It_infrastructureThe increasingly global environment of the asset management industry challenges firms to support transaction data across time zones and markets with varying regulatory constraints. Regulators want assurance that failures won’t occur, which requires comprehensive risk analysis. The increased demand for transparency has precipitated a wave of new regulations globally. The Dodd-Frank Act and the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) have both mandated new data management protocols, among them calculating and tracking variation margins at the leg level of swaps and using unique trade identifiers to reconcile counterparty information. These regulations have led to an explosion of reference data that needs to be gathered, consolidated, and reported.

In Ernst & Young’s most recent global survey on asset management investment operations, “Managing Complexity and Change in a New Landscape,” 75 percent of respondents cited the quality and accuracy of data as a critical priority for IT and operations teams. Aggregating and normalizing data from multiple sources is necessary to ensure that reports capture a full and accurate picture. However, most firms are struggling to keep pace with their data management capabilities. Relying on additional systems to capture data or using data warehouses for processing is common but can be error-prone and costly.

One way to keep pace with regulatory changes and increasing data from multiple sources is to utilize a holistic performance reporting solution that is data agnostic. This platform should be able to work seamlessly with other systems and data sources in order to serve as a single source of information for calculations, analysis, and reporting.

With SS&C’s data management tools, an asset manager can rely on a single source of data and better ensure regulatory compliance. Operations teams can utilize our monitoring technology to flag regulatory breaches and automate reporting to meet frequency requirements. In addition, our solutions are flexible enough to adapt to changing regulatory requirements depending on the investor, asset class, and region. Using multiple in-house systems or manual processes requires coordination, regulatory expertise, and resources that many middle-to-back office teams do not have available.

Consider how SS&C can help you deliver accurate intra-day data and a streamlined and controllable reporting process, mitigating risk, and making regulatory compliance sustainable and efficient. Please contact us for more information or a demonstration or email us at solution@sscinc.com.

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growth 1In a recent SS&C whitepaper, “Now is the Time to Invest in Technology that Enables Growth and Performance,” we provided guidance on how to prepare for growth and globalization, which are fundamental drivers of change that operations must accommodate. But beyond these most basic market shifts, there are two disruptive trends that asset managers must focus on to optimize operations.

First, the explosion of data and the digitalization of information are affecting how asset managers operate. In Ernst & Young’s most recent global survey on asset management investment operations, “Managing Complexity and Change in a New Landscape,” 75 percent of respondents cited the quality and accuracy of data as a critical priority for IT and operations teams. However, there is no industry best practice; in the same E&Y survey, half of the survey respondents adopted common standards across the firm, while 43 percent employed a hybrid model with enterprise-level and local standards. For most asset managers, the primary challenge is establishing consistent, enterprise-wide practices for managing and sharing data as a baseline for their operational model.

Second, as the regulatory environment becomes both harsher and more fluid, asset managers are struggling to provide visibility and transparency to their investment professionals, investors and regulators. This problem becomes more severe as firms are challenged with managing exponentially expanding data. In Ernst & Young’s aforementioned survey, they suggest that asset managers adopt a strategic approach to regulatory compliance. This recommendation goes well beyond establishing holistic compliance programs. They recommend that asset managers “incorporate changes to organizational structure, functional alignment, processes, systems and data” when optimizing operations. According to E&Y, “data management is particularly crucial. This includes all of the related aspects of data management such as quality, timely delivery, analytics and reporting.”

The explosion of data and the tightening regulatory environment makes reporting a critically important function for turning data into knowledge and communicating information accordingly. These trends in reporting and transparency are causing COOs and managers of leading organizations to reassess their operating models, particularly for firms operating on a global scale.

Utilizing a reliable and proven solutions provider such as SS&C allows asset managers to optimize operations and align their business to this rapidly changing playing field. SS&C provides asset managers with technology and services that can grow and adapt with their businesses, which is why firms ranging from small, domestic asset managers to the world’s largest financial institutions rely on SS&C to enhance their data management and reporting operations.

