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Mellon’s Harkins Offers Guide To Successful Team Building

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People – specifically, finding the right ones, training them appropriately and hanging onto them – were key themes at this month’s ‘Reference Data Management: Challenges and Solutions’ symposium hosted by Telekurs in New York. The symposium, also featuring Dun & Bradstreet’s Keith Webster, Telekurs’ Barry Raskin and Reference Data Review’s own Andrew Delaney, offered insight into management of entity data – using access to Dun & Bradstreet’s entity information now available via Telekurs’ Valordata Feed (VDF), as well as an overview of the main business drivers that have shaped the industry over the past five years.

The highlight of the afternoon was offered by Amy Harkins, senior vice president at Mellon Financial, who shared with a 40-strong audience the trials and tribulations of establishing and running a team of data analysts to look after the big custodian bank’s reference data services. In her presentation – entitled “Do you have a passion for data? Building the future one brick at a time” – Harkins outlined a step-by-step approach to building a team that can manage a financial institution’s often considerable and complex reference data management operation.

When building a team, Harkins told the audience, it’s important to understand the corporate direction of the financial institution you’re working for. This helps to set the corporate culture of the team from the start, and allows the team leader to set very clear objectives for the team, making it more likely that it will survive in the long run.

Finding the right people is the next key element. Harkins said data analysts must have a passion for this segment of the business, a characteristic that often isn’t easy to find. Team members also need to have knowledge of the specific data types, in Harkins’ case things like corporate actions, pricing services, derivatives and fixed-income securities, and the subtle differences between the main suppliers in the space.

Once formed, the team needs some protection from its leader. Harkins said it’s important to be able to track progress of the team’s activities, and to provide interested parties with frequent reports and updates. In all cases, it’s important to demonstrate adherence to the corporate objective.

Team members, Harkins said, should commit to building relationships with the vendors the bank uses. This is important in order to be sure to receive services that complement the bank’s strategic plan. Harkins advocated forging a trustworthy relationship with important vendors, supplemented by agreed service level agreements and business plans.

When embarking on a strategic review of data services, Harkins said it’s important to establish users’ data requirements based on the business model of the bank. The team also should be mindful here of the operational issues within bank departments and sensitive to the nuances of these operational silos.

In implementing the reference data management system that’s right for the bank, it’s critical to be fully aware of existing internal systems and platforms. Again, intimate knowledge of clients’ requirement is key to a successful implementation. Finally, “Prepare to Sustain!” as Harkins put it. Once you’ve built a team, the work starts in terms of always looking for improvements, staying aware of technology developments and boosting value for the end client. “Never become comfortable,” said Harkins.

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