Stuart Geddes is Chief Information Officer at Ocorian. In this interview, he shares how to keep a close eye on client expectations for your organisation’s technology and reflects on potential applications for disruptive technologies within fund services.
What impact do you think innovative technologies will have over the next decade?
In a decade’s time we’ll have even more data, and the size of data sets will be even more mindboggling. In turn, this will require the use of AI and analytics technology to start drawing out insights from so much data. Alongside this, I expect data will become even more of a commodity and the advancement of AI is only going to feed into this trend.
I would also say that the technology we will find ourselves using in 10 years’ time depends on the kind of regulations that get put in place to govern their development – and then how these are enforced. Already, Italian regulators have banned OpenAI’s ChatGPT over privacy concerns; at Ocorian, we’ve set-up a working group to develop our own policy regarding the use of tools like that. One of the key questions for organisations to answer is how they’re going to work in tandem with these tools, and working out whether it fits the risk appetite.
“One of the key questions for organisations to answer is how they’re going to work in tandem with these tools, and working out whether it fits the risk appetite.”
What are the potential applications for emerging technologies within fund service administration?
Although there are reasonable concerns around the data sources for such tools, I think it could have some use cases for our industry. For instance, we carry out adverse media screening, which is currently a manual process that can take a lot of time. Tools capable of scraping the web and collating what it finds in natural language that is cohesive and coherent could really add value to processes like this.
We’ve recently developed a prototype for our Capital Market space involving AI, and I think it gives a good insight into the technology’s potential applications for businesses like ours. In our Philadelphia office we process large volumes of data provided in PDF documents, and our model is able to read that data much, much faster than any person would be able to. The speed it enables is impressive – we now only need to manually review a portion of those documents rather than the whole batch. In cutting down the number of items that require manual review, we’re saving hours of our peoples’ time that can be better spent adding more value to clients. That’s our first foray into that space using the Microsoft Cognitive AI tooling, and its potential to boost productivity is impressive – it will be exciting to see where else it can be applied.
“Its potential to boost productivity is impressive – it will be exciting to see where else it can be applied.”
With the recent rise in prominence of ESG in the world of fund administration, how do you think technology will impact how you respond to clients’ evolving ESG demands?
For us, ESG represents something of an opportunity whilst simultaneously presenting a real challenge. Whilst it’s relatively easy to collate all the data, analysing against industry benchmarks is difficult as there just isn’t that wealth of historical data and there is a mix of standards. In a sense, that’s the catch-22 we’re seeing with ESG at the moment.
At Ocorian we deal with hundreds of private equity funds – each of which have their own portfolio of companies – if clients were open to it, we could quite feasibly benchmark ESG statistics with anonymised data. I think there would be real demand for something like that – and it would be useful for clients to be able to see how their portfolio companies perform against their peers.
How is technology helping you to realise gains through greater efficiency?
To win the enterprise clients, you need to have the right technology and digital presence to convince them you’re the right organisation to partner with. Increasing regulatory burden across the globe requires more automation and straight through processing to maintain efficiency and stay competitive on costs. And as you know, today nobody wants to have paper board packs – people want to access them digitally.