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Supplements » FundTech Winter 2020

Roundtable: Data updated

Our panellists revisit the subject of data and review the progress made in terms of standards, timeliness, quality and technology.

FundTech_Winter_2020_roundtable

Tony Peacham (head of data management and reporting, Amundi)
Simon Keefe (head of product, Calastone)
Richard Clarkson (global head of solutions, Flexcube Investor Servicing, Oracle)
Petra Roche (client relations and projects, Metrosoft)

FundTech – Eighteen months on from the last roundtable on data, has there been any progress in terms of the timeliness of data delivery and the quality? Are we in a better place?

Tony Peacham, Amundi – At Amundi, we have a lot of emphasis on client reporting and regulatory reporting on behalf of our clients as well. Since the last roundtable, we have been focusing more on analytics and the timeliness of reporting through dashboards. We have looked at where data on primary factsheets may affect secondary factsheets. We found that, by doing some retrospective checking on datasheets from previous months, we could deliver more timely reporting and even reduce the timeframe for producing client factsheets by at least a day. By focusing on the quality and the visualisation of the datasets and the reporting, it’s enabled us to have better automation and reduce the timelines to produce those reports.

Simon Keefe, Calastone – We’ve definitely seen a shift, particularly around quality of data. Two years ago, we had clients coming to us looking for lots of trading data without really knowing what they wanted. Now it is more about dashboards. They no longer want all the data but want to see the key information. 

Timeliness is also coming more to the fore. We’re able to share a lot of real-time trading and settlement information with clients. This gives them the ability to react to market pressures and to see a position within a fund change in real-time over the course of a trading day. It is about showing key exceptions and large trades at key points, on dashboards.

Richard Clarkson, Oracle – The mindset change is evolving and it depends on the asset management community as well as the service provider community, but there is still a dichotomy between them. There is a lot of data for asset managers to consume and they don’t always know what they want to consume; service providers are still hampered by legacy platforms and solutions across multiple markets with multiple repetition of data, so basic cleanliness still isn’t always there; and investors want data but don’t know what to do with it, and that’s the problem. Data is mixed between good data that provides real time analysis versus data that requires a lot of manipulation to make it more presentable. So we’ve changed, and we haven’t.

Petra Roche, Metrosoft – There is still room for improvement on both quality of data from a format perspective but also on the promptness when delivering the data. Large asset managers have a huge amount of data from different service providers and distribution partners. While timeliness has improved on the service provider side, there are still quite a few distribution partners who only deliver month end data, and often in a format that can’t be used easily, so that makes it difficult for asset managers to get a consolidated view that is current, and cleaning the data takes a lot of time. 

The main challenge is to integrate all those available data sources and get a consolidated and unified view for the asset manager.

FundTech – What impact has Covid-19 had on data management? Has it helped some firms to accelerate that change in mindset? Has it led to greater adoption of digital technology? Or has its impact been overstated?

Roche – Companies had very different priorities when Covid-19 hit, making sure everyone had remote access, establishing communication channels with employees and clients and making sure the business was able to continue as efficiently as possible. So I don’t think Covid-19 has changed data management practices significantly. However, what I do believe is that Covid-19 has shown us how quickly companies can adapt to change and embrace it, so why not learn from this and focus our attention on changing the way we use data? So to improve client experience, to cut out unnecessary processes, using existing datasets and specialised applications to help consolidate existing data and make it usable.

Clarkson – I agree, Covid-19 has been much more about proving that working from home isn’t an issue and proving that asset managers and service providers can go from 100% office-based to 100% home-based with no degradation in service. But from a data perspective, we’re still running the same old systems in the same old areas. A bigger driver of change in data practices has been the recent issues where data could not be sent out in the traditional format. This forced people to reassess key points of failure from a cyber perspective and consider whether they can share post-settlement data in a more streamlined format, like an API [application programming interface] channel.

You are also dealing with two different generations when it comes to investor profiles. You have the digital native, who lives and works and breathes on the internet and his phone, but the people with the money and actual true investors are still in their 70s and might have a smartphone, but won’t be so bought into the digital experience. You need to be able to have a solution that can handle data exposure to the digital world and data exposure to an analogue world. Covid-19 hasn’t changed that at all.

Keefe – We’ve been pushing automation for 13 years and there’s always been pockets of resistance in particular areas throughout the world, and in particular client segments as well. What we’ve seen is that after the initial push to get set up working from home, a number of clients started to realise that their old processes just don’t work any more. Operational departments where people sit next to each other passing paper around doesn’t work. Those clients really struggled early on and then we saw an uptick in automation, which has continued. 

But I would agree that there is a legacy world out there that needs to be serviced. APIs may not be new, but they enable a lot more intelligent access to data. And there are those two different investor profiles out there. New investors are increasingly digital-savvy and can take advantage of new operating and business models, but legacy players are still being connected – everyone is doing their best to service both models. 

With our DLT network, we enable new models but connect the old world as well. However we are definitely seeing a divergence between those still in the legacy world and those in the new world who have changed their mindset from simply connecting to the network, to seeing what benefits they can get out of the new technology. Covid has helped that mindset change.

Peacham – Covid-19 overall hasn’t affected employee performance of the company – in actual fact, I think it’s helped focus some parts of the company to do their job that little bit better because they don’t have the distractions of an office environment. But where people have struggled is the lack of interaction an office environment brings and that’s where I see the biggest change. There is a case for both having an office to ensure collaboration and remote-working capability to ensure employee operational flexibility, and to face a future Covid-19-type scenario, which will happen.

Clarkson – With Covid-19, it has had much more of an operational impact, forcing operations to look at less paper, and that’s probably helping with the data change. In terms of outward-facing communication with investors, I’m not seeing anything come through yet that people are buying into a digital investment world. As an industry, we’re still very analogue in terms of our approach to engaging with investors. 

But if we see more lockdowns, we will see better infrastructure across the market because you won’t be able to pass faxes between A and B any more. And mental health is now much more front and centre. We need to think about our teams, our staff, our partners and colleagues, and not just think about how we get the most out of them. We are losing our social bubbles in the office space, but we’ve got to make sure that we don’t presume everybody can work from home either. That blending will have to happen.

Peacham – I think that’s a future model that’s not been discussed enough. There will be a split workforce in many companies. There are those that want to work from home and are more efficient in that environment and those that need the social interaction of the office to be effective. The companies that recognise that will be the most efficient and more successful because they see their employees as the assets they are in the best environments that they excel in.

Roche – I agree, and I think that is the challenge of working with teams remotely. You don’t have that coffee next to the printer and the little chat, so you need to make sure that you stay connected with your teams and you understand the challenges that they are facing in terms of home schooling or child care. It has completely changed the way we work.