InvestOps Recap: The Misconception Around Global Operating Models

Eagle’s Liz Blake, speaking on a panel at the InvestOps conference, highlights why all asset managers should be thinking about a global operating model regardless of where their business resides

Liz Blake, Global Head of Eagle Managed ServicesSM

As part of a panel at the recent InvestOps USA Conference the moderator opened the discussion asking how buy-side firms are navigating globalization’s many obstacles. While added regulatory demands and competitive pressures have certainly made these challenges more acute, the opportunities available through adopting a global operating model should not be overshadowed. In fact, even for domestic firms—who may harbor no designs to open overseas locations—the ability to extend the business day through “follow the sun” (FTS) workflows is becoming a necessity to accommodate the new and pressing demands being placed on operations teams.

This was a theme I discussed at the conference, which also featured panelists in senior operating roles at Invesco, Manulife Asset Management, and Putnam Investments. The larger point is that given the complexities and challenges that face asset managers of all sizes today, not having a team in place working around the clock to instill a true data foundation can create a competitive disadvantage in the form of back-office bottlenecks and the erosion of trust across the enterprise. If portfolio managers don’t have conviction in the data or if accounting and reporting teams spend their days trying to resolve data errors, the impact will extend far beyond lost efficiencies.

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Mentorship: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A recent panel hosted by Eagle’s IMPACT Multicultural Resource Group showcases the value of mentorship to leverage the benefits of a diverse and talented workforce

Kevin Madeira, Head of Relationship Management – Americas

The greatest innovators are often quick to credit that progress doesn’t come without standing on the shoulders of giants. While this is typically an idea that is tossed around in technology or science circles, it can be just as true when considering the value of mentorship.

As part of a recent panel discussion hosted by Eagle’s IMPACT resource group, participants highlighted not only how they’ve been supported by role models throughout their careers, but also shared some of the most important lessons learned along the way. I moderated the discussion and was joined by Head of Sales Support Akhar Mathews, Head of Transformation Rajan Venkitachalam, and Senior Project Manager Milva Santarelli.

The conversation touched upon several great topics. What quickly became a recurring theme, however, is that mentorship often extends beyond merely offering support and guidance. The best mentors—and the most inspiring—will embolden colleagues to challenge themselves in new ways. This approach allows individuals to build out their skillsets, but more importantly, instills the kind of confidence that empowers people to become leaders through recognizing and honing their unique value to the organization.

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#PressforProgress Spotlight: Automation and Transformation

How Maureen Buotte’s work became the foundation of Eagle’s hosted cloud solution and an example for women engineers across the company

Mike Fitzgerald, Chief Information Officer

Over the past few years, issues of diversity in business and technology have taken center stage. Whether it is the #PressforProgress in gender parity that was the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day or the rise of nonprofit groups like Girls Who Code designed to encourage young women’s interest in typically male-dominated STEM industries, there are more efforts than ever before working to increase women’s rights, responsibilities, and roles in the workforce and beyond. Consequently, these efforts are paying off. Study after study has shown that gender-diverse companies are more profitable and deliver better results.

One of Eagle’s longest-serving engineers, Maureen Buotte, understands these challenges. When she started her career two decades ago at ITS Associates (which would later become Eagle ACCESSSM), she was the only female engineer. As one of the only women in her engineering school, she was accustomed to feeling outnumbered. During this time, Maureen quickly realized how important diversity and mentorship would be in the growth and transformation of Eagle’s software and the evolving impact of women in the company—and worked to become instrumental in both. In fact, one of her earliest contributions became a foundational component to Eagle ACCESSSM, Eagle’s secure private cloud. And her efforts to mentor women at Eagle have mirrored and perhaps spurred the progress being made in the industry today.

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#MyFeminism: Reflecting on One Woman’s Journey at Eagle

Darcie James-Maxwell, Eagle’s Head of Canadian Operations, is participating on the CIBC Mellon WIN panel today celebrating International Women’s Day and the #PressforProgress.

Darcie James-Maxwell, Head of Canadian Operations

It is with great pride and gratitude that I am presented with the opportunity to be a part of International Women’s Day. As I reflect on my own career journey starting as an analyst, I am thankful for the women who paved the way for many of us to finally have a seat at the table. As a woman of color, I’ve had more than one obstacle to overcome as I pursued my passion for competence, credibility and leadership in the fintech industry.

