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FUNDS’ RUSH TO THE CLOUD MUST NOT BE A BOX TICKING EXERCISE

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By Ed Gouldstone, Global Head of R&D for Asset Management at Linedata

 

The fund management industry has held up remarkably well against the strains of Covid-19 – from a dramatic spike in market volatility to the sudden shift to remote working. However, the quantum leap in digitalisation spurred on by the pandemic has underscored the disparities between fund houses’ journeys to cloud – some are quite far along, while others are quickly having to play catch-up.

However, the need to rapidly advance digitalisation efforts must not result in cloud migration becoming a box ticking exercise. Some managers may be tempted by the convenience of a ‘lift and shift’ approach. That is, simply building their cloud infrastructure as if it was their existing data centre without optimising it for cloud. This is by far the quickest option but, if rushed, it doesn’t necessarily bring the cost-saving and flexibility benefits that managers are looking for. Cloud provides for advanced levels of security that go beyond traditional deployed models, but only when the necessary tools are put in place. Fund managers therefore need to put in the required thinking beforehand, to ensure the optimisation and any necessary re-engineering of tools whilst accelerating shift to the cloud.

 

The risks of rushing cloud adoption

Elasticity is one particular area where cost savings come from in the cloud, because cloud is designed to scale up and down as and when you need it. When migrating infrastructure to the cloud, fund managers must ensure that the all applications are optimised in a way that enables horizontal scalability, as many legacy applications are built around a fixed number of servers. This could impede the potential to quickly scale up operations in rapidly changing markets, inhibiting fund managers’ growth ambitions and ability to compete.

Ed Gouldstone

Another risk of rushing the transition to cloud, is that a lift and shift approach can actually increase costs when computing and storage practises are not rationalised. Migrating existing infrastructure as it is also means migrating all existing inefficiencies along with it, such as zombie servers, duplicated workloads, and outdated records. By not doing the due diligence to ensure excess computing capacity is left behind, companies could seriously diminish the cost savings they would have otherwise enjoyed.

Building resilience into operations is of paramount importance for fund managers who are planning to migrate to the cloud. Although infrastructure is more secure with cloud, the greater accessibility it allows means that points of entry on the client side can be weak spots if not properly protected. This must not become overlooked in a rushed cloud migration. Unlike with private data centres and VPN access where hardware offers protection, extra layers of authentication need to be added to endpoints to ensure the security of the system, while enabling access from any device. This is even more necessary in our highly regulated industry, where fund managers are dealing with large client funds and processing vast quantities of real-time financial data.

 

Realising the opportunities provided by cloud

When handled correctly, a successful migration to cloud offers fund managers a great opportunity to drive digital transformation, scale their businesses and upgrade the technology they rely on. Perhaps the biggest driver for cloud adoption, the pay as you go, on-demand scalability offered by cloud providers, enables rapid growth and reduces costs. Previously, in order to scale up, businesses would have to install new hardware and pay for its maintenance, as well as acquire the physical space that new servers take up. This process is much slower and more expensive than the quickly scalable, pay-as-you-go cloud, but expert guidance is crucial to avoid the aforementioned risk of transferring excess computing power, and ensuring applications are scalable so that potential cost savings are realised.

Another major driver to migrate infrastructure to the cloud is the data analytics capabilities available. The cloud’s ability to support data lakes that can store structured and unstructured data at any scale and operate real-time analytics, provides unique opportunities to create new insights and therefore greater value. The data lakes enable better use of the artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that are reaching maturity and are increasingly mission critical. This is crucial in a market where margins are getting smaller and traditional investment models are being challenged. Analytics can create value throughout all operations, from the front office through to the back office, whether it is sentiment analysis of client engagement, or reducing operating costs through process automation.

In terms of security, while moving to public cloud does imply some inherent loss of in-house control compared to historic ‘installed’ technology models, the bottom line is that cloud providers offer robust levels of security unmatched by in-house technology installations. But it is still critical that firms have the requisite knowledge about cloud deployment and cybersecurity, or partner with a technology service provider that does, who can protect endpoints with new identity and access measures such as two-factor authentication.

The need to migrate to cloud infrastructure has become more pressing at a time when fund managers are increasingly introducing flexible working for the long-term. While implementing a cloud first business strategy is now considered crucial for longevity, it must not be rushed at the risk of costly mistakes and the perpetuation of outdated operating models that limit adaptability. A rapid, productive cloud migration is still possible, but firms need to ensure they have well-considered plans and strong partnerships with experts in place to ensure success.

 

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ACCESSPAY AND YAPILY PARTNER TO RE-DEFINE CORPORATE CASH MANAGEMENT

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FinTech scale-up AccessPay is pioneering a new Treasury solution for corporates, using Open Banking.

Enabled by Yapily, a leading Open Banking infrastructure provider, it will provide thousands of UK businesses real-time visibility into their cash position and transaction flows.

The integration enables AccessPay users to connect and aggregate their entire corporate banking estate at the click of a button.

This not only reduces the friction of using multiple systems, but significantly decreases the time-to-value for corporates from months to minutes.

The ability to join together data from multiple connectivity channels, means AccessPay can deliver a global solution, whilst enhancing the user experience within the EEA.

Until now, some corporates relied on outdated and manual processes to reconcile payments and manage cash across several company accounts. This presented costly challenges when monitoring financial performance and cash management.

As the world economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19, treasury teams need one centralised place to access reliable, secure financial data to support their businesses.

Harnessing Yapily’s Open Banking infrastructure, AccessPay has expanded its cash management product to thousands of mid-market and enterprise businesses.

This is the first use-case of Open Banking in corporate cash management to be brought to market and demonstrates how tech innovation is creating better services for businesses.

