Understanding the Options: Investment Processes vs. Operational Procedures
The range of tools available in today’s market reflects the increased diversity of operations among fixed income managers. To fully understand the role that technology plays in the asset management lifecycle, it is helpful to categorize the technology functions
under two universes: investment decision-making & executionand operational functions, although both are intertwined throughout the portfolio lifecycle. Nonetheless, investment processes and operational procedures can vary significantly from one
asset manager to another.
An Asset Manager’s Technology Ecosystem
While structure and setup of investment decision-making and execution functions may differ between firms, asset managers all conduct elements of portfolio management, risk management and trading. Portfolio managers make investment decisions in order to meet
performance objectives while operating within a set of portfolio objectives and constraints. Investors rely heavily on data, risk models and analytics to inform their investment decision processes. While many asset managers develop risk models and analytical
measures internally, it is commonplace for PMs to turn to vendors to provide tools and technology solutions for enhanced reporting and transparency to inform their portfolio management processes.
Beyond portfolio management, many fixed income units have a risk management arm that is separate from portfolio managers. Risk managers work closely with PMs to ensure that portfolios are being managed in accordance to set guidelines and various risk parameters.
Risk managers also need accurate pricing and security data along with complex models to fulfill their responsibilities.
The third arm of the investment decision-making domain is trading. Trading involves the generation of orders, primarily processed via an order management system (“OMS”), and the execution of those orders with market participants. This is an area that is
ripe for technological change as 80% of US Corporate fixed income trades by notional value were executed telephonicallyas of 2017.
While investment decision-making and execution are the primary front-office functions of the asset management firm, middle- and back-office roles are equally as important. After a trader says “Done”, there are a myriad of processes to be completed across
the compliance, accounting and investor relations teams. Trades need to be settled, cash must be properly tracked and moved and systems require regular reconciliation to ensure reporting is in line with the firm’s IBOR (“investment book of records”) where
all transactions are recorded and reconciled.
Operational functions of the asset manager can be tedious, manual processes if they are not technology-enabled. Given that middle- and back-office functions are so resource intensive, some asset managers have decided to fully or partially outsource those
laborious functions to a number of different vendors.
Data is fundamental to facilitating every action that asset managers perform from portfolio management to operational functions such as settling trades, recordkeeping and compliance.Investors require a large array of data on a daily or intra-daily basis,
requiring them to purchase feeds from multiple vendors. These systems allow PM’s to codify and process millions of data points for evaluating investment opportunities, modeling trades and benchmarking historical performance.
Historically, asset managers relied on internally-developed technology solutions in concert with manually maintained spreadsheets. As the fixed income landscape has changed, the effort to ingest, validate and process data has increased significantly, leading
many fixed income asset managers to look for more sophisticated data management solutions.
While deploying a combination of third party and internally built systems and tools have become commonplace for asset managers, the surplus of traditional and alternative data sources can overwhelm a fixed income desk.
Our next piece will explore the two primary approaches to building out a technology system where we provide criteria to help managers evaluate their current technology systems and consider the appropriate strategies to support their operating models.