditions. Investors have become more sophisticated and involved, seeking out new types of securities and investing globally to obtain alpha while managing risk. As a result, clients are demanding more transparency into their investments. Similarly, the regulatory environment over the past few years has been both intense and fluid, and regulators are now expecting financial institutions to manage risk in new ways to avoid the problems faced during the market downturn.

Much of this was precipitated by the failure of many of the technology platforms in place during the downturn. Over the prior ten-year period, trading and investment strategies evolved significantly, including a broadening of the types of investments used to generate alpha. During this evolution, many technology platforms failed to keep pace with changes in investment strategies, and during the financial crisis legacy systems struggled to value and manage securities. Many financial institutions are now investing in operations, putting in place feature-rich systems that support their investment strategies, from recordkeeping and pricing to valuation and risk management. This new type of system, which allows firms to make smarter investment decisions, is now known within the industry as an Investment Book of Records, or IBOR.

What is an IBOR?

An IBOR is a solution that helps support the investment decision-making process by providing a single view of positions, valuations and exposures; this single view is obtained by processing all the investment data of a financial institution. To do this, the system must be able to:

  • Store all of the information related to a financial institution’s investments
  • Integrate with other systems and data providers that are part of the IT ecosystem
  • Handle middle-to-back-office processing for a variety of investment strategies
  • Report information to all stakeholders in a flexible and timely manner

Capturing all of a firm’s investment information is critically important, and far more complex than it sounds. During the market downturn beginning in 2007, one of the biggest challenges facing financial institutions was valuing the wide variety of securities demanded by investors. Many firms had deployed specific systems to manage certain security types, because their legacy systems couldn’t keep pace with the proliferation of new security classes.  As a result, firms lost the ability to view holdings and positions holistically – hence the need for IBORs. Any system deployed as an IBOR must be able to handle a wide variety of securities to avoid past mistakes. This includes different security classes, globally diverse securities, securities in multiple currencies, and more.

Once information is properly captured, the system must provide powerful processing capabilities. The data provided by an IBOR is only as good as the processing capabilities that create the data. Therefore, it is critical that an IBOR support the entire investment accounting lifecycle, across all security types.

Regardless of security type, an IBOR must also provide deep capabilities to arrive at accurate valuations, including the ability to provide accounting for multiple books of business, in multiple currencies. In addition, the system should calculate performance and attribution at the security level to provide investors with actionable information, offer compliance tools to ensure positions are meeting investment rules and guidelines, and provide other middle-to-back-office functionality to ensure process integrity.

Finally, once the investment information is accurately processed, an IBOR should report on data easily, combining information from multiple systems if necessary and providing multiple views of the data to match the varying reporting requirements of the front office, investors, regulators and more.

As the investment management industry continues to become more complex and regulated, there will be more pressure on financial institutions to provide reliable, accurate and timely information throughout the investment process. The competitive landscape will compel financial institutions to seek solutions that provide a consolidated view of investment data to control accuracy and quality. As this happens, IBORs will become an essential part of the investment process.

Implementing a reliable and proven product such as SS&C PORTIA as an IBOR solution allows financial institutions to ensure the integrity and improve the quality of data through their organizations. IBOR solutions must be customized to meet the unique needs of each firm’s business, but ideally should be used as part of a broad operational ecosystem that exceeds the expectations of the front office, regulators and clients.

To learn more about what an IBOR is and what to look for in an IBOR solution click here to download a copy of our whitepaper “SS&C PORTIA: Why You Should Consider an IBOR”.

This blog post is the first in a series from SS&C PORTIA on the importance of implementing an IBOR solution.  In coming posts we will discuss a number of aspects of IBOR solutions such as, “What to look for when selecting an IBOR”, “The risk of not Implementing an IBOR” and much more.

-          Matt Bellias, Head of Strategy and Marketing

ImageA month ago, the FCA distributed a follow up report to their ‘Dear CEO’ letter regarding concerns around UK asset managers’ outsourcing relationships (read the full report here). The report discusses progress made and work that still needs to be done to address the FCA’s concerns.

The FCA review focuses on two types of risk, defined by them as:

Resilience risk: if an asset manager’s service provider was to suddenly fail and therefore be unable to provide their outsource services for an indefinite period, the asset manager in turn would not be able to continue the service it is contracted to provide to its customers

Oversight risk:  if asset managers fail to oversee their service providers effectively, it could result in poor outcomes for their customers

The report shows some positive movement in addressing the FCA’s ‘resilience risk’ concerns, especially with the work being driven by the Outsourcing Working Group, made up of the Investment Management Associations, asset managers and key service providers.  The larger concern seems to be with “oversight risk”.

