In keeping with its current focus on the valuations space (as discussed in last month’s issue of Reference Data Review), enterprise data management (EDM) vendor Asset Control has released an upgrade for its AC Plus Desktop solution aimed at providing more transparency around pricing data. Rick Enfield, product business owner of the AC Plus solution, explains how this new offering fits into the vendor’s overall strategy.
The AC Plus Desktop data cleansing and enrichment product was first released in October last year and the vendor has been working on improving the offering ever since. This latest enhancement is part of the vendor’s endeavour to provide transparency around market valuation construction for both liquid and illiquid instruments. AC Plus Desktop 3.1 therefore aims to give firms the control and transparency they require as part of their pricing process to accurately report market valuation.
“This is part of our ongoing strategic plan to move the data management process out of the sole remit of the IT department and into the hands of the business. After all, they are the end users of the data and they need to be in a better position to understand the data management process,” explains Enfield.
IT and operations departments have historically been handed the task of data management because of their responsibility for systems integration, but it is equally relevant to the business side of an institution, he contends. “The mechanics of data systems integration is one part of data management but it is also to do with turning that raw data into useful information. It is not fair to ask IT to be accountable for that because although they are concerned with the mechanics, they are not involved in what the data is used for.”
Enfield believes that over the past five or six years the business side of financial services has come on in leaps and bounds with regards to understanding the importance of data management. The focus of the new AC Plus Desktop release is therefore to help these business users access this downstream data and provide a front end tool that is as intuitive as possible to use the information contained in the data.
“There has been a trend within the data space to break data into separate silos: reference data and market data. The separation of these data sets means firms lose the ability to see the relationships between them and this can be damaging,” says Enfield. His argument is that by linking these data sets together, firms can get a better handle of the higher level of interrelationships between these data types. The upgraded version of the desktop tool therefore links pricing data with reference data in order to provide a more transparent and integrated approach.
The vendor has chosen to focus on the valuation space in particular because the volatility of the market and intense scrutiny of the space has put strain on pricing models, which makes the process of identifying and correcting valuation irregularities more difficult. It also means firms may struggle to meet service level agreements for distributing consistent data within agreed timeframes, says the vendor. AC Plus Desktop 3.1 is attempting to address these challenges by providing real-time reporting on reference and pricing data on a single platform.
The logic is that by providing reference and time series data through one platform, users are able to quickly browse, search and validate that data, including time sensitive items. According to Asset Control the benefits for users include: being able to see the results of changes to data instantaneously, without having to rerun reports or processes; being able to search for data to resolve valuation issues quickly; the ability to review, correct and validate data individually or in bulk; and be able to support appropriate controls and workflows over data access, edit and approval.
AC Plus Desktop 3.1 is focused on ensuring data is accurate, complete, consistent, and rapidly made available to downstream portfolio management, trading, compliance, risk and other financial management applications.
Phil Lynch, Asset Control’s president and CEO, is confident that the solution will help firms maintain accurate instrument valuation data. “This latest version of AC Plus Desktop provides firms with a single tool and process for analysing and cleansing instrument definition and pricing data, and alleviates the tedious reviewing of code, spreadsheets, reports and source files to trace data changes. From acquisition to consumption, AC Plus Desktop helps to increase productivity while ensuring more consistent, validated and consistent data,” he says.
“The solution provides the ability to manipulate data, identify patterns in that data and is a more intuitive tool for those not familiar with the more technical aspects of data management,” adds Enfield. “What sets it apart from other offerings in the market is that it is specifically configured for the business side of an institution rather than IT users.”
The development work on the solution was prompted by customer requests and is timetabled to meet their priorities. “We have constructed a solution framework that allows us to add different data sets gradually as and when they are requested by our customers,” he explains. “The next release will be focused on further improving the graphical capabilities of the solution to help customers slice and dice the data to meet their requirements.”
The vendor has established two customer advisory boards, geographically split between Europe and the US, via which to gain customer insight. These customers have been very positive about the new release, says Enfield, and the timing of the release has played to the favour of Asset Control. “A lot of customer upgrade projects are stopped between November and January, so releasing the upgraded solution in the summer has been fortuitous timing for us,” he says.
Thus far, three customers are working on rolling out the upgraded solution and two are keen to get going soon, he continues. “These initial five will likely go live before October and by February, we expect a lot more customers to opt for the upgrade,” he predicts.