Monthly Archives: April 2014

Category: Conferences and Events, Industry Trends

Have a Magical Day

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Big-DataLast month, I attended the DST ADVANCE conference in Orlando. The conference is a gathering of DST clients who come together to exchange ideas, share insights, and collaborate on the current and future direction of DST products and services. One evening during the conference, I experienced my first “Have a Magical Day” moment.

It was Tuesday night, the conference was done for the day, and a group of us decided to grab a late dinner in Downtown Disney. After dinner, we walked around taking in the warm weather, the unique sights, and doing a little shopping. While walking, a colleague told us about a bad experience she once had at one of the Disney properties. She experienced an issue, and Disney was unable to correct it. She had become frustrated when Disney proceeded to tell her to “Have a Magical Day.”

It didn’t really sink in how frustrating this would be until about an hour later when I stopped in the Disney Store to purchase a gift. After finding exactly what I was looking for, surprisingly at a great price, I moved to the checkout area. After standing in line for 40 minutes, it was finally my turn. The cashier wanted to chitchat, but I wasn’t in the mood at that point. After paying the cashier, I quickly turned to leave, and I heard the cashier say, “Have a Magical Day.” I forced myself to keep walking versus telling him how I really felt. But in that moment, I realized that many of the concepts being discussed at the ADVANCE conference are applicable across many industries.

Let’s look at a few as examples:

  • Big Data – Everyone has heard the buzz word “Big Data,” but what does it really mean and what value can it bring to your organization? According to the ADVANCE conference session, “Using Big Data to Drive Profitable Behavior Change,” Big Data analysis provides valuable insights into what is happening with your customer. Figuring out how to take those insights and turn them into value-added action is the key.
  • Customer Engagement – Steve Hooley, Chief Executive Officer and President, DST Systems, kicked off the conference talking about the age of the customer and the need to have deeper insights and stronger customer engagements. He noted the theme of the conference: “Insight > Action > Results.”
  • Communicating in a Hyper-Connected World – According to DST’s Rich Langan, “Smarter, more contextual interactions will be critical to delivering successful customer experiences.” He also said, “Contextually relevant communications can grab and hold your customer’s attention.”

These topics and many others made for a successful and informative ADVANCE conference, but it’s interesting to realize they can be applied outside of our core industries as well. Go back to the not so “Magical Day” experiences that my colleague and I had in Disney. Imagine for a minute that Disney had used Big Data analytics to influence or modify the behavior of their employees. Imagine that those employees could quickly receive relevant data, and turn it into insight to take more germane, contextual action. The result might have been a very different customer experience for my colleague and me. Who knows, we might have had a truly Magical Day.

Category: Blue Sky, Compliance, Webinar

Helping Part the Clouds for Blue Sky Compliance: NICSA Webinar

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Blue Sky Clouds - 481209865 - 300p wideLast October, Craig Hollis CCO, AML officer and managing director for Boston Financial, introduced the expansion of Boston Financial’s Blue Sky compliance offering. In his post, he highlighted the challenges that asset management firms face with Blue Sky Administration, including the complexity of registration requirements. Recently, Craig moderated a NICSA webinar, “Helping Part the Clouds for Blue Sky Compliance,” providing timely insight and best practices regarding prominent issues and trends facing Blue Sky compliance today.

During the webinar, Craig noted that Blue Sky Administration has always been somewhat mysterious, as very few people outside legal departments have really understood it. There are 50 states and four U.S. Territories (District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Guam) where fund companies must register mutual fund dollars for sale in order to sell their funds to investors in those states and territories. Every fund must register their dollars for sale, referred to as a permit, and pay the required registration fee. Each state’s Blue Sky laws vary with respect to payment of fees and length of permit period. Craig noted the challenge is to obtain, retain, and manage information to provide the most efficient, cost-effective, and risk adverse program possible.

Craig described the current Blue Sky landscape, noting that states have clearly become more aggressive in their enforcement of Blue Sky laws to make up for lost revenue. Fund companies continue to deal with the ongoing evolution of intermediaries as recordkeepers to provide sales feeds to Blue Sky administrators. As the omnibus evolution continues, there is greater concern by management companies regarding how to administer some level of oversight over these intermediaries.

Craig noted that from a service provider perspective, Boston Financial is aware of our clients’ challenges understanding Blue Sky requirements. Some of our best practices to support them include: centralized infrastructure for state requirements, two independent legal sources, the proactive use of exemptions, and to the extent possible, segregation of business processes by subject matter expertise.

Guest speaker Lisa Borth, Vice President, Director, Partner Distribution Services, AllianceBernstein Investor Services shared lessons learned and best practices to create the most effective program possible from an asset management perspective. Lisa provided information around three key areas: governance, control, and oversight. Key points included:

  • Have the right resources to make decisions about what trades or account types are excludable
  • Know how to manage your registrations activity to reduce expenses
  • Have the proper controls in place to avoid penalties
  • Monitor sales for states that charge fees based on volume and understand how sales can drive additional registration fees
  • Funds remain responsible for interpreting state criteria but are dependent on broker/dealers reporting correct state of residence

Guest speaker David Harpist, Manager, Risk and Regulatory, FS Advisory, PricewaterhouseCoopers emphasized that good governance requires effective oversight of processes, systems, and people. The Blue Sky process should have a distinct owner and clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Internal and external systems must work together safely and effectively. David indicated that an effective operating model requires continued training, testing, and tweaking. From an oversight standpoint, an established relationship with the broker/dealer is needed, as well as ongoing diligence and testing of the information they provide.

