Coveting More Data and Technology? Why?

Digital watch being adjusted at night with lights in background

My son wants an Apple Watch for Christmas. He’s 11. When I ask why he wants one he says, “Because it’s cool, Mom” with the unspoken “duh”—to his credit—remaining unsaid. Undaunted, I press him: “Yes, but why? Tell me what, specifically, you think you’re going to use it for?”

In the age of iPhones, iPads, and XBOX live, my kids are connected every waking moment of the day they are not in school, and that is only because they’re not allowed. The Apple Watch is my son’s clever-11-year-old way around that restriction. His reasoning—or lack thereof—resulted in a spirited debate, but in the end, I put my foot down which ultimately led to a one-hour period where he wouldn’t talk to me (ah, the blessed silence).

Funny enough, I started to draw correlations between this debate with my son and why we inherently want more without even understanding or being able to articulate the why. Just because as a justification to business cases and requirements are just as much a part of the investment management industry but can have larger ramifications than your child insisting you’re trying to “keep them in the Stone Age.”

In an environment of changing regulations, expanding reporting requirements and increased pressures on the front office, the need to have more innovation, more functionality, more data, more everything, has become commonplace in the industry. More, more, more.

But are we asking the right questions? What are we trying to achieve, what are the benefits, who are the consumers? In a nutshell: why?

Every organization has different needs but there are a few common questions that asset managers should be asking before undertaking new initiatives.

  • Is your architecture integrated across the entire investment lifecycle to allow for transparency, scalability, and growth, or do you have disparate systems requiring different processes and support models?
  • Does your organization have a robust enterprise data model with easy access to timely and accurate data to make investment decisions or is time spent reconciling and unraveling questionable data before this can take place?
  • Is there a robust operations team in place with a focus on operational efficiency or is there a multitude of manual processes and workarounds calling into question the accuracy of the data?

Without an understanding of the above, integrating “more” into an organization may result in unknowingly introducing inefficiencies and stress on the infrastructure, processes, and support models currently in place.

Both the why and the benefits must be clearly articulated and cannot be single-team focused with the objective of having the latest and greatest cool gadgets. There also needs to be a general understanding and subsequent buy in from the organization as well as the teams who will ultimately be responsible for providing the required support.

There has traditionally been a significant divide among back, middle, and front office but the reality is that one cannot achieve its full potential without the other. There is a direct correlation between the success of the front office and the teams that support them. By looking at the ask and answering the why from the point of view of the investment lifecycle as a whole, greater success will in turn be achieved as a whole.