Before transitioning to the transfer agent of OppenheimerFunds, I worked in human resources at the firm. For some, this is affectionately referred to as the OPP Department – or “Other People’s Problems.” After a decade of working in HR, I would say one of my most valuable learnings was that meaningful partnerships are the foundation for success. Whether it is dealing with employees or business leaders, solving issues or creating strategic partnerships, trust between both your internal and external partners is core to your success. Fast forward to the present – I am running a transfer agent of over 500 employees, and my HR experience has helped drive our success in this rapidly changing business.
Firm Intimacy Yields Efficiency Gains
One of the major changes in the mutual fund industry in the last decade is the shift to omnibus accounting, which led us to adapt our approach in this space. We instituted an intermediary service model that is similar to our long-standing and proven shareholder and advisor service model. Our current organizational structure allows deeper concentration on the two primary interactions with intermediaries: operations and back office relationships. The operations component aligns experienced associates with specific firms to promote firm intimacy (ability to predict their needs), operational excellence and to foster a sense of pride and ownership for firm relationships. Members of this team are assigned to intermediary partners based on product type (for example: retail, defined contribution investment only, variable annuit and institutional), providing in-depth knowledge of each area of the business as well as the distinctive systems used to support the varying product types. The complementary back office liaison teams further enrich the relationship with key partners by establishing deep firm knowledge through firm visits and day-to-day contact for research, escalated items and problem resolution. It is crucial that we understand our key partner firms and know their operations so we can continue to keep pace with their needs within the evolving omnibus landscape.
This specialized organizational structure was created in response to the changing business; however, along the way, we also realized solid efficiency gains such as operational accuracy, low reject rates and speed of issue resolution. On a larger scale, the clear roles and responsibilities between the operations team and the back office liaison team have reduced process and people overlap. The intermediary services’ team is nearly half the size it was five years ago, yet provides more streamlined and enhanced service than ever before.
Collaboration With Industry Partners Provides Insight
Developing solid relationships with our partner firms is essential, and maintaining strong industry connections is equally as important. As already noted, the omnibus landscape is continuously evolving, which means greater and more complex challenges, with transparency and oversight currently at the forefront. Through strong and influential industry relationships, OppenheimerFunds is able to capitalize on mutual education around relevant industry topics such as best practices, omnibus operations and governance.
The collective dialogue within the industry has been invaluable in evolving control standards in the industry. Fund boards are very interested in the accountability of intermediaries who are recordkeeping, and transfer agents are in the position of finding the best way to provide assurance regarding firm accountability. OppenheimerFunds has taken significant interest in shaping omnibus oversight, and we are one of the growing number of firms in the industry to solicit for key control reports such as the Financial Intermediary Controls and Compliance Assessment. We are looking to our industry partners to help further the cause, so that we can continue to develop our internal oversight capabilities, while also sharing and evolving with other fund families as omnibus governance becomes increasingly relevant.
Key Partners Make Us Better
Whether in human resources or the transfer agent, the one thing that is a constant is change. The transformation that the intermediary operations component of our business has undergone in the last five to 10 years is a prime example. We have responded by leveraging key relationships with partner firms and others in the industry, and have found that efficiency and results are a natural outcome.
Stacy Roode is the senior vice president of the transfer agent for Oppenheimer-Funds Services. Prior to her current position, she was vice president of human resources. She holds a B.S. in marketing from the University of Denver and a J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law. The National Investment Company Service Association recently announced OppenheimerFunds as the first place winner of the 2013 NOVA Award for Innovation in Back Office Efficiencies among four other firms. The NOVA Awards recognize outstanding service, leadership and innovation at asset management firms.