Tony Solomou
By Tony Solomou
February 21, 2021

We can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with us that data entry is a laborious and repetitive task. Occasionally, it can serve as a welcome break from projects that require lots of skill and concentration, but when data entry must be done and done correctly it becomes very hard work and something that very few of us would want to engage in as a daily job.

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Family Offices, like most organisations involved in financial management, need to manage mountains of data every day, and some still rely heavily on manual input and a lot of it. This comes with its own set of challenges for both internally and externally generated data:

  • Data generated internally, often needs to be shared with other colleagues during the process of manual input, for verification, approval, etc. As most people are working remotely, the process can become cumbersome and workflows can get overloaded.

 

  • The most obvious challenge is that manual data input is time consuming, costly and increases the opportunity for errors, particularly when it is derived from external sources and “hard” media.

 

  • Family offices need to bring in their systems external data from custodians, banks, brokers and other providers, who often have different approaches to providing this information. Though a lot of effort has been made in the recent past to introduce standard formats in the structure of this information, many challenges still remain to achieve this, particularly at a global level.

 

  • It can become very difficult to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the data. The sheer volume and complexity makes it very hard to manage manually or even with a non-purpose-built software. Add to that the fact that some intermediary manipulation may be necessary in Excel or other tool and the task becomes daunting.

That’s not to say that automated data integration suits all sizes and all tasks. There are organisations where the capability to import an Excel spreadsheet easily, can be good enough for most of the requirements, or even where a user-friendly manual entry screen can suffice.

 

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Over the years a number of solutions have emerged in the Market that can help to overcome these challenges. These solutions are advancing all the time in an effort to catch up with the increasing number of financial products in the markets and their underlying complexity:

 

Inter-Connectivity

A number of standards have emerged, in an effort to structure the data in a transparent way to the user. The International Standards Organisation have been the main driver of these efforts, with organisations like SWIFT helping to provide clarity on the subject and acronyms such as IBAN and BIC becoming household names.

We have also seen message format specifications such as FDX and XBRL providing more and more flexibility to software providers to deliver integration middleware.

However, the non-technically minded end user faces a very difficult task to use these. More and more financial institutions are providing direct accessibility to their clients’ data from their own systems, though differences in the methods used, mean that Family Offices with multiple data providers have to adopt to each one specifically.

 

3rd party data aggregators

To ease the burden on their own employees, Family Offices can use a 3rd party to aggregate their data and make them available for import into their systems. However, data aggregators tend to be more localised and family offices that usually have a global spread of data providers may find it difficult to meet their needs. There is also the consideration of additional costs in the treatment of data.

 

The future – Innovation

The development of open-standard API (Application Programming Interface) to connect fintech companies and financial institutions is advancing forward and new ideas are entering the market every day.

One day Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to deliver algorithms that will adopt the user’s data to the modifications of the format carried out by the provider, without any interruption in the service. Platform providers like Amazon and Microsoft are already providing AI development tools on their Cloud platforms, which expand the reach to developers to take advantage of the technology.

 

No doubt many exciting new ways will emerge for Family Offices to benefit from easy and inexpensive methods of importing transactional and other reference data.

 

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Family Offices need to take advantage of the availability of automation, for all the reasons explained above. It is important however that they establish first what their internal systems can achieve and what is the best solution to implement, considering the implementation and running costs against the benefits derived by each option.

Holistic, one-step, straight through, processing will always be the most desirable and cost effective choice.

 

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Data entry is a task that will become more and more important within the scope of the operations of a Family Office, as more and more data become available for them to utilise for their decision making and management control. Ultimately in the world that we live in, the winner will be the one that can access and use data effectively to increase productivity and maximise returns to investment.

Does your family office management system allow you the flexibility to decide when data integration should be automated and empower you to do so, while giving you the option to follow a manual entry route?


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