Used to be that fund managers and investment advisers had to go find, grab and pull back what information they could glean from company systems to determine what assets they or their customers held, how they got there and what was happening with them.
Not any longer. Now, there's so much data being collected and pushed at fund managers and investment advisers that they can-and almost must-become their own chief information officers.
In fact, says Robert Roley, director of solutions consulting for Advent Software, getting the right data delivered to the desktop-or mobile-screen is largely a matter of self-service. The user decides what he or she needs to see, what format to see it in and whether it gets delivered at a discrete time or all the time.
Welcome to the world of always-on automated and customized data on fund and account performance. Enter your username and password just once-and you have access to a constantly growing set of applications to help figure out how to manage money. Create a search for the accounts that represent your best customers and it'll get saved, automatically, for future use. Have benchmarks you like for judging how an investment should be performing and you can get a constant display of underperformers and overperformers.
You can even figure out, ahead of time, if you're an adviser, which customer does not have enough cash on hand to pay your fees, before the bill goes out, says Kris Pettit, senior internal sales consultant at Cetera Financial Group. By identifying the shortage, the adviser can turn a potential surprise into a simple matter of liquidating a security in time. Or even take the opportunity to recommend other changes that might even earn the fees back, for the customer.
In fact, as new generations of fund and account management software arrive, it almost doesn't matter where the information lies or how it arrives. The distinction between "pulling" data from a central server or data center and getting it "pushed" at you is vanishing.
"For the vast majority of content, it can work in either mode,'' Roley said. "When you define a dashbaord, that can be consumed in a number of fashions. Maybe I just want one e-mail at the end of the day, that zips this to me in an Excel file or a PDF report that kicks off either on a schedule. Let's say 6 p.m. every day, or based on triggers, so once certain processes have occurred, go ahead and shoot this out to the rest of the firm.
"So it can be done on a push basis like that or on a pull basis where I log in and say pull up the P&L dashboard,'' Let it be calculated and thrown up on screen, he says.
THE FUND MANAGER VIEW
Fund managers will want to see key metrics on how their investments are performing and what their exposures are to different counter parties where the money they have invested on behalf of a large clientele have been placed.
They also have to deal with overarching (and constantly expanding) regulatory requirements. Example: In Europe, no more than 10% of the net asset value of a fund can be invested in a derivative security with a single counterparty.
The key, Roley says, is to make sure now that a fund manager can "subscribe" to reports that they define, that they determine when to deliver and in the format they choose to get them delivered in, whether email, PDF document or spreadsheet.
What the self-service approach now allows, however, is a greater ability to define not just what data to collect, but when to collect it. For instance, it used to be that you could only calculate your fund's exposures to different counterparties of risks after a trade was both booked and the proceeds allocated to all accounts.
Now, the firmwide exposure, Roley said, can be calculated once the trade is booked.
The firm's product, Geneva, used to assume "because it was more of a back office system, was that data was sort of complete, you were done for the day and all the data the system was getting was assumed to be complete," he said. But that is no longer the case.
"But what we did with Geneva 8 is we no longer are making the assumption that the data we are getting has gone through step one through 5 of its life."
Analysis can be "more up to the minute" because now fund managers can choose to include data on exposures or performance "based on where it is" in the trade lifecycle.
And, of course, different fund managers will have different views of what the right point is to pull different pieces of data on trades into the screens they watch, during the trading day.
Here are some views of what a fund manager now can serve up, on a regular basis of his or her own choosing:
EXPOSING COUNTERPARTY EXPOSURE: In one three-part window, Advent's Geneva 8.0 application lets investment advisors drill down into holdings maintained with different funds, down to individual securities (left); see what their greatest exposures are, either long or short, with particular counterparties are, on an aggregate level (top right); and then, how well those exposures are spread or not among different counterparties (bottom right).
TRADE MANAGEMENT: Geneva allows users to track trades in all phases on one trade blotter, giving the middle office full control of all stages of the trade lifecycle. Market data can be pulled in, before trades are executed; Transaction information can be pushed out to order management systems afterward.
THE INVESTMENT ADVISER VIEW
The Cetera Financial Group, Los Angeles, provides technology, services and advisory programs to about 5,000 independent financial professionals affiliated with its three independently managed B/Ds: Financial Network Investment Corporation, Multi-Financial Securities Corp. and PrimeVest Financial Services Inc.
The latest version of its self-service software for advisers, known as Advisory Online 2.0, allows those advisers to get immediate access to its complete set of SmartWorks applications by logging in just once to the service as a whole.
Once in, the system is already set up to answer the most common questions the Cetera advisers face: What fees were paid by each household or each account in a given tax year and what are the realized gains or losses on a given portfolio.
This last question used to take two to five minutes to figure out for each customer. For an adviser with a rather typical 600 accounts, that can be tremendously time-consuming, Pettit notes.
Now, the advisers can define what accounts belong to a particular household and get regular reports on the performance of that household's total portfolio of assets, whether in a trust, a managed account or a retirement fund, for instance. The effect of applying different methods of accounting for transactions is easy to show, so the customer can select whether the most recent sale of a security should be matched against the first or not.
All data is "fully filterable," said Pettit. Meaning: You pick what data to show in what columns on what screen. And how you want to get results reported to yourself - and your customer.
Here are some examples of what an adviser, at his or her own volition, can now choose to do.
DRAG RACE: AdvisoryOnline 2.0 allows investment advisors to drag as many financial, demographic, transaction and identification characteristics as each wants into a custom ongoing dashboard about clients. Here, the "closing method" which defines the accounting method used for the specific portfolio. Cetera has several accounting method choices for their advisors to choose, helping create tax harvesting opportunities.
NO SEARCH FOR DATA: The overall performance from inception, quarter-to-date, and year-to-date, for any account is automatically produced, by a single menu selection and click on an account holder's name.