The report notes, “The effectiveness of oversight arrangements varies from firm to firm, with only some asset managers able to demonstrate high standards of oversight consistently across all outsourced activities. Where oversight of an activity was lacking, we found the main cause was insufficient internal expertise to carry out the oversight.”

The research looks at four specific areas of potential oversight risk:

  1. Reconciliations of assets held with the custodian
  2. Pricing and valuations of portfolio or specific instruments
  3. Corporate actions relating to instruments held and,
  4. Trade processing

While each area has its own issues and related risks, most of the issues revolve around the need for asset managers to have the expertise and functionality in-house to verify and challenge (if necessary) the information coming from their service provider.  Asset managers understand they need to accept the responsibility for activities that are outsourced but many have inadequate resources to verify and validate the data, leading to over reliance on the service provider.

To address the verification issue one noted solution is to maintain internal client account books to accurately reconcile against the service provider’s records and ensure the information they provide is accurate and complete.

Keeping a shadow book of records in-house, using a solution like SS&C PORTIA,  creates an extra level of assurance and confidence for the asset manager and their clients by allowing the asset manager to independently reconcile the accuracy of positions, valuations, pricing and corporate action events, using the data vendors they choose, thereby ensuring the integrity of their data.  In addition, this approach gives the asset management organization more control over their data should there be a failure of some sort on the part of the outsourcing provider, addressing some of the “resilience risk” also identified by the FCA.

 The review concluded by noting that the FCA will consider further policy action if the continued progress does not lead to “an acceptable increase in the level of preparedness for a service provider failure and effective oversight of all outsourced activities”.  The FCA is encouraging asset managers to continue evaluating risks and implement solutions that will mitigate these risks to avoid additional regulatory policies. 

picture-of-united-kingdom“We expect firms to have devised adequate contingency plans which are viable, robust and realistic and set out a clearly defined exit strategy in the event of a termination of outsourced activity under any circumstances, including stressed market conditions.”

     – Clive Adamson, Director of Supervision at the FSA, as it was then.

It has been 9 months since the FSA (now known as the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA) issued its “Dear CEO” letter regarding the “Review of Outsourcing Arrangements in the Asset Management Sector”. While the letter did not spell out specific time frames for asset managers to review their current contingency plans and address deficiencies, the letter did raise awareness to potential risks and encourages asset managers to develop and implement solutions as soon as possible.

The FSA’s concerns outlined in the letter have an underlying common thread focused on who is responsible to the end client. Even though the asset manager is outsourcing some or all of the middle-and-back office operational services, the fiduciary and regulatory responsibilities are in the hands of the asset management organization. They are accountable to their clients and must ensure clients are protected and continually serviced, in the event of a “severe disruption”.

So what is the best way to provide an adequate recovery and resolution strategy that has:

  • an acceptable exit strategy, allowing a quick and efficient change in providers if needed, reducing dependency on a provider
  • a strong disaster recovery solution, ensuring no matter what the reasons for the failure, clients can be serviced without interruption
  • immunity to potential financial industry failures?

Many asset managers are finding a cost efficient solution, by using established systems such as SS&C PORTIA to shadow their accounts. Keeping a shadow book of records in-house creates an extra level of assurance and confidence for the asset manager and their clients. It gives the asset management organization the control over data and information should there be a failure of some sort on the part of the outsourcing provider. In addition, it goes a step beyond what the FCA is looking for, having a shadow book helps the organization verify that the information the provider is sending is accurate.

SS&C PORTIA provides asset managers the strong contingency solution they need:

  • a shadow book of records that puts the asset manager in control of their data and reduces the dependencies on outsourcing providers
  • an easy to maintain, fully functional accounting system so they can continue to service their clients should the outsourcing provider have some type of failure
  • a quick implementation allowing asset managers the ability to address the FCA concerns without a strain on their resources
  • a truly global system to support complex investment strategies
  • a data agnostic solution that can take in information from any system and deliver information up and down stream
  • an independent provider that is not part of a complex banking group, to limit risk should the financial markets fall into distress

Outsourcing is an important piece of an asset management organization’s business strategy. The cost and efficiency advantages provide a great benefit to companies of all sizes. But in the end, you can outsource some of the tasks but you cannot outsource your responsibility to your clients. That is what your organization is built on.