For more information, please request more information or a demonstration or email us at solution@sscinc.com.

We are pleased to announce the release of Explorer, a powerful data visualization and analysis tool that turns critical investment data into meaningful information.

Part of the SS&C PORTIA platform, Explorer enables asset managers to easily interact with portfolios, securities, holdings, transaction details and performance data. Users can integrate and visualize data from their investment accounting system, through grid and pivot views, providing data access to operations teams, investment professionals and other key stakeholders.

“In an increasingly regulated and competitive environment, we know that investment managers need unprecedented visibility into their data. Each firm has specific reporting requirements and with Explorer, we enable firms to visualize and compare investment information,” says Christy Bremner, Senior Vice President and General Manager, SS&C. “Explorer’s simple and intuitive design empowers users to look at their data in a flexible, configurable and customizable format that is easy to pivot and manipulate.”

Instead of running multiple reports to view different data configurations users can quickly compare streams of information in one dataset, pulling data from multiple sources to view side-by-side. These efficiencies enable asset management organizations to gain a holistic view of their business, focusing more on strategy and less on operations.141030 - Explorer view

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During the global financial crisis of 2008, many asset managers turned to cost-cutting measures in the face of deteriorating revenues.  In particular, IT and operations budgets were cut extensively, as at the time they were not viewed as critical to revenue generation as the front office.  This point of view has changed since the market crash.  Investors and regulators realized that pressure to achieve high returns encouraged risky investments, creating an environment that was unstable and ultimately impossible to sustain.

Thankfully, the market is poised for a strong recovery.  According to PwC’s recent report “Asset Management 2020: A Brave New World,” global assets under management (AUM) are expected to grow significantly in coming years, surpassing $100 trillion by 2020.  Investors are willing to be creative to capitalize on the growth, resulting in the emergence of numerous innovative asset classes.  However, they also demand change from asset managers; regulators and investors require increased transparency and security for their investments to avoid the risks of the recent past.

In a recent paper, “Making the Middle Office Top of Mind,” PwC states that previous simplistic cost-cutting measures in middle-to-back office functions resulted in “an infrastructure that is inflexible and unable to scale for increasing product complexity and regulatory requirements.” In the past, top-down cost cutting demands did provide short-term benefits, but asset managers must now deal with the consequences of sustaining these tight budgets while supporting performance.  An underdeveloped middle-to-back office threatens efficiency and profits, and portfolio managers are challenged in keeping pace with industry changes.

Unfortunately, even as asset managers accept the need to change how they operate, they often do not have the resources required to catch up.  In addition to budget limitations for the middle-to-back office, PwC notes that talent constraints have forced asset managers to concentrate resources on tactical operations.   Operations teams are often run as lean as possible, and the resources required to develop and support a meaningful expansion strategy are not available.

How is an asset management firm supposed to adapt under these circumstances?  The solution: outsourcing.

PwC recommends “right-sourcing,” the process of evaluating options to determine the most efficient and effective method for providing these functions, and often that solution will be out-of-house.  Creating a strong infrastructure in the middle- and back-office will build investor confidence and ensure compliance while supporting flexibility for expansion into new asset classes and regulatory environments.  Legacy systems cannot accommodate the necessary improvements to remain competitive, and asset managers who do not adapt will miss the opportunity to optimize operations and increase efficiency.  However, PwC concludes that, “those who take steps now to right-source their middle office stand to create a powerful infrastructure that results in a competitive advantage – which, in turn, boosts the bottom line.”

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We are pleased to announce SS&C Technologies has been awarded “Service Provider of the Year” in the FTF News Technology Innovation Awards. Nominations were made by industry professionals and the FTF News editorial team selected finalists.

The awards recognize professionals, financial technology vendors, service providers, industry bodies, and regulators that made significant strides and realized noteworthy achievements in operational excellence in 2013. The “Service Provider of the Year” is honored for its extraordinary client support, cooperation with fellow market participants and extraordinary leadership in the industry.

