Barclays Global Investors’ selection of Asset Control’s AC Plus for a planned central data repository marks the fruition of a year of research and evaluations to create a global platform for reference data and time-series data management. BGI will kick off its global implementation in January, with the platform – covering both equities and fixed-income securities – to be based at its San Francisco headquarters.
According to Iain Greer, global IT product head of BGI, the company took the opportunity of a strategic initiative to expand its fixed-income operations to review the processes and platforms used to manage reference data in its traditionally equities-centric business. The buy-side giant had used a range of in-house systems and processes to handle reference data management within its equities business.
With the higher complexity of fixed-income securities, BGI found that the data management processes for that market could be migrated relatively straightforwardly to the less-complex, but higher-volume equities market. “Having successfully evaluated the platform for fixed income,” says Greer, “we were able to apply the evaluation criteria to the equity asset class.” He says the firm was also able to draw on its years of experience in running its own data management platforms in the equities area.
BGI was also seeking a solution that could support outsourcing of the more commoditized processes at some time in the future. The company also engaged with some external consultancies that offer outsourced reference data management. Greer says BGI aims to develop a firm grasp on the new data model before even considering what data could be outsourced,
a process he expects to take more than a year or two. Asset Control maintains a strategic relationship with Accenture, through which the large consulting firm offers its Managed Reference Data Services (MRDS) service.
Meanwhile, for the purposes of the evaluation, it helped that BGI sister company Barclays Capital was among Asset Control’s first ever clients. Greer says his team consulted with its Barclays Capital counterparts as part of its evaluation work for the project.
The evaluation process involved intensive research around user requirements within both the fixed-income and equities areas. Greer says his team met with staff from the technology, front-office, portfolio management and research departments to ascertain precisely what was required. Having developed a functional specification – with a slant toward BGI’s quantitative approach to investment management – the team held a series of workshops with a group of vendor candidates for the project, over a period of six months. Ultimately, the decision-making process went all the way to BGI’s executive committee, such was the importance of the project.
Beginning in January, AC Plus will be deployed to handle a range of undisclosed internal and external data sources, ranging from descriptive reference data services through to time-series data. The AC Plus platform will provide standardized delivery to the firm’s equity and fixed-income trading, portfolio management and research systems. The system will be deployed by a team comprised of BGI and Asset Control staff.
Because BGI views data as a vital element of its investment process, Greer declines to name the data sources the new platform will handle. “The aim is to create our golden source from internal and external data sources,” he says. Downstream applications, such as credit systems and rates management systems, will apply the central data model in a way that’s suitable to their function.
Barclays expects the new platform to offer a number of benefits. The new system will give BGI “a consistency of data, from research through to trading,” says Greer. This, he says, also reassures regulators within the investment process in the front office area, and post-trade it adds consistency to the processes the investment firm uses in its relationships with its custodians and sell-side brokers.