Meet…Sheila Kirby

Eagle’s newest Consulting Lead in Toronto, Sheila Kirby, has spent
her entire career implementing 
investment management and fund
acco
unting systems. Now, she is resolved to help clients who are
considering the tran
sition away from legacy systems.

Tell us a little about your background and what you’ll be focusing on in your role at Eagle?

I’ve spent the last twenty years working on system implementations across the globe. I started in Toronto in 1995. A year later, a two-week trip to the United Kingdom turned into six years working on implementations across Europe. While I was able to return to Canada, I don’t think there has been a week in my professional life where I haven’t been on the road. The experience has been incredible; it’s not just the work that goes into establishing these systems, but I was also able to gain a deep understanding of how clients are using the technology to become more efficient, effective, and solving challenges within their operations. During this time, I built an expertise across fund accounting, reconciliations, operational processing, and client and performance reporting. I’ve also seen firsthand the types of challenges companies face when they embark on a legacy system replacement. My experience working with some of these older systems should prove useful for Eagle clients who are beginning the conversion from legacy systems.

Your entire career has revolved around implementing software and systems for clients. Can you tell us how implementations have changed over the years?

To be honest, implementations have not changed markedly from when I started working. In all cases, you are moving data from one system to another. What has changed is the technology, tools, and data. Technology that enables automation has allowed us to realize incredible efficiencies across the front, middle, and back office—efficiencies that allow clients to focus on running their business instead of running their software. But these efficiencies require the data to be accurate and fit for purpose. At the same time, data has grown by leaps and bounds in volume and complexity.

All this is not to say that advances in technology won’t make implementations easier in the future. As investment organizations gravitate toward digitalization and the broader financial services industry adopts open platforms, I expect implementations will become easier over time. A gating item to this, however, is that organizations have to embrace the cloud. And as the ecosystem develops, plug-and-play solutions will become more common.

The other challenge, of course, is the data—which is at the center of everything.

It’s all about the data! Client data, security data, transaction data, reference data—legacy systems were built with so many custom databases, which is one of the reasons implementations remain so challenging today. And this is before clients supplemented these systems with bespoke spreadsheets. Over the two decades I have spent guiding clients through transformations, I know that unraveling the data stored in customized solutions represents perhaps the biggest and most universal challenge of any implementation. But it’s a challenge I love to tackle; I love working side-by-side with my client’s team, helping implement the software alongside the developers, learning exactly what issues they are experiencing, and solving for those issues. I’ve been exporting, mapping, and importing data between systems for years, so I know the discipline that is required when planning a conversion to ensure the new system is working with quality, fit for purpose data.

What advice would you give clients beginning a legacy replacement implementation?

Clients must remain flexible and ensure their management team is a champion for the new software. Employees who have been working on legacy systems are used to working a specific way; oftentimes this is the only system they have ever used and they’ve developed a sort of muscle memory that makes any change difficult. A new system will affect everyone in an organization. Management teams should take advantage of the opportunity to advocate for new workflows to take advantage of the efficiencies and new functionality provided by the software. Embracing new technology is not just exciting, it’s essential. It will also help them attract younger talent and compete in today’s fast-moving marketplace.

What are you most looking forward to as you join Eagle?

Eagle’s digital transformation and cloud initiative is truly revolutionary for the industry. I’m excited to be part of a company that is leading the way in financial services technology, and looking forward to helping clients navigate this new frontier!

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