EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW & INSIGHTS
New software versions and updates are dominating the financial space, from the latest FinTech to the regulations in which they operate. For client reporting specifically, processing high-volumes of reports is essential for firms to keep up the pace with both client expectations and how they rank with their competitors.
Ahead of the Client Reporting & Communications Forum (CRC) in November, we caught up with Ruffer LLP’s Technology Lead and Business Analyst, Frederic Lalande, who will be presenting the ‘Challenges & Benefits of Building a High-Volume Client Reporting Platform in House’.
Discover how Ruffer’s new platform is paving the way for a smoother and more efficient client reporting future.
Moving with the Regulatory Times
Following the multiple regulations that have come into effect in 2018, Ruffer’s decision to build their own platform happened to come about at the right time. “The building of the platform was not directly in relation to these requirements. Basically, we built this platform because we wanted to improve our clients’ experience in terms of reporting and digital delivery” Frederic explains. “We had some limitations in extracting data from the accounting system we use. Therefore, we made the decision to build a ‘Golden Source’ database into which we upload information from the accounting system.”
Our client reports were historically generated from our accounting system, which calculated some data while generating the reports, but did not store all of this data. We had to replicate some calculations in order to generate and store the missing data points. We built the platform so we have the data available to produce quarterly client valuations and other reports efficiently.”
In fact, aligning the new platform to comply with the latest regulations has been seamless. “We haven’t had any issues ensuring that our new client reports meet regulatory requirements. We also have developed an internal portal where compliance, legal and the Front Office can create, edit and manage report notes, additional content and disclaimers.
Ruffer’s automated platform has recently gone live with some early positive feedback. “The new client reporting system is now live, with paper and virtual reports, which are uploaded directly to our online client portal. So far, the feedback has been positive,” Frederic says. “There is an improvement in format and content, and we have built the platform to produce reports in dynamic PDF document format, so that clients can navigate to different pages directly from the content.”
One of the major benefits of this exercise is that Ruffer can access all reporting data from a single source. “This means we will be able to leverage these data points for other internal requirements, such as client presentations.” Frederic confirms.
In addition to the enhancements, Frederic draws attentions to the challenges and complications the company has overcome with the software roll-out. “There have been a few challenges! For the platform to be reliable, the main complication was ensuring the data in the Golden Source database exactly matched the accounting system.” Frederic reiterates: “As I previously mentioned, there are some data points that we can directly download from the accounting system. But, for some data, which we call ‘derived data’, we needed to recalculate and reengineer the accounting system processes. With our reconciliation engine, we can compare the data in the two systems to ensure all of our reporting data is accurate.”
To monitor for any issues during the processes, Ruffer’s platform has been created to highlight any discrepancies that might affect client reporting. “We’ve built dashboards so that the different teams – from front office to risk management – can see exactly where there is a divergence between the data points on the accounting system and our database. This is what we call a ‘break’ and all ‘breaks’ are assigned to appropriate teams, so that they can amend, add comments, or conduct further research,” Frederic outlines. “Everything gets reconciled daily, which is making client reporting a far smoother process than it was previously.” Along the way, there have been a few hiccups to sort out too: “The first time we carried out the reconciliations, we discovered over a million ‘breaks’! [LAUGHS] We had to investigate so we could understand the reason why either the accounting system or our platform wasn’t doing the right thing. It took a bit of time before we got there, but the reconciliation process has certainly been the biggest challenge.”
Let’s Look at the Stats
The level of efficiency the platform provides has been needed for some time, according to SimCorp Coric’s recently published WBR Insights Report. The findings from the 100 buy-side executives they surveyed show that 66% admitted how time-consuming data gathering is in relation to client communications and reporting. “I do agree with this. Data gathering and ensuring data accuracy remains a very significant part of the client reporting process,” Frederic states. “You need to get information from different companies or supply chains and put that together, before it goes through the different reporting engines, ensuring all of it is accurately rendered. It’s a very hard job. The platform that we’ve built will significantly reduce the need for manual intervention because we’re directly generating reports from the ‘Golden Source’.”
How does it work? “Within one place, we have everything we need to produce a report, including the data, notes, and disclaimers. Also, the reconciliation team look at any divergences there may be. We then use web technologies to generate PDF and paper copies. The reporting team can then discuss any queries our investment managers may have. Overall, the data gathering exercise has been vastly simplified and organised within the reporting database.”
In the same report by SimCorp Coric, 50% of the sample audience stated they still use systems more than five years old. With this in mind, we wanted to know what advice the Technology Lead and Business Analyst would give to businesses in this position, who may be wary of outsourcing or still harbour fears about integrating new technologies. “Our previous system was older than 5 years, and had served us well, so it’s not that unusual to hear. It’s very difficult to change to a new system because projects like these are lengthy and costly. To build an in house system the size of ours is not common either. We’re talking about having the ability to meet all of our reporting requirements” Frederic says. “The reason we built a new platform is because we had very specific requirements to produce high-quality reports. We couldn’t find a system that could graphically do what we wanted in a customised way – like adding cartoons to the reports! But we have a lot of bright people in our IT department to help us tick all the boxes.”
What’s next for Client Reporting?
How does Ruffer envisage the next generation of client reporting, you may ask? “I thought I explained this with our in house platform? [LAUGHS] I’m kidding. The new generation of client reporting is going to be more dynamic and digital-first,” Frederic muses. “There is demand from clients who want to access information on their portfolios online in an easier way. There’ll also be more transparency in the future, so clients can see in more detail how their investment managers are supporting their needs.”
Don’t miss Frederic Lalande’s ‘Challenges & Benefits of Building a High-Volume Client Reporting Platform in House’ presentation at the Client Reporting & Communications Forum (CRC) on 28-29 November!