Over the last year, women’s issues have been firmly in the spotlight. With companies across the world committing to closing the gender pay gap, it feels like we are closer than ever to achieving gender equality in the workplace and in our everyday lives. Movements fueled by women have inspired the women’s marches across North America while the #MeToo Movement has gripped social media, resulting in recognition and equality expansion. As a result, Canada has recently proposed an amendment that redefines its Labour Code to support women on equal footing in the workplace. Unfortunately, we still have a long road ahead of us. A quote from a recent report from the World Economic Forum states that gender parity is more than 200 years away. Therefore, the relevancy of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – #PressforProgress – could not be any more appropriate.
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The Mounting Migration to Standardization

As organizations gravitate away from highly customized legacy accounting systems and many systems arrive at their end-of-life, Eagle’s Mathieu Benoit highlights several best practices for firms ready to embrace the agility of an open platform

Mathieu Benoit, Consulting Lead

Almost as certain as death and taxes, accounting regulations impacting asset managers will remain in a state of perpetual motion. In Canada, for instance, the next phase of IFRS implementation introduces what KPMG billed in a recent white paper as an “unprecedented level of change”—affecting everything from how financial institutions classify and measure assets to how they account for hedging instruments. The paper, “Ready? Or Not: The Next Phase of IFRS,” also highlights that it is not just the regulations that are changing, but that the more demanding landscape is even forcing organizations to rethink their philosophy around technology altogether. At Eagle, we have seen this translate into a pronounced shift in client preferences from legacy accounting systems to more standardized platforms that offer both agility and the ability to keep up with today’s business needs.

In the past, asset managers generally had little choice but to build highly customized accounting systems. Though this allowed Chief Information Officers to tailor the technology and software capabilities to the unique needs of the back office, it often required running additional systems like Excel in parallel or applying other workarounds to “fill in the gaps.” In turn, these workarounds increased both risk and technology costs related to the management of data and enterprise security.

Fast forward ten years, however, and not only has the number of financial products and asset classes grown considerably in size and sophistication, but also so has the number of complementary applications that are often tied into the accounting system. Adding greater complexity, for many, an accounting system is not solely an accounting system—it can double as a client reporting system, an analytics engine or even a makeshift data warehouse. And while these custom-built systems may produce the required outputs on a day-to-day basis, a new challenge often arises anytime a change is required, whether it is new regulations, a new investment strategy, or even an acquisition. Today, the price of past customizations and workarounds is often measured in units of time and complexity. Time management is also important when processing daily activities, Eagles’ exception-based system helps users to be efficient and effective.

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Moving from the Margins

Blog posted initially by CloudMargin as part of their Industry Insights Series

Increased use of derivatives and regulatory change is leading to increased focus on how investment managers manage collateral and post margin. 

Brian Dunton, Head of Instrument Engineering

The normalization of derivatives has sparked a sharp increase in their use among investment firms

Among Eagle’s client base of global investment managers, we’ve seen derivatives move from the periphery of the market to become a mainstream investment. Instruments that were once widely considered to be “exotic” are being used by traditionally conservative firms to diversify their portfolios and hedge positions.

A few years ago our typical client trading swaps would hold a handful of positions across a couple of different flavors of derivatives. Now we have clients with thousands of positions spanning many derivative types, each with their own unique conventions. This rapid increase in volume comes with an equally rapid increase in exposure, which has brought efficient collateral management back into the spotlight.

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The Rapid Adoption of Managed Services in Asia

Michelle Wong explains why managed services are proving to be so popular among Asian investment firms intent on improving their data management capabilities

Michelle Wong, Lead Manager, Client Service

Over the last 12 months, I have met with investors across Asia, including both asset managers and asset owners. One common thread spanning those conversations has been the automation of data management processes, but this focus on achieving greater efficiency is no different than any other region. The preferred path, however, is unique as many APAC firms have been keen to augment their operating model with managed services and less inclined to either build their own proprietary data management solution or utilise a third-party system to facilitate the move away from spreadsheets.

Until fairly recently, investment organisations in APAC have been able to meet their investment and operational data needs using Excel alone, relying on manual processes and adding headcount when necessary as the business grows. However, rising employment costs undermine the feasibility of that approach, particularly as the growing demand for data, within the organisation and externally, highlights the need for workflow automation.

