SEI Investments of Oaks, Pa., has enhanced the data management services it provides on an outsourced basis to investment managers of separately managed accounts with a new sales management program.
Its new Web-based SEI Manager Dashboard for SMAs allows investment managers, as well as sales and operations managers, to aggregate disparate data and look across multiple distributors' platforms from a single point of entry. It also offers some bells and whistles previously not available to separate account managers, including the ability to analyze this data and create reports.
The ability to collect information in a single software program will allow managers to move beyond merely processing accounts to be able to conduct important business-level decision making, said John Alshefski, head of new business development for SEI's investment manager services division. For example, this broader vantage point will let sales managers look at an investment firm's overall SMA business and determine what specific products are hot, what territories are bringing in the most new clients, and which sponsors, including specific reps, are producing the most new business.
"We believe this is the first of its kind in the SMA space," Alshefski said.
The dashboard pulls together portfolio management, accounting, and workflow system data, as well as sales management reporting and operations data. "There is a lot of information that is currently coming out of investment managers' legacy data systems, and then being analyzed," said Phil McCabe, managing director of product development for SEI's investment manager services unit. All of that data is critical in allowing firms to make good business decisions. But that analysis often means manually comparing Excel spreadsheets. "The dashboard makes all data more actionable, by taking bits and pieces of data spread out and then bringing it together to the fingertips of various managers," McCabe added.
The platform works by pulling data from various software programs into a single screen, or dashboard, to allow users to slice and dice the information and generate a number of reports. Comprised completely of SEI proprietary software, the dashboard was developed out of SEI's other outsourced services units and tailored for the separate account business, Alshefski said. SEI can also provide added customization as needed.
But SEI didn't just slap a sister unit's data management system into its SMA outsourcing services business, according to the firm. SEI selected the specific components to be included in the SMA dashboard by consulting with a dozen investment managers over a six-month period, McCabe said.
Right now, although the Money Management Institute is working to coordinate and standardize SMA data, "there is no centralized reporting middleman," said Ashley Rabun, managing director and founder of InvestorReach, a consulting firm headquartered in Mobile, Ala. "Managers looking at their own book of business across various sponsors can find that task manually intensive."
From an individual manager's perspective, it's often hard to even track each sponsor they are doing business with, she said. Plus, the different interfaces necessary to coordinate with varied sponsors can translate into a "geometric dispersion of problems across different sponsors." The goal of the dashboard is to be able to capture all of the data and allow managers to make better decisions and dedicate resources. Those decisions may include cutting, or adding to a sales force or even, in some cases, determining whether it is simply too expensive to be included in a particular sponsor's platform. "Sometimes the juice isn't worth the squeeze," Rabun said. That can be especially important as sponsors have been cutting managers' fees, she added.
SEI signed its first separately managed account client at the end of 2003 and has been servicing the SMA market in earnest since the summer of 2004. It now provides outsourced SMA services to six clients, adding MFS Investments of Boston to its client roster this past May.
There are a host of technology-related troubles within the separate account industry. The process of opening a new account alone can be cumbersome, since managers are working with 20 to 30 sponsors and each sponsor has its own criteria and flow of paperwork, noted Matt Schott, senior analyst at Tower Group of Needham, Mass. And then, even each manager has their own requirements and processes for opening new accounts.
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