Solving the multibillion-dollar data challenge in asset management

Simon Swords, CEO, Fundipedia, walks us through the company’s mission and vision to elevate the data management ecosystem.

In 2008 Atlas, the parent software company of Fundipedia, was tasked by a major financial institution with developing a centralised database to hold diverse product information, encompassing disparate information, such as fund, share class, fund manager and associated static data to bring their information under control. 

The solution prompted Simon Swords to create Fundipedia, extending the capabilities to incorporate dynamic data, workflows and reconciliation tools and introduce it to a broader audience within the financial services arena. 

This followed the 2008 financial crisis, which brought heightened costs and more regulations, pushing data processing to the industry’s forefront. Fundipedia’s unique strength, addressing both the efficiency and quality issues, enabled it to become a key player – one that Simon is proud to say has “never lost a single client”.

Streamlining data management

Fundipedia was conceived from the conviction that effectively managing multiple data streams demands an intelligent system creating a source of golden, reliable data.

Asset management firms continue to grapple with data overload, involving various formats and volumes, incurring billions in costs to address this issue, says Swords, who is Fundipedia’s MD. “The industry continues this because it is in complete disarray over data and hindered by competitive interests that prevent solution-seeking collaboration.”

Having established its primary goal, Swords aims to foster stronger funds-industry cooperation to end various forms of data disorientation.

The lack of connectivity and standardisation in fund management operations is well known, says Swords. So, too, is the paradox of firms providing data to vendors and later paying to get the data back to meet regulatory reporting or other operational needs.

Stronger together

A starting place to fix these problems would be an agreed global taxonomy for data and data practices, says Swords. “We already excel as leaders in organising data for individual asset managers. Our next objective is to leverage industry connections and position businesses to gather data quicker and more cost-effectively, simplify access to it, and reduce the operational overhead across the industry. The goal is to reduce the cost and provide better information to the end investor, who is often the forgotten person in this process.”

This is a work in progress – but irrespective of its features, Swords aspires to leave the industry in a better place than when he found it.

Having earned a coveted spot as a member of the IA Engine – the Investment Association’s (IA) fintech accelerator program in 2020, Fundipedia became known for its dedication to fostering innovation and enhancing operational efficiency within the industry.

As an example of working with the industry to bring positive change into practice, the IA and Fundipedia joined forces in 2021 to develop the Common ShareClass register. 

The Common ShareClass register collects data from different asset managers, making switching between investment platforms easier for investors. It contains listings for over 6,000 individual funds from 130 retail-focused investment firms and commonly available fund classes to assist with share class conversion processing by investment platforms and administrators.

The IA and Fundipedia are advancing this partnership further, and Swords is optimistic about it paving the way for wider industry collaboration.

Something more sensible

He underscores that the industry, which includes vendors and data providers, must work together to establish standard practices. Despite the incumbents hesitating to embrace this approach, Swords appreciates fintechs innovating to bridge the gap.

According to Swords: “The issues are bread-and-butter things which we need to fix at an industrywide level. Our collaboration with the IA and equivalents will take the industry forward – from producing a plethora of spreadsheets and systems in a disconnected environment with zero data governance to something standardised, trustworthy and highly available.”

Fundipedia gives firms a centralised hub for seamless data management through a single, reliable source, highlights Swords. The solution collects data – for example, on ESG – from any upstream source to allow investment firms to evaluate the long-term sustainability and resilience of portfolios. On the operational front, it compiles data from third-party administrators to streamline NAV creation and automates regulatory reporting and client document publication.

Streamlining the process allows asset managers to leverage tools, knowledge and infrastructure to turn data into valuable insights for better investor outcomes. Swords highlights that data is the key to cutting-edge technology that lets firms amass, share and match data, giving them control over informed business decisions and meeting regulatory requirements without increasing headcount.

Fundipedia operates across Europe, Asia and the USA and counts Legal & General Investment Management and Eastspring Investments among its clients. It has over 20,000 users across 30+ top-tier clients managing over a trillion dollars in assets.

Swords points out industry discussions on data ownership and usage, which he likens to a “trade war”, adding that Fundipedia is actively working with like-minded partners to resolve these conflicts and ensure a fair data ownership approach.

Data ownership

Recently, the firm introduced Fundi Workflow, a platform that accelerates product development for asset managers, addressing processes like fund launches, share class approvals, mergers, liquidations, and changes. Swords shares that it streamlines what used to be a cumbersome process involving chaotic email exchanges and data entry across multiple parties, who each populate cells. 

Fundipedia puts this process into “autopilot” mode with analytical tools enabling deeper intelligence to support the system. For example, it can identify bottlenecks to help launch products on time, enabling quicker cash flows and releasing a product ahead of competitors. 

This not only gives the asset management firm’s sales team a legitimate edge but also minimises errors and compliance risks by automating workflows for efficient product launches. “Knowing this – and acting on it – can shorten the time and cost to launch a fund and establish better control. Multiple variations on this theme can shorten the time to market for a new product,” adds Swords.

He envisions a bright future where simplicity, quality and efficiency are within reach for all. “I aim to ensure that Fundipedia works with firms who want to achieve this goal and deliver real benefits to their end clients,” says Swords. 

© 2023 funds europe

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