Monthly Archives: October 2015

Category: Conferences and Events

NICSA Lifetime Achievement Award – Congratulations Paul O’Neil


By any measure, Paul O’Neil is in a class by himself. Whether through his work with clients, colleagues, or industry associations such as NICSA, Paul has had a tremendous impact.

Today, the board of directors of NICSA will award Paul the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes individuals who have had a distinguished career in the mutual funds industry and who have contributed significantly to the success of NICSA.

For those of you who may not know Paul, here’s a little background. He has over 40 years in the mutual fund industry, spanning domestic, European, and Asian shareholder and support services, including 19 years with Boston Financial. He’s also been a member of NICSA since 1977, serving as a member of the board of directors for 15 years and culminating with the designation of Board Emeritus in 2015.

In recognition of this tremendous honor, here are some perspectives on Paul from some of the people who know him best- his colleagues.

Hebard-Pat-Paul-AlbumI “grew up” in my career under Paul’s guidance. I think of Paul much more as a mentor and a friend, than as a boss. He was inspirational and encouraged my growth, even when I doubted my capabilities. He was a true coach and showed you how to get there. 

In the early ‘90s when the mutual fund industry was experiencing explosive growth, Paul and I worked together at Boston Financial. Despite the many challenges, the complex environment, and the long hours we faced, Paul always kept his sense of humor, passion, and even-keeled demeanor.

I remember one particularly painful tax season in which the wrong tax form types were mailed to over 200,000 shareholders. Paul didn’t raise his voice or bat an eye (ok, he may have rolled them a little!) He simply asked for an action plan for resolution and a mitigation plan to ensure it never occurred again. Paul never focused on the mistake itself– his energy was always focused on resolution and service excellence.   

There have been many times in my career when I’ve been faced with an issue, and I think, “What would Paul do?” Tackle the issue head on, keep your focus on the customer, give credit where credit is due, and never forget to celebrate!

Anne Hebard

Managing Director, Boston Financial Data Services

My favorite memory of Paul was one cold day in Luxembourg when Paul had been there about a month trying to work through a particularly nasty issue. We went to lunch at Subway (yeah, that Subway!). As we were ordering, Paul looked at me, “Steve, it’s like Groundhog Day. I get up. I come to work. I work with the team on recons and other issues. I eat at Subway. I go home at midnight, and I get up the next morning at 6:00 and do the same thing. It’s been that way for a month!” Only Paul could take such a desperate situation and make everyone around him laugh.

Paul has been a great teacher and mentor to me. He has always been patient when I did not understand something operationally. He has always dispensed his wisdom in a friendly and collegial way, always making you feel great about the interaction, and all the while he was teaching. He also has a wealth of experience that can only be gained through the travels and situations that he found himself in.

Paul is also very blessed in the partner he has chosen. Patty has been by Paul’s side every step of the way- be it in Lux, London, or on one of his crazy three-week round-the- world 84-meeting jaunts. They are a perfectly matched set! And they have wonderful children that look up to and cherish both of them. I always told Paul that the experiences he and Patty provided for their boys have been priceless. They are truly citizens of the globe and are good young men with great values.

I hope that when Paul wakes each morning he pinches himself and marvels at what he has done with his life. I would tell him, “Not bad for a kid from Boston!”

Steve Hooley

Chairman, CEO, and President, DST Systems, Inc.

Terry-Paul-Album-Red-Eye-RemovedNo matter what Paul was asked to do, he embraced every challenge as an opportunity to add value to the enterprise, our customers, and our industry. He is a consummate professional with a sincere passion for life and a lot of fun to hang out with.

Terry Metzger

President and CEO, Boston Financial Data Services

 He has always risen to the challenge with a calm and professional presence, taking up assignments in the U.S., U.K., Luxembourg, and Asia. He is recognized as one of IFDS’ (International Financial Data Services) founding fathers, having the developed the business during its inception years to the success we have today. He is the ambassador for our sector, being a key note speaker and chair at industry events and mentoring senior talented leaders across IFDS and Boston Financial. He is a man of high integrity, respected by both his colleagues and clients. He has a collaborative style and has always been a strong team player.

He has been pretty poor at golf despite being an enthusiastic spectator at The Open and Ryder Cup but continued investment in technology (i.e., new clubs) has helped! Paul was our Managing Director of Asian Operations for the latter part of his career with IFDS and has the most air miles out of all the executives!

Paul Roberts

CEO, Funds, Europe, International Financial Data Services

 I have been very lucky to have worked with Paul over the years in many capacities. I have been a peer during our work with NISCA and a client of his with the MFS offshore funds. I also feel lucky to call myself his friend. From every vantage point, he has always stood apart as someone special. When I think of Paul, commitment, integrity, family man, and patience are the words that begin to capture my image of him. 

