Digital technologies have changed business as usual for traditional investment companies, but what do the industry leaders need to do to ride this wave of transformation?
Panel discussion: Accelerating Digital – Unleashing the Power of the Enterprise. (From left to right), Francis Braeckevelt, Head of Operations, Asia Pacific, BNY Mellon; Ponlakrit Toonkamthornchai, Head of ASEAN Sales and Account Management, Symphony Communications Services; Keith Carter, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore; Dominic Godman, Partner, Head of Singapore, Arabesque
Digital and data transformation are opening up new ways for companies to unlock their data, understand it and use it to power decision-making. But this “actionable intelligence” has to be focused to deliver value, according to an expert panel at this year’s BNY Mellon Asia Pacific Asset Servicing Client Leadership Summit in Singapore on March 12.
“Every company has a competitive edge that it wants to deliver to its clients in the fastest and best possible way to differentiate it from everyone else,” said Ponlakrit Toonkamthornchai, who helps financial institutions embrace technology at Symphony Communication Services. He urged business leaders to understand what they are trying to achieve before setting out on a digital transformation journey.
Mr. Toonkamthornchai sees common drivers at work in all companies. They want to establish a single source of data that is correct and consistent, make this data accessible across the company and with clients, and automate it in ways that capitalize on existing technology and blend it with new solutions while ensuring compliance and security.
Francis Braeckevelt, Head of Operations at BNY Mellon Asia Pacific agreed and pointed out that analytics has become a core competency helping people make decisions and informing conversations within and between organizations. “Data-driven solutions have really exploded over the last couple of years, by virtue of regulatory needs, client demands and the push for operational efficiency.”
All of this rests on “actionable intelligence”: the right data delivered to the right people at the right time.
Keith Carter, Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing, argued that not even the largest enterprise should try to tackle these complex challenges alone. “Become part of an ecosystem. Get engaged. Collaborate. And understand what’s possible and how you can do even better.”
Prof. Carter challenged the Summit audience of influential financial sector leaders to accept that they have to transform to survive. Past success is no longer relevant, he said. “You’re in business not because you did something well years ago and are still successful at it, but only because your client hasn’t found something better and cheaper than you today.”
Relating this to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, Arabesque Partner and Head of Singapore, Dominic Godman, explained that technology has totally changed its data business in just a few years – with big data and machine learning enabling it to “ingest huge amounts of unstructured data, normalize the data across regions and sectors, and quantify it in a way that makes it very comprehensive and useable in the investment process.”
But while the shift to digital is enabling this new approach to asset management, ESG will have to be seen as performance-relevant investment strategy to enter the mainstream. “We have to demonstrate the value of integrating ESG into investment processes and prove that companies that look after ESG and other sustainability topics can and do outperform and have a lower tail risk,” Mr. Godman concluded.
Mathew Kathayanat, Head of Product and Strategy, Asia Pacific, Asset Servicing for BNY Mellon further explored these themes in his introduction to a digital workshop on day two of the Summit.
“There are lots of data technologies out there: data visualization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, natural language processing – the list goes on. You have to decide what you are, and what you are not, and how these apply to you,” he said. He cautioned that institutions have to accept that “we are becoming more globalized and more democratized when it comes to organizational change and how we manage our data.”
Digital and Data Workshop (From left to right) Johnny Wijaya, Head of Asia Pacific Technology Projects and Consultancy, BNY Mellon; Mathew Kathayanat, Head of Product and Strategy, Asia Pacific, Asset Servicing, BNY Mellon
Johnny Wijaya, Head of APAC Technology Projects and Consultancy, BNY Mellon summarized the firm’s approach to digitization and innovation, from digitizing core business, re-imagining client journey, to building new products and services. Mr. Wijaya shared that innovation is not just about setting up a state-of-the-art innovation center or implementing the latest technology; it’s about embedding the technology in how the firm service and add value to our clients. It’s about the people and creating an environment where they feel comfortable challenging the status quo and learning from failures. A lot of the time, this is about challenging our own assumptions to ensure we are solving a right problem and not simply addressing a symptom, he said.
He suggested that cross-functional teams which are empowered and actively sponsored are proven to be effective in making innovation breakthroughs.
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