The collaboration between these two UK-based FinTechs will enable thousands of treasury and finance teams to make more informed financial decisions, as well as establishing reliable, automated processes around reconciliation, payroll and forecasting of company cash.

Yapily’s infrastructure will provide AccessPay’s customers, such as ITV, NSG and Imperial College London, with access to real-time banking data. This removes the need to manually download data using spreadsheets, which is error-prone, time-consuming and costly.

Surfacing the transaction data that treasury operations teams need to successfully support their businesses in making the right financial decisions, within one single view.

 

Winston Pearson, Senior Product Manager at AccessPay said: “We are delighted to be working with Yapily, another fast-growth FinTech, to drive digital transformation in the corporate space.

“Businesses and banks simply aren’t as connected as they should be in today’s global business landscape. Treasury and finance teams, the driving force of today’s corporate operations, need one central place to automate banking operations for complete visibility and control.

“With Yapily’s support and guidance, we’re able to expand our cash management solution to more of the market at this pace and scale. The integration has transformed a cumbersome process into a frictionless data flow for our customers.

“Thanks to Yapily’s industry-leading infrastructure and strong relationships with banks across Europe, we’ve been able to deliver a solution previously reserved for the few, to the masses.”

 

Stefano Vaccino, CEO of Yapily said, “Leveraging our Open Banking infrastructure in this way has enabled AccessPay to move faster and disrupt the corporate business landscape. This is an exciting development for Open Banking and demonstrates the benefits the technology brings to the ecosystem.

“Through partnering with AccessPay, we’re continuing our mission to expand the reach of Open Banking to a wide range of businesses. We look forward to developing our partnership with AccessPay and helping them continue to scale to new heights.”

AccessPay’s cash management service, enhanced by Open Banking, has been launched to the mid-market in the UK, and a broader European roll-out is planned later this year.

 

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VOLATILITY IS CRYPTO’S BEST FRIEND

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Stephen Ehrlich, Co-Founder and CEO at Voyager Digital.

 

Volatility is good for crypto. It serves multiple purposes as the whole crypto ecosystem matures, which we have to remember is an industry and technology that is still only just over a decade old. New and emerging industries are by their nature volatile as they move towards mainstream adoption. But the volatility attracts people, investors and technologists, who drive the pace of adoption forward and as it grows, volatility naturally decreases. In the case of Bitcoin, its volatility has steadily been decreasing over time and even the recent sharp moves have not seen such a big rise in volatility compared to historically (see chart below).

Chart showing Bitcoin Price and Volatility

Source: https://www.buybitcoinworldwide.com/volatility-index/

Volatility continues to attract participants as it is unquestionably in our human nature to be drawn to assets that are subject to rapid price appreciation. Throughout history there have been numerous asset bubbles that have burst, with Dutch tulips of the 1600s being the one that most referenced in relation to crypto-assets. But do tulips really provide any utility apart from looking and smelling good? Many crypto-assets actually provide a purpose, a utility, and serve as the backbone to new technology protocols upon which useful apps are being built. This is why we are seeing greater adoption and as the whole market continues to grow, we are now seeing institutions embrace Bitcoin by diversifying into it as an alternative store of value. This is why volatility is good for crypto. But another harsh reality is that it allows people to learn about the risks, as well as the rewards, of getting involved. Hopefully this is done with the assistance of their chosen broker or through educational webinars, video, and other collateral.

Yes, there will be many that will get their fingers burnt, especially if they employ leverage into their trading without a disciplined approach to managing risk. The same can be said of the internet boom and bust in the late 1990s and early 2000s that saw many a “dotcom” go bust. Leverage was around in those days too, so unfortunately many people learnt the hard way, but it is a necessary evil for the industry to become even more established. For Bitcoin, we have seen multiple bubbles burst, with 2017/18 being the last cycle and soon after the sceptics were suggesting the end for crypto-assets was nigh. But those who see the technology’s potential were keeping their heads down and building amazing platforms and applications. If we take a look at Bitcoin today, it’s clear that the end is nowhere near.

Volatility also attracts the attention of regulatory authorities, another natural evolution of nascent industries. On occasions though, there can be overregulation. Whilst the sentiment behind the UK’s FCA ban on retail investors being able to trade crypto derivatives is right, in respect to trying to provide greater investor protection, it can limit choice and ultimately drive investors to offshore brokers that may afford much less regulatory protections. If an investor really wants to employ leverage in their trading then they’ll find a way to do it, so perhaps rather than an outright ban, perhaps limit the amount of leverage they can use instead.

Bans certainly don’t help liquidity and are actually counterproductive. We’ve seen multiple decisions to “ban” crypto reversed as authorities realise that people simply circumvented it by using a VPN or other means to buy Bitcoin. India is now set to vote on a crypto ban, but at the same time they are due to introduce their own Central Bank Digital Currency, which in itself sends out mixed messages. As governments become more knowledgeable on crypto-assets and understand how they are totally borderless, bans are likely to become less and liquidity will continue to improve further.

Coinbase’s prospectus filing and the fact that the SEC is allowing this anticipated $100b direct listing to come public, with significant consumer involvement, is further acceptance of digital assets by the authorities. The continued evolution of the industry going mainstream and public companies vetted and allowed to move forward by the SEC, foreshadows the long-term outlook by the SEC that this industry is here to stay and regulation and acceptance of digital assets as an asset class is forthcoming. Regulation adds legitimacy to the industry and will attract a broader audience of investors and participants, as oversight gives comfort to a larger group of investors.

Regulation is very important, but it needs to find the balance that protects consumers, yet also fosters adoption of what is a truly ground-breaking technology and asset class. So, for those people that complain about crypto markets being too volatile, we NEED volatility in order for the whole ecosystem to thrive.

 

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