As part of the NICSA board and organization, Paul’s contributions were powerful. He used his gift of strategic thinking and visionary spirit to help develop a long-term relationship with AFLI (an industry organization in Luxembourg). This has been a strategic and profitable relationship for NICSA; Paul was the steward who kept the link between NICSA and ALFI strong and productive. No matter the task, Paul would always volunteer to help get things done.

It is rare that one finds a good friend in a colleague. He not only makes time for his colleagues and friends but is quick to extend a helping hand. On a personal level, Paul is a great friend and I consider myself blessed.

Maureen Leary-Jago

Senior Global Advisor, MFS Investment Management

 What do I remember most about working with Paul? Two things. First, how organized he was. He never went into any meeting without a list of the things he wanted to cover or questions he wanted to ask. No matter how long the meeting or how many participants, he was always able to reduce his list to a single page. Secondly, Paul was always the calmest person in the room. No matter the issue or how crazy everything around him was. I try to think about these two things and follow that example every day.

When I think about Paul’s contributions, I think of the impact he had on our businesses in the U.S., U.K., Luxembourg, Ireland, and Hong Kong. I cannot think of another individual that I know who has had that kind of global impact. 

Ken Larsen

Vice President, Boston Financial Data Services

 Paul-AlbumPaul was already a seasoned veteran in Europe when I joined IFDS. And so from my first day in the office, Paul has been a mentor on how the third-party administration business works and probably more importantly, how our shareholder organizations (State Street and DST) work.

He has always been very generous in sharing his knowledge, experience, and contacts in the industry to anyone who needed it. His ability to fly around the world, look constantly fresh in meetings, and be up-to-speed on local issues in all our geographies is an example to all our employees who aspire to be global leaders.

Simon Hudson-Lund

CEO, DSTi Holdings Ltd

Executive Chairman, International Financial Data Services

 I had the pleasure of working with Paul from the mid-80s at Boston Financial to a project at State Street in Luxembourg a few years back. I can recall many instances where stress and emotion were all around us; I was always amazed at Paul’s ability to remain calm and professional in a storm and keep us all on track.

Paul guided me through many challenging assignments in my early years- building confidence in me, teaching me to become a better leader, how to gain trust from others, and how to communicate in the language of business management.

Jim Lockhead

Managing Director, Boston Financial Data Services

 I know Paul from our interactions on the NICSA board. As an honorary director, Paul wasn’t obligated to attend board meetings, but I found myself hoping that he would. Simply put, Paul was an ideal director. His contributions were always on-point and helpful- and informed by a respect and affection for NICSA, its history, and the individuals involved.

Theresa Hamacher

President, Versanture Consulting

 How would I describe Paul? The consummate professional. When I joined Boston Financial over 20 years ago, Paul was already in a very senior position. Yet he was always available to share his insights and provide solid feedback, even to a member of Finance (actually, Paul had a keen finance focus, and was certainly ready to talk budget at any time).

Not surprisingly, he was tapped shortly thereafter to help grow the UK side of the business. His work ethic, positive demeanor, and exemplary attitude was always evident. I will miss his frequent calls regarding ex pat tax issues. But more importantly, I will miss our frequent interaction (wherever he was in the world at that time). I am thrilled that I am able to call him “friend.”

Jay Shuman

CFO, Boston Financial Data Services

Do you have a favorite memory of Paul, a story to share? Please post a comment. We’d love to hear your perspective on Paul!

Category: CCO Forum, Client Forum, Compliance

Fall 2015 Compliance Highlights


Compliance-HighlightsThese days, enhanced transparency and risk management seem to be joined at the hip when it comes to what’s driving regulators’ actions and shaping firms’ compliance programs. One only has to look at the SEC’s 2015 priorities, regulatory proposals, or industry commentary for proof.

So at last month’s Boston Financial Client Forum, when a panel of industry experts took to the stage to give their perspective on a number of compliance topics, it wasn’t a surprise that risk and transparency underscored their discussion. The panel, consisting of CCOs and a representative from the ICI, discussed the SEC’s recent proposals on fund reporting, liquidity risk management, state escheatment, blue sky, and intermediary oversight. Here are few highlights:

Management of Risk: In the past, firms have focused more of their time on measuring risk versus managing risk. Questions firms should be addressing these days include: How do you approach risk? What is your risk management structure? How do you mitigate risk and who should lead the group?

Panelists noted that the topic of data security captivates the attention of most boards, but liquidity risk management oversight can’t be overlooked. Firms need to make sure they’re educating their board on this issue and ensuring a balanced distribution of topics occurs at meetings.

