We recently chatted with Eamonn Greaves, Global Co-Head of Sales at SS&C Technologies. We discussed SS&C's product suite, strategic direction, and a number of trends driving change across asset management including fee pressure, data access, and robotic process automation. Read on for insights from Eamonn on these topics and more.
SS&C’s breadth of solutions and services extends across the investment lifecycle and you’re continually expanding these capabilities. At a time when many asset managers are looking to simplify their operating model, does SS&C see clients coming to you for a single solution set across the front, middle, and back office?
Eamonn: That’s a good question. For the most part, the larger the organization, the more comprehensive of a solution they are looking to deploy. I think large asset managers, in general, have grown in a legacy environment with many solutions that they would continuously work to bring together. With how technology and the industry have evolved, many of the tools, products, and services that firms like SS&C bring can run from the front office to the back.
That comprehensive solution set is very attractive—fewer vendors to manage, contracts to worry about, a single data source, and higher accuracy. The ability to aggregate information and run analytics on top of that information is something that most firms struggle with. If you can get a single solution across all operations, you can manage that data more effectively today than you ever did in the past.
One hesitation asset managers may have with a single solution model is the potential amplification of vendor risk. How do you address that kind of feedback from managers who aren’t accustomed to working through just one partner?
Eamonn: That comes down to the importance of choosing the right partner. Resiliency is built into the business if you're selecting a well-established firm like SS&C. Our success hinges on ensuring we can deliver to our customers and have the infrastructure to support that. The resiliency level would be very different if you were choosing a smaller provider that may not have that robust infrastructure in place.
Vendor risk is always a consideration for large firms, but I also think that large firms are knowledgeable about risks. Our clients know that risk mitigation comes from working with an established provider network with a proven business model.
What are the most notable changes you’ve seen in your clients’ operating models or in their priorities over the past few years?
Eamonn: Technology and service availability has evolved, but many firms have not developed their operating platform simultaneously. So much has changed in the past five years, and what many of our prospects and customers are looking at is a transformation of their overall operating model and readiness for the future.
One major shift is that back-office talent has migrated from asset management firms to service providers, which means considerable industry consolidation. Finding talent for in-house roles is a lot more complicated than it used to be and asset managers are re-assessing what's core to their business. They want to distill their focus and how they can best generate returns and manage customers rather than reinventing the wheel and trying to perform operational tasks incrementally better than a service provider.
Another driver for change has been the pressure around fees and the increasing need for access to data. As more funds have taken on institutional investors, the requirements for access to timely information are top of mind for our prospects and customers. Investor demand put a lot of pressure on operations and coupled with fee pressure, has prompted managers to get a clear view of their core competencies.
For some, this may mean making incremental changes to their operating model over time; for others, this may mean big-bang change. We see it on both ends.
We are seeing an uptick in focus in partnerships in the solutions space, even from the holistic, front-to-back solutions and services providers, does SS&C have a strategy around partnering with external solutions providers?
Eamonn: Yes, we do. Through partnerships, SS&C has grown, and we have an open architecture technology environment. We have the tools and services to fulfill an entire front-to-back solution. Still, if customers prefer a specific software application they've been using for a long time or want to pull data from an application and make those components part of our front-to-back solution, we can do that. We can interface with any provider out there. We understand not one size fits all, so we like to work with our customers to develop the appropriate service for them.
One industry to watch this year has been insurance. What is driving increase in activity in the insurance space with regard to system and operational improvement?
Eamonn: SS&C’s business was founded on securities processing, general ledger accounting and statutory reporting for insurance companies, so this is a space we know very well. We pride ourselves on being steeped in the insurance industry, and this increased activity results from our customers wanting exposure to new asset classes outside of traditional investments. Insurance asset management requires investments in asset classes that will provide stable cash flows that are longer-term in nature, allowing for long-term investments in less liquid assets. Insurance back offices have typically been set-up for listed types of securities, but as investment teams get credit instruments, they need better technology platforms for processing, analytics, and reporting.
In short, we see recent trends requiring insurance companies to reimagine their technology and operating models. The goal is to ensure they have adequate systems to handle the operational, accounting, and regulatory nuances associated with the more complex asset types and the proper staffing expertise. This reimagined operating model includes advanced risk and performance analytical systems that can holistically manage and monitor risk and performance across all asset types.
What technologies are you most excited about in re-shaping investment operations in the future—say a 10-year time horizon?
Eamonn: Robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, and workflow management are exciting growth areas. SS&C acquired a firm called Blue Prism that allows us to take a process from end to end, put it under a microscope, and try to understand how that process works and what systems are involved. We can program a digital worker to run that process from end to end.
Large institutions will have to get on board for RPA to become ubiquitous – it’s real and will only become more critical. Given that we tend to be the largest users of our technology, we are looking at how to digitize workflow and processes to get maximum efficiency within our organization. Still, it's also to help reduce error rates and give information to our customers at a faster pace than we have ever been able to before. We're going through a process where we're automating tasks today that people traditionally did and we're having great success.
So that was my last question here, but I’d like to leave it with you for any last comments. Is there anything that we didn't touch on that you want to talk about?
Eamonn: Market turmoil forces you to look at what's going on, how to pivot, what to invest in, and what to put off to the side and come back to later. In challenging times for the entire industry, staying focused is essential. So some of this year has been introspective in that we’re stepping back and ensuring that we're well-positioned to continue to grow. We're a pure-play technology company, not a bank, custodian, or asset manager. This is our only business, and we think and talk about technology all day. We always encourage our clients to key in on their core competencies and we’ve done the same. I believe that focus is what helps keep us thriving.
For more information on what other solutions providers are doing in this space, read our Solutions Market Perspective Series.