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NICSA awards industry veterans and leaders for innovation

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This year's top honorees in NICSA's NOVA Awards can be characterized by their attention to two goals: cost reduction and furthering innovation.

Mark Casady, LPL's former chief executive, sees a leaner U.S. asset management industry expanding its markets across the globe. Casady was honored for his strategic leadership.

As the industry moves to add new, smarter technology, it needs to balance such growth with its impact on managers, says Steven Duncan, former co-president of American Funds, who was bestowed with a lifetime achievement award.

State Street CEO Jay Hooley received the NOVA award for outstanding service to the fund industry.

Among the efforts he is guiding at State Street is a multiyear, billion-dollar digital overhaul of the firm called Beacon.

NICSA also awarded four industry executives for their efforts to drive change at their respective firms. For instance, Kelli O'Brien, a vice president at JPMorgan Chase, strives to help the firm stay on top of regulatory demands.

The organization also recognized industry excellence among firms. BNY Mellon, DST Systems and State Street received accolades for their innovation and operational achievements.

NOVA Strategic Leadership Award
Mark Casady, former CEO of LPL Financial
LPL Financial's former CEO Mark Casady, acknowledged for his leadership, expects the industry's focus on lowering costs will result in new markets both in the U.S., and globally.

"This is what led me to found Vestigo Ventures," he said of the fintech startup he launched in 2016. "Startups of today are doing work that will help those established players innovate and continue their impressive growth. Many of those established players at NICSA are trying various types of models for learning new skills and partnering with start-ups to compete in this new world."

Casady received top honor from NICSA this year with the Nova Strategic Leadership Award. He attributes his success to those he worked with throughout his career at firms like Deutsche Asset Management, Americas - formerly Scudder Investments - Concord Financial Group and Northern Trust.

"I know many who do great things for the industry and [NICSA], so I feel very special knowing that so many friends from the industry made this happen," he said.

Casady, a former FINRA board member, now serves on LPL's board as non-executive chairman, as well as general partner and chairman at Vestigo. He is also a board member for EZE Software Group, Citizens Financial and as an advisor to Jobcase.

"I do feel this recognition is about the entire financial services industry coming together to make processes better and faster for consumers," Casady said. "I may be the name on the honor but it is for everyone who has worked to make our industry better over the years."

NICSA Lifetime Achievement Award
Steve Duncan, American Funds
After 22 years, Steve Duncan, the former co-president of American Funds, part of Capital Group, says he is looking forward to the future of digital innovation.

"The industry, which is a human capital business, will need to focus on balancing the opportunities inherent in this technology with the people implications," Duncan said. "I trust the industry leaders will strive to balance the potential cost savings with the human training and development changes that will be required to ensure a smooth transition."

Duncan, who spent his career at Capital Group — for 17 years — Fidelity Investments and Citibank, says preparations for the fiduciary rule combined with the proliferation of artificial intelligence are two examples of where collaboration efforts will become vital for managers to succeed.

"Clearly you never expect to be recognized in this fashion so it is quite humbling," Duncan said of the honor by NICSA. "I think there are many others within the industry that are deserving of this kind of recognition."

Robert L. Gould Award
State Street CEO Jay Hooley
Few chief executives new to the role would voluntarily elect a path of tough financial measures, but less than a year into his role as State Street CEO, Jay Hooley decided to spend millions to support investors in cash collateral investment pools run by SSgA.

For Hooley, the decision to deal with the challenges the custodian experienced in the financial crisis was necessary to maintain reputation and confidence.

"You have to weigh what's best for the long-term health and sustainability of the company, but it's still difficult to make any decision that affects someone's livelihood," Hooley once told Boston magazine.

Hooley has continued to lead the firm through change since, including its acquisition of General Electric's asset management arm, directing additional billions in shareholder dividends and repurchases, and steering its "Beacon" digital upgrade effort. Hooley has been with State Street for three decades now in various leadership roles, the last being president and chief operating officer in 2008.

NOVA Award for Emerging Leaders in the Asset Management Industry
Michael Akins, SVP & Head of ETFs, ALPS
Michael Akins heads the ETF division for ALPS Advisors and says one of the biggest challenges for the industry continues to be the shift to passively managed funds.

"While on a whole I believe this is a positive for the industry," Akins says, "there is the idea the pendulum will swing too far creating a number of unforeseen risks."

As the point man for all portfolios in the firm's ETF Trust, Akins is responsible for product development and strategy, as well as, the refinement and implementation of the equity portfolio management process. Atkins says he expects the industry will turn toward products that are best suited for the end investors.

"Innovation needs to be in the area of access to alternative investments for all investors," Akins says.

Akins has over 15 years financial industry experience formerly with UMB Financial as a compliance and fiduciary risk manager. Prior to UMB, Akins was an account manager at State Street Financial.

Patrick Hurley, VP, OppenheimerFunds
Patrick Hurley, vice president of intermediary operations at OppenheimerFunds, has been instrumental in bringing efficiency and automation to the firm.

