Monthly Archives: April 2015

Category: Event Center, Technology

Call me? Maybe…

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In his ‘Customer Experience’ blog post, my colleague Brian Melter highlighted the importance of communicating to customers via channels that are meaningful to them. Today’s investor expects and demands service through whatever method happens to be the most comfortable and convenient at the time. It’s our job to provide a seamless experience, regardless of which channel they choose.  Let me share our experience and lessons learned about using different options for communication and response management, based on a fairly recent challenge faced by our industry, state inactivity.

As states became more aggressive about enforcing inactivity regulations, the industry needed a comprehensive outreach program in order to establish contact and safeguard assets from escheatment. As part of our Unclaimed Property Administration solution, Boston Financial’s Event Center offered a Notification and Solicitation service for clients to promote the response needed from their brokers and investors. To be successful, we knew we had to accommodate different demographics and support multiple communication methods, including:

  • Automated ‘integrated’ voice response (IVR)
  • Traditional mail
  • Call center representatives
  • Web

How did we do?

By providing multiple channels for communication and response management, allowing investors to choose the platforms they preferred to use, 90% of the assets and 85% of the accounts included in the outreach program were safeguarded from escheatment.

What did we learn from this process?MFblogchart

  • Many customers will choose the self-serve options. Nearly half of the investors used IVR or Web to respond to our inactivity outreach.
  • High net worth investors trended toward the self-service options, while the lowest net worth investors responded most often via mail.
  • The majority of investors, however, did turn to the IVR or Web to perform their due diligence and obtain additional information, even if they chose to ultimately respond through a more traditional channel.
  • Regardless of assets, only 12% of investors made contact by calling to speak with a live rep. The good news here for our industry is that the majority of customers will utilize the lower cost communication channels.

I recognize that over time the old “tried and true” communication methods will diminish, but we need to manage today’s customer experience across all of the current channels to be successful with customer engagement.  Reaching investors through their preferred communication methods gives you a more cost effective communication strategy and provides them with a better experience, increasing loyalty to your brand.

Category: Conferences and Events, Technology

It’s a Matter of “When”, not “If”

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Newspaper-Image

No company is immune to some type of cyber security attack; it’s a rapidly growing industry. The returns are great, and there is very little risk to the perpetrator. It’s estimated the likely annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime is more than $400 billion– that’s with a “B.” (www.bloomberg.com).

On April 14, NICSA held its forum, “Cyber Security – Managing 21st Century Risk.” The sessions were designed with operation and business leaders in mind. I left the forum with several key messages, one being that cyber security is a business issue. As David Grady, vice president at State Street Corporation stated, “it takes a village to secure an environment.”

Senior leaders across every organization are stakeholders. They don’t need to understand the details, but it’s imperative they understand the big picture to understand the overall risk blueprint. One of the core challenges is not everyone speaks the same language and terminology– lawyers, information security, business leaders all have different languages and how they define risk. However, through proper governance, relationship building, and practice these barriers can be overcome.

To manage risk, it’s important to acknowledge the main components. The questions to be addressed are:

  • What data needs to be protected?
  • Where is the data located, and what are the devices that hold it?
  • Who has access to the data?
  • How do we protect the data?
  • Who is accountable?

Once these concepts are fully understood, a framework for protecting the infrastructure can be designed and constructed. Nonetheless, organizations are challenged. They must take a risk assessment approach to allocate their finite dollars and resources to areas of greatest exposure. Spending 75 percent of resources on managing a firewall, but not applying appropriate patches, may not be the most practical approach. Identifying where to apply your dollars and resources is a critical step in building a solid information security program.

Another key point I heard reiterated throughout the forum was that security incidents are a matter of “when” not “if.” Since that’s the case, it’s critical that organizations create and maintain a solid incident response plan including the following key elements:

  • Preparation
  • Identification
  • Containment
  • Remediation and recovery
  • Post incident analysis and lessons learned

Designing a thorough plan is critical to ensure all impacted parties have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities throughout the event. Specialties such as legal, compliance, human resources, and law enforcement should be involved in the plan at appropriate times to provide guidance in their areas of expertise. Panic and chaos may lead to an inadequate response– bracket the problem and prevent a crisis.

As an industry leader, servicing one-third of the U.S. mutual funds, Boston Financial understands the importance of safeguarding our environment. Under our chief information officer, Mike Rizzo and our chief information security officer, Yalmore Grant, the information security team works relentlessly on strategies to combat potential threats.

What does that mean exactly? Well, to put it in dollars and cents, the DST and Boston Financial security budget increased 100 percent from 2013 to 2015 and is expected to grow. Our program is based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and we leverage the expertise from companies like WhiteHat, Depth Security, McAfee, and Microsoft to safeguard our network.  Our defensive in-depth layered approach is solid, with a core focus on detection and remediation.

Threat intelligence is also a major part of our program. We’re engaged with organizations like Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center to improve our ability to be proactive. We migrated from a periodic assessment and testing schedule to continuous testing. We also strengthened our incident response program, which incorporates our parent companies to ensure an effective and solid plan.

Most would say the best offense is a good defense. We agree. As we progress through 2015, we’ll encounter new challenges and new threat actors. However, we’ve built a solid defense program and will continue to expand on it. As we have in the past, we’ll work tirelessly to protect what’s most valuable and most important to us– our clients.

If you are interested in this topic, Verizon produces an annual Data Breach Investigation Report (http://www.verizonenterprise.com/DBIR/) which is a fascinating analysis of threats, vulnerabilities, and actions that lead to security incidents. The information spans industries, but the themes are similar and the statistics are staggering. It’s worth checking out.