“We are delighted to receive this award from FTF News and the buy-side investment community,” said Bill Stone, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, SS&C Technologies. “Being named as Service Provider of the Year reinforces our commitment to provide industry-leading solutions and best-in-class services to customers.”

It_infrastructureManaging complex IT infrastructures with their wide range of hardware, operating systems, applications and processes is a complex business, particularly with new software versions or patches being released at an increasingly frequent rate.

Take, for example, Microsoft’s recent move towards annual releases of its operating systems and major platforms. This is welcomed news as more frequent updates will provide quick access to new features and speedier resolutions to potential issues.  It is important that asset management organizations implement these new and better platforms to ensure they can deliver current technology throughout their organization, but to do this they need to be confident that the software they rely upon to run their investment operations will be supported on the platforms they want to implement.

Here in the PORTIA organisation, we recognise the challenges that this ever changing landscape introduces and work hard to ensure that we stay ahead of our client’s requirements to run PORTIA on these new platforms.

To do this we regularly review our platform support plans and take into account:

–          when new platforms will be released and generally available

–          our clients likely demands

–          our own development needs and new features we plan to utilize and,

–          those platforms that we no longer certify

By gathering this information and understanding our clients’ technical plans and strategies, we can continually review and improve our internal processes to ensure our products are the most reliable on any platform our clients implement.

We actively seek our clients input on what their technology plans look like and recently we completed a client technical survey enabling us to validate our existing plans and to highlight anything we didn’t expect. The technical survey consisted of 50 technology related questions, with responses from clients across all regions.  We will continue to run this survey annually as part of our planning process.

In addition, we work closely with Microsoft to formulate a strong relationship with their organisation. This allows us to get better aligned with their roadmap and get access to technical gurus much earlier in the certification cycle, helping us identify any potential issues any new platform may introduce and enabling us to build that into our certification processes.

Every 6 months we review the certification plan and update our planned dates with the latest information available from our partners, along with adding in any newly announced platforms.

This is no doubt an exciting time for those of us in the investment operations world, with rapidly changing technologies bringing both enhanced functionality and technical advancements.   We appreciate our clients wanting to take advantage of these technical enhancements to ensure their middle-to-back office is working in the most effective and efficient manner.  Because of this, we continue to strive to stay ahead of our client’s technology requirements to facilitate their use of these new technologies.

 –          Lee Marsh, Director, PORTIA Deployment

iStock_000005946607XSmall[1]China Life Insurance Co. is the latest PORTIA client to take advantage of the enhancements in the newest version of the PORTIA software (click here to see full press release).

By implementing the new release, China Life Insurance Co. has been able to take advantage of the latest technology advancements and a number of new features that enhance their system security and audit capabilities. By upgrading to the latest release, China Life can further streamline processes and workflows to better serve their end clients.

At SS&C PORTIA, we continuously strive to provide better ways our clients can access, process and deliver information to ensure they are working in the most efficient manner possible while being able to keep up with the changing needs in the market place.

Businessman walks down the staircase of an office building in TokyoAs a product manager, receiving an email that links to a piece about “investment in infrastructure” screams “Opportunity!” to me.  How firms are spending on technology is a key indicator of how likely they might be to purchase new or upgrade existing products.  But this link took me to a place about investing in a different kind of infrastructure, public infrastructure versus technical infrastructure.  Big difference, but no less interesting.

The McKinsey piece was an interview with Mark Wiseman, president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.  He spoke about why investing in infrastructure is a particularly good fit for pension funds, namely that it provides stable long-term cash flows.  The key consideration they make when investing in infrastructure involves the strength of a regulatory framework, and when it provides consistency and predictability, investors feel confident that the framework will withstand government change.  For pension fund managers, the most opportunity lies in those jurisdictions that have proven over time that capital is available.  In emerging markets infrastructure investment is more risky.  But that’s a risk inherent in emerging markets in general—uncertainty.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself thinking about investments in infrastructure in general.  Over the last several months I have written posts here about both austerity measures and alternative investments—and it hit me that they kind of all come together here, in infrastructure investing.  All the discussion about austerity measures highlights the fact that the gap between available capital and that needed for infrastructure projects is growing.  Infrastructure investments are a type of alternative investment.  I started to look at infrastructure investing holistically, as a great strategy supporting portfolio diversification.  And the emergence of infrastructure indexes addresses investor education and confidence issues while providing transparency.

