In the current age of information overload, access to data does not necessarily equate to meaningful insight or a more efficient process. Information is only useful if it is organized and presented in a way that makes it easily applied to the task that is trying to be accomplished. A library is a great source of information, but that information would be useless if you walked in and all the books were just scattered around and stacked in piles on the floor. What makes a library useful is how the books are organized into sections and U.S. Bancorp Fund Services view information portals the same way.

COMPREHENSIVE USER EXPERIENCE

Instead of creating a large portal that scatters various information, data, reports, and workflow while attempting to cater to various users, we created specific applications and screens that service the role and task that our clients are trying to accomplish with the ultimate goal of creating the following value proposition:

* Providing organized information in a way that makes it easily accessible.

* Furnish a central repository of answers to client questions and deliverables.

* Deliver a viable channel for clients to interact with the key process and people within our organization.

Our team started this process by developing our applications with the overall goal to create something that our clients could use, would use, and that helps make their job easier. The process began by engaging with COOs, CFOs, and operations personnel to see how they were using information, when they needed key pieces of information, and identifying what could be done to make their roles easier and more efficient. Business facing project teams, not programmers, were used to set the standard for the user experience. Screens were designed and information was shown based on what user's needed to see, what tasks they are trying to accomplish, and what overall deliverable were needed.

A key theme gathered from clients was that access to information and data was important, but having visibility into the timing of key daily, monthly, and yearly deliverables was a greater benefit. Valuable time was being spent placing phone calls, leaving messages, and sending e-mails back and forth with the simple purpose of trying to ascertain the timing of a report, reconciliation, client communication, or review process. Project stakeholders understood the relationship with clients and the service our professionals provide to them is collaborative; client and service provider work together to send information off to investors, auditors, regulatory personnel, and fund managers.

COUPLING INFORMATION WITH VISIBILITY

Therefore, one of the key design efforts in our client applications were process indicators where clients can clearly see the various stages of what we are working on and when clients could expect key deliverables. Clients can see workflow stages for reconciliations, pricing, report generation, and investor statements. Key indicators of these stages include when information has been received, where it is in the review process, when it is available to a client, and clients need to provide additional information or review key deliverables to keep the process moving forward. This coupling of information with visibility into the various stages of workflow provides a truly interactive environment that helps provide answers that clients are looking for, in addition to giving them an ability to accomplish key tasks that they are responsible for all within one space and reducing the reliance on e-mails and phone calls.

LEARNED RESULTS LEAD TO SOLUTION

Just as a library separates information into distinctive sections, U.S. Bancorp Fund Services has taken the approach that it is important to provide applications based on what task users are trying to accomplish. For example, we have developed an onboarding service portal where new and existing clients are only receiving information relating to status updates, open items on a request list, interactive tasks, items being reviewed or requiring client action, and document uploads and downloads needed to launch a new fund or convert information onto our platform.

On the other end of the spectrum we have CFOs, COOs, and operations personnel who are interested in all the aspects of data and information routinely used to create specialized reports for portfolio managers, regulatory personnel, and prospective investors. Our operations workstation allows users to access information and reports, provides operational transparency into what our service team is working on, and allows users to get access to reporting data on demand. In addition, we have incorporated visibility into our daily process via our reconciliation monitor. This monitor provides real time status on portfolio, cash, and position reconciliations in addition to allowing users the ability to view reconciliation status on a per-line item basis with interactive notes informing users how breaks are to be resolved.

As we continue to design and roll out new information applications to our clients, we recognize the need to take our time to first understand our clients' needs, what they are using that information for, and then building applications to best serve the needs of the hedge fund industry.

Steven Gargano is Senior Managing Director and Head of Product Development and Customer Support at U.S. Bancorp Fund Services within the Alternative Investment Solutions division. 

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