This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Newsletter Issue II - September 2010

The operational infrastructure of an investment manager is the very essence of what gives it life. Maintaining and enhancing it is especially complex, due to the ever changing and interrelated combination of client demands, regulations and investment products and structures, coupled with the speed and daily cycling of its business processes. These very reasons call for a disciplined approach toward infrastructure evaluation, renewal and improvements. More than ever, implementing and maintaining a periodically renewable operational infrastructure roadmap is an imperative, and not just a nice to have.

Perform Baseline Business Process Assessment

The starting point for this is a business process centered approach. A high level evaluation of your firm’s major business processes must be conducted based upon the following criteria:

Fulfillment of Requirements Ability to meet all current and future anticipated requirements including timeliness and frequency of performing the process
Scalability Ability to successfully process increased business without a commensurate increase in human resources
Risk Control Ability to conduct a process with low risk of inaccuracy, financial or reputational loss, or inability due to key member absence
Data Availability & Reporting Ability to access and satisfy any reporting requirements associated with data currently captured in the process

Each business process must be evaluated cross-functionally. This evaluation should be based on an intra-firm perspective, but also give consideration to knowledge of competitors and industry best practices. It is also very important to recognize that business processes are highly inter-dependent. Therefore, they need to be analyzed both on a standalone basis as well as how they impact one another.

Determine How To Solve For Gaps and Limitations

The key components of the operational infrastructure must then be analyzed to identify potential opportunities to enhance the firm’s business processes. This analysis would include:

  • Systems – understanding functionality gaps/limitations and potential work-arounds, unused functionality that could be exploited and data integration effectiveness
  • Data – key data requirements and sources, unfulfilled needs, accuracy issues, accessibility and reporting gaps
  • Processes – issues with efficiency, control, timeliness, etc.
  • Organization – departmental responsibilities, ambiguities and overlap, missing key roles, centralize vs. decentralize, specialists vs. generalists, etc.

As a result of the above, a set of potential tactical and strategic initiatives to address long term needs should be developed. The initiatives must be prioritized and placed within a high level multi-year timeline.  On an ongoing quarterly basis, a full reassessment of the plan should be performed to include updates for completed initiatives, re-prioritization of existing initiatives, adding new initiatives, and recasting the timeline, to name a few. This process should then result in a formal quarterly meeting with senior management to discuss challenges and future needs, gain buy-in for priorities, approval for funding and other pertinent topics.

Conclusion

Limitations in time, people and financial capital are a given when it comes to maintaining and improving the operational infrastructure. Organizations must choose wisely on how to prioritize their efforts. Although every decision requires an explicit outlay of scarce resources, it also carries a related opportunity cost. Maintaining a roadmap is a must!

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