The “Global Infrastructure Investment Index: Move From Risk to Reward” published in December 2012 by the London-based consultancy EC Harris provides an extremely comprehensive and insightful look into this area of investing.  This study also cites the benefit of the long-term, steady income streams that infrastructure investments offer, attractive qualities given the continued global market upheaval.  Governments need infrastructure investments in order to grow and countries are planning to invest hundreds of billions of dollars over the next several years, including Brazil ($596B USD through 2014) and the UK ($320B USD by 2020).  The study also emphasizes the importance of the location of the infrastructure, and specific factors such as long-term economic growth projections, the security of the investment, and the ease of doing business in a particular location when it comes to developing an investment strategy.

I was particularly interested in how the index categorizes countries.  They look at assets (rich or poor) on one axis and cash (rich or poor) on the other.  Countries that fall into the Cash-Rich/Asset-Rich quadrant (e.g., Singapore, Canada, and China) are the least risky and Cash-Poor/Asset-Poor countries (e.g., India, Pakistan) are the riskiest.  That said, least risky does not equal most attractive.  EC Harris then overlays what they call the “infrastructure investment lifecycle” and look at where countries are in terms of infrastructure development.  As index is created as a result of the analysis, and the most recent one ranks the top 10 countries for infrastructure investing as follows (from 1 to 10):  Singapore, Qatar, Canada, UAE, Sweden, Norway, Malaysia, Netherlands, Australia, and Chile.

This punch line of a top 10 list, with Canada seated in the bronze-medal position, makes it perfectly clear that Mark Wiseman is on the right track in thinking that informed investment in infrastructure is a key strategy with a portfolio designed to fund “multigenerational liabilities.”  Beyond that, for other investors, there is tremendous potential benefit provided that each investment prospect is analyzed comprehensively—no different than any other investment. 

What role is infrastructure investment playing in your overall strategy?  Has how you think about it changed over time?  How so?  Do you expect your views to evolve over time?

 – Nicole Comeau, Product Manager

Ared goldfish leadings the new year begins, we are bombarded with articles that race to name the key trends experts see emerging or continuing to grow in the year to come. From the asset management perspective, articles run the gamut from investment policy and market trends to technology and infrastructure. While every article has a different take on what the market will do and what to invest in, one area that has a common thread is IT outsourcing. It seems most in the industry view the asset management move to outsource some or all of their operations as a trend that will continue its upward climb.

Even more interesting, most of the experts seem to agree on the rationale that is driving this trend. Recently my colleague, Jon Anderson of SS&C GlobeOp, penned an article for Financial Technology Forum, “Outsourcing Drivers” (click here for full article), that succinctly describes these drivers.

To paraphrase what Mr. Anderson’s identifies as “common rationales” for outsourcing:

Cost: Asset managers are looking for efficient ways to take advantage of industry technology such as automated trade matching, messaging and cash transaction processes.

Quality: For some asset managers functions, such as OTC derivative trading, are important functions, but not primary ones. For these managers choosing to outsource can allow key personnel to focus on the most important aspects of their business. This can be true for hedge fund managers as well as for corporate treasurers, pensions managers etc.

Oversight: Pressures to provide transparency and independent verification of asset existence and valuation required by institutional investors and regulators. Also, increased scrutiny is compelling boards of directors, Chief Risk Officers and other governing bodies to require more transparency to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.

These trends mimic what we at SS&C PORTIA are hearing in discussions with new prospects and long-time clients alike. As asset management organizations are reviewing the effectiveness of their operations, looking for ways to streamline processes, better manage costs and help maintain or improve margins, they are quickly realizing that managing their technical infrastructure and other “non-core” tasks can be a distraction and takes resources away from focusing on their primary business drivers.

