A growing list of stakeholders means the middle office has to provide a range of flexible analysis and distribution services.
In every industry, the customer is always right. In today’s marketplace of higher customer expectations, that means more personal services, bespoke requirements, and individual needs.
The impact on the middle office is greater, simply because the number of stakeholders that the middle office serves continues to grow. Previously, the middle office was expected to provide month-end data to a small number of internal clients. Today, it is expected to provide reams of in-depth analysis across all asset classes to a large and growing number of stakeholders – both internally and externally. But who are the main stakeholders when it comes to middle office data, why do they need this information, and how do they need it presented?
Fund managers and the front office
The front office is the traditional client of the middle office for daily and month-end reporting. The aim is to provide the front office with independent performance, attribution, and risk analysis to understand what happened, why it happened, and what the cost or risk of the investment strategy was to the portfolio. The front office continues to need this, but the scope is broader, daily analysis across all portfolios and asset classes is needed and if the front office is to give up its collection of bespoke applications that create data silos and operational risk, then the middle office has to up its analysis distribution service levels.
The middle office can do this by extending the Performance Book of Record (PBOR) to the front office. This means that everyone is working from the same single platform and data set. No more data reconciliation problems or debates about whose data or calculation model is correct. The front office gains visibility to make decisions based on the most accurate, signed off and up-to-date data possible. This was previously impossible with legacy performance and risk systems because they simply couldn’t keep up with a daily process or show the analysis in the way the front office wanted to see it. New platforms with multi-model analysis support, cloud scalability, and customizable interfaces mean the days of the front and middle office using their own unique set of applications could be finally over.
Sales and marketing
Sales and marketing teams need to be able to explain the investment strategy to existing and potential new clients. Being able to tell the story of the portfolio in a clear and visual way is essential, especially in times where performance or risk isn’t what it should be. Producing content in short timescales is an important part of providing a service to sales and marketing teams, especially during time-critical RFPs. In many asset management firms, the sales slide deck is made up of predominantly middle office performance measurement analysis and charts. If the quality of this outward facing content is poor, it reflects negatively on the asset manager. Being able to use slick and professional charts and analysis directly from the performance and risk platform not only saves time, but shows potential clients you are working with modern technology and analysis platforms.
From a compliance, risk, and performance viewpoint, an eagle-eyed risk or compliance officer means that not having access to transparent, accurate, and timely analysis could be disastrous. Risk and compliance teams need to maintain accuracy at all times so that they can operate within regulatory risk limits and effectively assess and monitor changes on a daily basis.
They also need the tools to be able to provide an audit trail back to the regulator when required. To do this they need access to position, transaction, and pricing data for every portfolio managed, as well as the ability to include adjustments from events such as corporate actions and cash flows. They need their data to be both timely and accurate every single day without fail.
Senior management do not need the same levels of granularity as the front office or risk and compliance departments. They need to have a robust overview of all the portfolios and positions, risk and compliance, and an understanding of how things have changed or are going to change.
Senior management need to have enough information to know how to react quickly to market events and emerging trends, as well as knowing at what point they need to step in to steer others in a different direction. Having oversight across the business from a single platform with signed off data reduces the risk of poor decision making compared to analysis cobbled together from a collection of data sources and analytical models. Having the ability to view this level of analysis online also helps reduce the mountain of paper reports at board time.
Data management and developers
The data the middle office is producing every day has huge usage potential across many areas of an asset manager. Many firms are restructuring their data management processes and modernising underlying data structures and the technology that runs them. Performance and risk data is a valuable source of information and by providing this in a more manageable and flexible way, the middle office can raise its service levels.
A new approach to managing this data is to migrate away from inflexibled fixed format file transfers and exports. IT departments want data in a more fluid form and one way they can achieve this is by working with Web APIs. Extracting performance and risk data as and when needed into central data lakes means it's ready for downstream applications to subscribe to and make use of.
Different stakeholders need the middle office to provide them with something slightly different from the same data set. This is nigh on impossible without a platform that has the agility and flexibility to provide accurate, efficient, automated, solid process governance and therefore be able to bend and flex as and when required to customize output.
- The list of ‘clients’ that the middle office serves continues to grow.
- Each ‘client’ has unique priorities, such as speed, accuracy, or presentation layout.
- What all these stakeholders have in common is that they need the middle office to provide them with something slightly different from the same data set.
- Bringing the front and middle office together under a single platform for performance, risk, and compliance improves operational efficiency and reduces operational risk.
- Without a flexible and efficient platform, delivering services to each and every stakeholder efficiently is impossible.