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Performance Measurement: From Cost Center to Business Driver

At TSAM Boston, panelists highlighted how the ongoing evolution of the performance measurement function—enabled by technology—is creating a competitive advantage for those able to meet the growing data demands of investors.

Richard Flokos, Performance Product Owner

Recent research from Chestnut Advisory Group, published in November, emphasized the central role of performance reviews in helping asset managers secure lasting relationships with their clients. Even when performance suffers, the report concluded, informed investors are more likely to remain as long-term investors when the connection to broader market conditions is clear and communicated in advance.

This takeaway speaks to the organizational shift occurring within many investment firms, as performance measurement and risk teams are increasingly being viewed, not as a cost center, but rather as an elemental driver of the business at large. This was the very topic that we addressed during a recent panel discussion at TSAM Boston. The consensus among the assembled participants was that as performance teams begin to assume more prominent roles, their value is being recognized both internally, by other operating areas and the front office, and externally, by clients demanding more granularity and color around returns.

According to the Chestnut Advisory Group research, which featured a survey of nearly 90 asset owners and consultants, institutional investors today are particularly focused on performance data that can shed additional light on portfolio positioning, detailed attribution, and outcomes relative to strategy benchmarks. The timely delivery of performance data was also cited as a critical element of performance reviews by nearly three fourths of the investors polled. Less important, according to the survey, are the macro outlooks of fund managers or discussion around the best- or worst-performing positions.

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Can I Buy a Vowel? Why the Move from QA to QE is Necessary for Agile Development

While QA merely provides a quality check before deployment, QE is the process that instills quality into software design

Eric Getchell, Head of Quality and Infrastructure Services

A recent inquiry on the question-and-answer site Quora asked, “What is agile?” A seemingly simple question, yet it drew 40 responses, ranging from basic analogies to complex explanations complete with diagrams and related threads on the various types of agile frameworks. While Eagle has certainly touched on the many benefits of an agile development model, (here and here, for example), the transition from QA (Quality Assurance) to QE (Quality Engineering) can help contextualize what an agile model looks like in action and, more importantly, underscores how DevOps translates into improved quality and a faster time to value for clients.

Traditionally, developers have relied on quality assurance analysts to measure the quality of software ahead of deployment. In a customary waterfall operational model—in which products are designed, implemented and verified in sequential order—the quality assurance team is typically the last stop to eliminate any bugs in the code prior to release. Within this model, the role of a QA analyst is primarily to detect defects, measure the impact, and—when they invariably discover an issue—send the code back to the developers to begin the cycle anew.

Quality engineering, in contrast, is about defect prevention versus defect measurement. QE is effectively an upstream event in which quality engineers work alongside cross-functional development teams to discover and solve issues in real time. Enabled by an agile, iterative development model, the move to QE ensures quality is baked into the software at the onset of development and remains in focus not only up to but also beyond deployment. This process utilizes quality measurements at build time allowing for continuous quality gates prior to code submittal. Gone is the protracted feedback loop in which QA and the development team play hot potato with the code base until a fix occurs. In an agile model, quality is simply engineered into the entire process.

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How Eagle’s People Will be the Catalysts for Change

Eagle’s Global Head of Change Management and Organization Development discusses Eagle’s strategy to empower and engage frontline employees to drive transformation

Anna Domino, Global Head of Change Management and Organizational Development

There’s a saying in college football that programs are built in the offseason. This is particularly true when there is a change in strategy and coaches are tasked with matching existing players and recruits to new roles and schemes. Change management in financial services is no different. And in the era of digital disruption, it’s the people and their range of skill sets that will dictate whether organizations are successful effecting large-scale transformations.

McKinsey & Co., in February, highlighted the critical importance of frontline employees in driving business transformation. In a survey of more than 1,600 respondents whose organizations have completed change initiatives in the past five years, the consultant found a direct correlation between those companies whose frontline employees were visibly engaged in the effort and success in reaching the desired goals.

Eagle’s Chief Technology Officer Steve Taylor recently outlined the principles guiding Eagle’s deployment-model transformation. While it is clear the adoption of a cloud-native architecture and agile business model will bring new efficiencies and deliver material value to clients for years to come, what can be harder to recognize externally are all the different ways we’re engaging with our people to support and sustain the new operating model. As much as this effort will enhance Eagle’s go-to-market strategy, we expect it to be just as impactful in creating opportunities for both existing and future employees.

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