Being in the asset management industry, we are all fully aware that investment management involves the storing and administration of extremely sensitive, high-vdisastersalue information. As threats to financial data and applications continue to evolve and become even more sophisticated, asset management organizations need to understand and implement the right combination of technologies to help mitigate the risks. These solutions can extend from the protection of user identities to the validation of transactions themselves. In looking at these risks, every organization needs to ask itself: “Do we have the right infrastructure and resources to balance security, usability and cost requirements?”

As your organization thinks about your current environment and whether your infrastructure truly protects your customers, there are some key areas to be considered:

  • Reliability and Security: Is your office designed to store and protect mission-critical production servers? Do you have fire protection, biometric security, 24/7 monitoring, and redundant Internet connections? What happens in the event of theft, tornado, power blackout, fire, water damage, and Internet connection problems?
  •  Maintenance: Who is maintaining your server and software? What nightly and weekly maintenance is being performed on your database? Do you have a full-time systems administrator that keeps up on the latest software patches and upgrades?
  • Cost: Purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading your own hardware and software can be very expensive. Facilities management can double in cost if your environment is not configured for growth and redundancy. Are youVMWare VCenter taking advantage of the latest virtual technology? Can your underlying applications be replicated in real time between redundant sites so that they can resolve requests at any site at any time, ensuring that data is current?

 

As we discuss these issues with clients and prospects alike, more and more asset managers are coming to the conclusion that outsourcing the facilities management of their operations allows them to focus their resources and effort on what they do best, managing money and building customer relationships.

By outsourcing these functions to a service provider who primary business is software and operational services, organizations can be assured that there is a dedicated team comprised of certified product and database experts who are available to maximize the performance of their middle-to- back office operations.

SS&C PORTIA has been in the outsourcing industry for over 15 years and in the investment management software solutions industry for over 25 years. This experience allows us to understand the unique needs of all our clients and work directly with them to determine the areas where they can benefit most from our outsourcing solutions.

Our services provide our clients with:

  • Physical and environmental security with problem management controls certified under Service Organization Control (SOC 1) in accordance with SSAE No. 16 and the ISAE 3402. A best-of-breed infrastructure with redundant generators, cooling systems and fire suppression systems, ensuring the reliability and security of customer data.
  • Full time, experienced database administrators (DBA) who possess the expertise needed to keep databases running smoothly and direct access to the technical resources of the Product and Development teams, allowing clients to concentrate on critical operational activities without increasing workload or size of your IT staff.
  • State of the art data center facilities which utilize VMware’s superior virtualization technology providing increased reliability and availability. This technology allows for near real-time replication of all data, allowing data to be easily backed up and recovered quickly to eliminate down-time in the case of a disaster. In addition, the virtual technology creates a flexible and scalable environment that allows clients to efficiently grow without impacting their operations or infrastructure.

As a leader in hosting services, we have maximized economies of scale to provide the most cost efficient and reliable services to our clients.

PORTIA’s Outsourcing Solutions provides complete, data-centric protection for the most critical areas of financial service environments, enabling customers to securely implement new business while effectively managing risk and achieving regulatory compliance.

To learn more about our Outsourcing Solutions download the PORTIA Outsourcing Services Factsheet and the Hosting Services Factsheet, or contact us at PORTIA@sscinc.com.

- Edwin Gaines, Director, Technical Managed Services

iStock_000019866702XSmall[1]We are pleased to announce that PORTIA is live on SS&C’s Investment Intelligence Solution (click here to see recent press release).

For investment managers, getting the data they need, when they need it, is essential to making smart and timely decisions. SS&C Investment Intelligence enables users to turn data into actionable insights by aggregating information from multiple systems, providing easy to use tools for analyzing data, and enabling access to reliable information.

Now that PORTIA is connected to this platform, firms can combine the investment information from PORTIA with pertinent data from other sources and deliver it in a customizable format to address the unique needs of all types of users.

The combination of PORTIA and SS&C Investment Intelligence:

  • Provides easy, consolidated access to financial information from PORTIA, other SS&C products and third-party solutions
  • Delivers customized and dynamic dashboards that convert raw data into clean and customizable visual insights
  • Optimizes your business intelligence for browsers and mobile devices, providing access to reliable data anytime, anywhere

Click here to view a video demonstrating the power of PORTIA and SS&C Investment Intelligence.

Contact us  to learn more about  how  PORTIA  solutions are helping investment managers around the globe increase operational efficiency throughout their organization.

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