Category: Compliance, Creating Future Value, Industry Trends

Prepared for Whatever Comes Next: Creating future value in compliance programs

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Thought leadership is more than marketing jargon at Boston Financial. For us, thought leadership tells the story of what we think about changes in the industry, and what we are doing about them.

Boston Financial’s Creating Future Value series will discuss how we are responding to industry megatrends by moving away from the classic, transaction-driven transfer agent model in favor of a smart servicing model that positions clients for growth in the changing economy.

Follow this monthly series by subscribing to Boston Financial’s Perspectives blog.

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Money market reform (MMR), FATCA, Blue Sky, and unclaimed property administration. These are the hot button issues in compliance programs – with every asset manager and intermediary paying close attention to how the changes in the rules will affect operations and ultimately, fund performance.

This is not news.

The classic transfer agent systematically prepares for reform by analyzing system requirements, building operational infrastructure, training staff, and collaborating with clients to ensure they are ready when reforms go live. Also not news. You’ve read dozens of blog posts, participated in several webcasts and advisory meetings, and downloaded pages of content from Boston Financial on these and other regulatory changes. You expect us to be ready for evolution in the environment, and we will be.

Compliance-Mountain

But Boston Financial is more than a classic transfer agent. We are a smart servicer. And this means we are also looking at the compliance landscape holistically. We do this so we can anticipate what federal and state regulatory bodies will ask of our clients so we can lay the groundwork for them and minimize opportunity cost to their core business.

Of course, we don’t have a crystal ball, or even a low-budget magic 8 ball, telling us what’s coming down the regulatory pike. But, from our vantage point at the table with industry organizers like the ICI and NICSA, we do know that the “next big thing” that shakes up the industry will likely be driven by regulators’ call for more transparency in order to continue to build consumer trust in the market.

How do we know this? Key provisions of both FATCA and MMR seek to distinguish between institutional and retail account activity with the goal of increasing transparency. Myriad omnibus reforms are trying to shed a light on account detail obscured through the transition to subaccounting by intermediaries. AML beneficial ownership rules clarification? Again transparency as FinCEN and other regulators seek to understand who is benefitting from the movement of monies through the U.S. mutual fund industry.

While Boston Financial doesn’t yet know what will come after MMR, we are confident that transparency is the name of the game. This is why we are laying the groundwork to open a secure data window for clients, making it possible for them to answer potential future questions about account activity and performance. This includes looking closely at underlying account data available to determine what detail is available, and how it might be cleaned and repurposed to serve future compliance reporting needs. In parallel, we are exploring strategies for streamlining the due diligence process through Compliance Corner and enhanced educational programming for fund boards.

The transfer agent industry is often criticized for being too reactive. This is no longer good enough given the intensity of the regulatory push. In looking ahead, we are shortening product and technology development cycles so our clients are prepared for whatever happens next in the compliance space. This is smart servicing in the 21st century.

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Read other blog posts in the Creating Future Value series:

The Impact of Megatrends to the Transfer Agent Model

Have It Your Way: Meeting the Needs of Empowered Consumers

Looking at the Big Picture: Leveraging the power of data

Facing Industry Challenges Together

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Technology

Service-Oriented IT

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StudyingAnyone who has had a “stereotypical” interaction with an IT organization may be laughing at the title of this piece. Calling an IT help desk is not unlike calling a utility company. You call….you wait…you speak to a well-meaning, but powerless agent who you hope will open a ticket or a request to get you the services you ultimately need…you wait some more. Often, the invisible process between that first call and the delivery of the service you need is a mysterious maze that you hope someone else will navigate for you.

I live in that maze at Boston Financial, and I have some good news. We’re renovating.

Over the past year, the Business Technology Services (BTS) organization at Boston Financial has been on a journey. We realized some time ago that the arcane silos of specialty that historically made up our IT organization, like many IT organizations, were getting in the way of what matters: our customers and the services they expect from us. We began to look for ways to improve our efficiency, transparency and customer communication. Through our research we quickly identified ITIL® (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) as a framework to guide our renovation of the “maze”.

Simply stated, ITIL is a set of practices for IT service management that focuses on aligning services with the needs of business. In practice, it is a non-prescriptive collection of best practices that provide guidance to an IT organization seeking to move away from being technology “order takers” in favor of becoming metrics-driven, consultative partners.

Boston Financial launched its adoption of ITIL standards in our IT support and IT infrastructure organizations. And it is paying dividends. For starters, it has provided a common language for our Associates to use when discussing procedures. As a result, we understand each other more quickly, which improves internal collaboration and ultimately our communication with customers. ITIL’s systematic, standards-based approach to IT service delivery has also made clear many areas where improvement is both needed and possible. This has helped us to prioritize our work and get to the fundamental cause of problems faster. These organizational changes are contributing to an efficient IT culture that offers more consistent, client-oriented business services.

It’s an exciting transformation to watch and to be a part of. Several of our leaders have achieved ITIL Service Management Foundation certification. The first six leadership team members who prepared  for the certification studied in groups, quizzed each other constantly and played board games adapted to support the study process, like ITIL “chutes and ladders” and “Trivial Pursuit”. Through this process, we became known within the organization as ITIL “nerds.”

Good-natured ribbing is a fair price to pay for the changes we’ve made. We feel better about our work because each improvement we implement makes the maze a little less complex, our service delivery a little simpler, and ultimately, our customers much happier.

Cultural transformation takes time and best practices never stand still. In fact ITIL standards continue to evolve as technology and our knowledge of our customers evolves. But for now we have a framework that helps us to continually improve and focus on the right priorities, you and the services you require.