In addition, we see the change in the outsourcing service providers and their offerings as another reason asset managers are more open to outsourcing operations. Outsourcing and outsourcing providers have evolved, offering more services and options and working more in partnership with firms. This allows customized solutions that are better aligned with business objectives and lets the asset manager direct how much or how little control is handed over to the service provider.

As asset managers continue to work through the slow market recovery, continuous regulatory pressures and outdated in-house technology, the move to outsourcing will become more and more the norm as a part of the overall IT strategy. Outsourcing the appropriate functions in the middle-to-back office not only allows firms to reallocate resources and potentially reduce cost, but it also makes companies more agile, competitive and compliant. By outsourcing parts of the companies operation, such as non-differentiated parts of the middle-to-back office, company’s can better focus on the components of their business that bring the most value to the organization.

– Munther Haddad, Vice President, Global Implementation and Outsourcing Services

Workflows.  We hear the word often and we all know that “efficient” workflows are at the heart of every investment management operations organization.   Done correctly, process and system workflows streamline routines and allow all parts of the organization to focus on achieving the company’s objectives.  The issue comes when business requirements, systems, job responsibilities and/or personnel change but corresponding workflows don’t.    Individual requirements are addressed as they come up but rarely are the time and resources available to step back and look at the bigger picture.  This results in processes that work but may not be providing the optimization you strive for.

It takes someone who has a deep understanding of the industry and the experience to marry that with your organizational goals to analyze internal and external processes and determine where improvements would provide the most value-add.  At PORTIA, our Professional Services team has spent 25 years working with clients to deliver large, complex enterprise-wide implementations and managing a wide range of projects for asset managers, insurance companies, pension administrators, corporate treasuries, central banks and hedge funds.    Through these projects the team has built a strong understanding of workflows, operational processes and best practices that are utilized to help clients maximize the return on their investment in PORTIA.

Workflow analysis is a discipline we use right from the start of our relationships with clients.  It is critical to invest the time and resources upfront to ensure a successful installation, configuration and system integration and use of PORTIA.  Equally important is to review and assess workflows once using the software, to ensure processes continue to be optimized.

Bringing knowledge from past experiences, our Professional Services consultants work with clients to review current workflows, understand what is being done today and what the client wants to achieve from and overall business perspective.   The analysis starts with interviews of representatives from major areas within a firm to understand daily responsibilities and procedures and emphasizing perceived “pain points.”  The objective of the interviews is to get a comprehensive picture of the firm’s processes.   Critical in these discussions is to recognize all processes, ones that are directly related to PORTIA and, sometimes more importantly, where the client is processing something outside of PORTIA.

Once the interviews are done, the consultant outlines the workflow of the areas discussed, highlighting targets for improvement and defining the benefit of implementing changes.  This is followed by detailed recommendations on how to execute the improvements. The recommendations can vary based on the organization and situations. Many processes can be optimized by simply using functionality and flexibility already available in the system or the recommendation could suggest new modules or a system upgrade to take advantage of enhancements to the system.  Our consultants make their recommendations based on experiences of working with other clients who have dealt with and resolved similar issues.  Their suggestions also come from PORTIA “best practices” that are not found in documentation but are the result of many years working with system.  Most of the time, the recommendations are quick fixes that can be applied and implemented by client resources.  To complete the analysis, the consultant and the client work together to determine which solutions will be of most benefit to the organization and build a project plan that will achieve results.

Streamlined workflows are the key to running an efficient operations organization.  With the right processes in place, resources can focus efforts on tasks that bring the most value to the organization and better serve end customers.  But maintaining efficient workflows can be difficult, they need to be assessed, tweaked and updated from time-to-time.  If they aren’t, the workflows put in place to simplify and streamline could be the cause of inefficiencies.  Having professionals with the right group of knowledge review processes can lead to new ideas, best practices and process optimization to enhance an organizations overall efficiency.

– Steve Kasabula, Product Manager