With the launch of its new integration module, enterprise data management (EDM) solution provider Asset Control is seeking to tackle the last mile challenge of data management projects. Rick Enfield, business owner of the vendor’s AC Plus solution, speaks to Reference Data Review about the development of the new platform and how it fits into Asset Control’s portfolio overall.
Last year, Asset Control launched a new module for its AC Plus portfolio focused on providing more transparency and control around reference data, this year the vendor’s focus is on helping to ensure that data management systems can be more easily bedded down within the firms that decide to implement them. Accordingly, the vendor has launched AC Connect: a single integration platform that aims to assist firms in achieving faster time to market and return on investment on their data management and business application projects.
“Firms tend to struggle the most in the area of integration,” says Enfield, elaborating on why the vendor opted to launch the new module after six months of development work. “A wide range of systems needs to be connected to the data management hub due to the siloed nature of most financial institutions’ overall operating environments.” In many cases these legacy applications have their own proprietary standards, data structures, protocols and internal mechanisms that must be accommodated. Even when there are standards such as FIX being used by a system, most firms will adapt these standards for their own uses, thus making the integration process more challenging, notes Enfield.
The “last mile integration challenge” is exactly what the new module of Asset Control’s AC Plus data management software solution is aimed at solving by removing the need for technical development skills and third party integration tools, he claims. Enfield explains that the module was developed in order to meet the lower latency requirements of the vendor’s customer base, which entailed a more structured approach to the task of data integration. The module therefore features a variety of preconfigured integration points for downstream systems that Enfield says bring the time spent on integration down from months to days.
“Customers are now able to leverage the near real time functionality of the data management process,” he explains. “A lot of integration work may be buried in the noise of an overall implementation but these firms can now realise real cost savings through the elimination of third party integration applications.”
During the development process, the vendor engaged an active customer from the first line of coding to the end result in order to validate the functionality as and when it was developed. This customer feedback particularly helped in the development of a new more intuitive interface to allow customers to configure their information delivery to accommodate the different ways that individual systems consume information to support their management, trading, valuation, compliance, risk and settlements activities, says Enfield.
The compliance challenge in particular should be made simpler by the new module, he continues, as the function is one of the biggest consumers of data within a firm. The simpler the process around data integration between systems and the fewer systems involved, the less risk there is around data breaks and system outages.
In order to better assess the cost of integration to an organisation, Asset Control has recently sponsored some research into the area, which was conducted by Aite Group. The report notes that it is likely to be a high cost to the industry this year with an estimated US$1.76 billion being spent on data integration alone. Enfield notes that it was a challenge to peel out the integration costs from the data management project equation but invariably these costs are a huge percentage of the overall spend and effort.
The ongoing costs of maintaining these multiple integration applications is also high, notes Enfield. The report indicates that large sell side firms have a data management staff of more than 50 people supporting upwards of 100 applications, while medium and smaller firms have staffs in the five to 15 person range supporting between five to 15 applications. “The high number of systems involved in the process is the most interesting finding of the report,” he adds. “Once you peel back the onion around integration you realise it is an enormous investment, with many different inputs, outputs and structures in place.”
Enfield indicates that the general level of understanding of these integration challenges within the market is fairly high but there is some misunderstanding that service oriented architectures (SOAs) are a solution. “SOA is means of structuring an operating environment but it does not deal with the detail of integration and the various different system capabilities,” he explains. For example, this includes the need for batch processing of certain data items versus a more real-time approach for others.
However, Enfield says that the vendor’s customer base is already apprised of the benefits of the new module, which was first presented at its November client event. Asset Control now has its sights set on a large project related to improving AC Plus, focused on allowing for real-time instrument creation and distribution. The vendor is also working on its AC Entity proposition and is developing additional interfaces and smarter matching logic for the brand new offering.