He began his career at OppenheimerFunds as an assistant supervisor and has since worked in client services managing the college and retirement plan groups, among other positions. "I started in the mailroom scanning in applications," Hurley says. "I've always been given the freedom to try new things."

Actively involved on the ICI Broker Dealer Advisory Committee, Hurley also serves as a member of the College Savings Plan Network Operations Sub-Committee. He previously sat on the NICSA Retirement Plans Sub-Committee and the ICI Technology and Processing Efficiencies Sub-Group.

Looking forward, Hurley hopes to continue to bring innovation to the industry to increase efficiencies. "An ever-changing regulatory environment and greater complexity in the marketplace requires greater focus on operational efficiency," Hurley says. "That, to me, is an area where innovative solutions could play a huge role."

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Divya Mathew, Senior Manager, Deloitte
More than a decade, Deloitte & Touche Senior Manager Divya Mathew has served clients in the financial services industry.

Her experience spans Sarbanes Oxley reviews, SOC 1 examinations, operational risk and control assessments and internal audits. Matthews leads professionals and global teams in the execution of internal control attestations, designing and implementing control frameworks at both public and private companies.

"I've been most proud every time I've been able to successfully lead a team of professionals to strategic thinking and solutioning," Mathew says. "I'm only 10 years deep into my career and hope many more accomplishments are still to come."

As the industry faces expected challenges from the federal fiduciary rule and ever-changing client demands, Mathew sees the biggest need for innovation in this space as lying within building continuity plans.

"Threats to business continuity are far greater these days due to the rise of hackers, growing use of third-parties, and even the increasing regularity of landmark weather events," Mathew says.

Kelli O'Brien, Vice President, JPMorgan
While keeping up with a changing regulatory landscape and market demand, Kelli O'Brien, vice president and fund services product manager for the Americas within JPMorgan's Corporate & Investment Bank, also strives to drive the firm's accounting and administration business.

Looking ahead, O'Brien says "the most important developments in the asset management space are going to be those that reduce costs for the end shareholders."

Before joining JPM's product team in 2014, she was a senior regulatory administration advisor leading the regulatory services team at the firm's fund administration group.

O'Brien spent two years serving as the co-chair of the Massachusetts Chapter of JPMorgan's Women's Network, something she describes as some of the work she is most proud of.

"During that time period we were able to significantly increase both our membership base and our funding levels therefore allowing us to expand our programming opportunities and reach more women across the organization," O'Brien says.

NOVA Award for Innovation in Technology
A multitude of technology initiatives at BNY Mellon
BNY Mellon has launched a series of technology-driven initiatives. Among them, in September, the custody bank launched LoanArc, an online loan reporting solution for corporate trust clients. In June, BNY Mellon's Pershing has launched a no-transaction-fee ETF platform called FundVest ETF.

Pershing Advisor Solutions continues to expand its B2B digital advice offerings, with SigFig, Advisor Engine, Invesco's Jemstep Advisor Pro and AI-powered Marstone all options. Internally, it recruited Dee Sommerville from Morgan Stanley to integrate its change and re-engineering group, data analytics and program management departments.

"The Internet of Things, blockchain, smart contracts and artificial intelligence technologies will increasingly converge to create greater automation and efficiency, even in our personal lives," said Christopher Mager, head of global innovation at BNY Mellon Treasury Services.

NOVA Award for Innovation in Product Development & Marketing
DST Systems develops a deep industry outreach
Among the accolades earned by Kansas City-based DST Systems this year was praise from Forrester Research for AWD, its digital automation and business process management platform.

DST's ALPS subsidiary has developed new products as well, launching a factor ETF to capture momentum investing with Dorsey, Wright & Associates. It expanded its service provision this year as well, acquiring State Street's ownership interest in Boston Financial Data Services and the International Financial Data Services joint venture in the U.K. And after acquiring industry research firm kasina in 2015, DST has positioned itself as a leader in advisory and strategy.

DST released guidance on how managers can handle the disruption within and launched a new series on competitive guidance for the future. One DST research fact: Nearly 46% of advisors say they will not need to meet with wholesalers by 2020, while 77% of firms believe advisors will prefer digital interactions over sales team contact.

NOVA Award for Operational Excellence
State Street's digital efforts embrace industrywide disruption
Setting an operational example for other custodians, State Street has committed to digitally upgrading its internal systems in a massive effort known as Beacon.

The effort to embrace disruption throughout the industry seeks to digitize ass aspects of the firm's operations, from client interfaces to net asset value calculations. The objective is to speed up processes and make work more efficient, removing barriers for clients to do business with the custodian. Executives describe Beacon as more than a just a cost-cutting effort. They say it is a structural change in the how the $2.6 trillion firm looks at the service delivered to a client and how State Street delivers that service to a client, instead of focusing on a business or a product.

Data capability is key to the effort, says State Street CEO Jay Hooley, who has explained that a goal of Beacon is to enable a client's global data to pass through the firm's systems automatically, and generate real-time data.

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