Finally, from a service provider perspective, Craig noted some recent trends. Funds are focused on striking a balance between reducing fees and accurate sales reporting, and taking advantage of all available exemptions.

In conclusion, one thing is clear – the Blue Sky landscape continues to be an area of heightened awareness and focus for management companies. The increase of intermediary sales feeds has added a layer of complexity that challenge firms trying to ensure the most efficient, cost-effective, and compliant programs possible. In order to be successful, management companies can no longer rely on just one person or any one area to manage their Blue Sky obligations. It requires a more collaborative and integrated approach, leveraging the experience and intellectual capital of the greater organization to achieve the best possible results.

If you are a NICSA member and would like to hear the webinar in its entirety, please visit: http://www.nicsa.org/default.asp?contentID=620.

Category: Corporate Citizenship

The 2014 Boston Marathon – Finishing the Race

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NickDarschLast year Nick Darsch ran the Boston Marathon on behalf of Boston Financial, in support of United Way. Because of the events that unfolded that day, he was unable to finish the race. This year, Nick has decided to run again to finish the race. Here are his thoughts on running the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Q: We know that last year you came close to finishing the Boston Marathon. What made you decide to finish the race this year?

After the dust settled on all of the events last year, I knew that I had to run the Boston Marathon again in 2014 – there was never a question about whether I would do it or not. I was 0.3 miles away from the finish line when the chaos broke out, and I’ve been chasing that last quarter-plus mile since. When I signed up to run the Boston Marathon in 2013, I made a commitment to United Way, my unbelievably generous friends and family (who supported me through all of the training and fundraising) and most importantly myself. Growing up, I always looked up to my Uncle Michael who ran Boston a number of times, and running Boston became a lifelong goal of mine. Last year that was taken away. This year I’m taking that 0.3 and so much more back – just like everyone else in Boston.

Q: We heard you have a strong association with some of the agencies that United Way supports. Why was it important for you to run for them again this year?

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life, from my time at Boston College High School, to my time at Bentley and now at Boston Financial. When the opportunity to run for United Way came up last year, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. At Bentley, I spent a lot of time working with Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Clubs. I knew first-hand the impact that United Way has on the community, and was acutely aware that fundraising is key in allowing these programs to thrive. I was thrilled to see the support my friends and family put behind me in their donations to United Way – we raised over $5,500! I continue to work with United Way through their Emerging Leaders program. The UWEL supports key United Way initiatives, including Youth Venture and Community Builders.

You can find more info on the Emerging Leaders program here: http://el.supportunitedway.org/. Also, check out our gala on Friday April 25, at Cyclorama in the South End, a great way to kick off the spring: http://el.supportunitedway.org/ELgala. Sorry for the plugs!!!

Q: For you personally, how is the 2014 marathon different than the 2013 marathon?

Honestly, I hope that much of the experience of the 2014 Boston Marathon is the same as last year. The run was amazing, the people were unbelievable, and the day was perfect… up until the last quarter mile – this year, running that last stretch of the race will be surreal. I think the run, crowd, and day will be even better this year.

Q: Last year you said the thought of running 26 miles in the Boston Marathon was somewhat intimidating. Do you still feel that way?

Even though I was so close to the finish last year, the race is still a bit intimidating. At the end of the day, it’s still the Boston Marathon. I feel confident in my training and ability to finish strong. Based on my experience last year, I changed my training up a bit. Maybe a bit unorthodox but I don’t really follow any formal training schedule, I work more off feel. Generally, I tried to get in one long, one medium and two short runs a week. When I’m training mode, my body is pretty good at telling me “okay you need to go for a run” or “you need to take a day off”, though it always says “you should eat all the cookies, cake and donuts”, so it’s not perfect.

This year there seemed to be a couple more distractions complicating my run schedule, but I feel good that I got in what I needed to. The other cool thing that I’ll have this year is a better sense of where I am in relation to the finish line; I can still see the course in my head.

Q: What will be getting you through this year’s race?

No matter how hard the race gets, I’ll be thinking about that last 0.3, United Way, and seeing my friends and family at the finish line – that’s what will really get me through the day.

I would also be lost without my iPhone during the race. Running for approximately four hours is a long time and my head would be all over the place without distractions. My girlfriend just surprised me with a weekend trip down to Nashville with a bunch of friends two weekends after the race. I put together a Nashville playlist so my mind will for sure be on celebrating the finish with the Tennessee whiskey, music and food along with the NPR/ESPN podcasts I have lined up.

I am so grateful for United Way, Boston Financial and B.A.A. for giving me the opportunity to run the 2014 Boston Marathon and finish what I started last year. April 21 can’t come soon enough!