Unclaimed Property/ State Escheatment: When it comes to unclaimed property, shareholder education is key and outreach is the best prevention against escheatment. Panelists advocated for the industry being more forthcoming with shareholders about the states’ actions around escheatment.

For instance, most shareholders aren’t aware of the states’ aggressive stance when it comes to enforcing inactivity regulations, their push for reduced dormancy periods, or what a state does with a shareholder’s assets once escheated. These revelations could have the potential to be a big wake up call for shareholders. More importantly, a more knowledgeable shareholder can protect themselves noted the panelists.

SEC Proposed Rules on Fund Reporting: One of the SEC’s objectives with these rules is to use the data provided by the funds to identify and address risk within the industry. The proposed rules, which came out in May, significantly expand the type of reporting mutual funds would need to provide to the SEC and investors. The rules also greatly increase the amount of data the SEC will be taking in and analyzing.

Implementing the rules will be complex and onerous for funds. Understandably, it’s a concern for them noted the panelists. Equally concerning for the industry is the SEC’s data security. Some of the questions the panel raised included: How will the SEC ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the data? What assurances can the SEC provide regarding their data security? If the SEC needs to augment their data security, will they have enough time before the rules go into effect?

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the panel was how risk and transparency are now part of most, if not all, compliance related discussions.

At this year’s Boston Financial Chief Compliance Officer Forum, taking place tomorrow in Boston, transparency and risk management is the theme. If you’re a first-time attendee or a veteran of the conference, here is some of what you can expect: roundtable discussions with your peers and subject matter experts from Boston Financial on Blue Sky and the DOL Fiduciary Rule, discussions on the controls and key aspects of Boston Financial operating environment, regulatory updates, plus an industry perspective from the ICI.

The Forum kicks off Tuesday morning; we look forward to seeing you there.

Category: Conferences and Events, Innovation

What is user experience?


Frank-blog-imageIf you were trying to find your way to the airport and saw the two signs above, which way would you go?

Given our natural inclination to read from top to bottom, there are many people who would be inclined to go right, given the direction of the plane’s nose points to the right. In fact, the airport is to the left.

Rearranging the placement of these directional signs to align with the way most people read is an example of user experience, or UX.

Product development professionals from Boston Financial recently attended “The Business, Science and Art of the User Experience,” an event hosted by the Greater Boston Chapter of the Product Development Management Association at Bentley University. This subject was passionately presented by Professor Bill Gribbons, founder of Bentley’s User Experience Center.

User experience is the degree to which a system design aligns with the natural abilities and limitations of the user. It is measured by intuitiveness, ease-of-learning, reduction in errors, productivity, transfer of learning, and alignment with user and business goals.

How might the principles of user experience be applied in the mutual fund industry? Consider the example of designing a user interface for new account applications. User experience testing could help you measure the effectiveness of your design before putting it into production.

For starters, you would begin by recruiting representative users for a “test drive.”

Next, through tracking, recording and then analyzing eye movement, determine where people are looking on the page, and for how long. Also make note of where they are not looking. Are they moving through screens in the order in which you intended? What meaning can you derive from facial expressions? Do you see frustration or long stares at a particular screen?

To complement this data, by means of a wrist band sensor, biometrics can be used to measure emotional engagement. For example, an increased heart rate can correlate to agitation. Biometrics is particularly effective for testing apps on mobile devices.

Finally, users can be surveyed about their “test driving” experience.

With this user experience research, you now have sufficient data to know if your design will resonate with your customers.

What are the lessons learned from Dr. Gribbon’s user experience presentation? When designing products, trust your instincts. If an application or interface makes intuitive sense to you, it is likely to make intuitive sense to others. And then, because we don’t all share the same instincts, test.

Category: Client Forum, Technology

Optimizing the Customer and Intermediary Experience


Customer-Experience-ImageOne of the hot topics discussed at the Boston Financial Client Forum last month was the customer and intermediary experience. On the first afternoon, a panel of industry experts shared their views of this ever-evolving subject. Cheryl Kananowicz, Vice President, DST Systems, led the panel. Other panelists included Catherine Heron Carrol, Head of Global Digital Strategy for IMD Communications, Goldman Sachs; Donna MacFarland, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group; and Elizabeth Gooding, President Insight Forums.

Some interesting findings spanning the consumer, advisor, and retirement plan sponsor and participant side of the mutual fund business emerged. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

Customer experience is not a job or a department but needs to be engrained throughout a company’s culture. If leadership doesn’t make the customer and advisor experience a priority, many initiatives will fail or won’t gain the traction needed. Often employees are not incentivized to improve the customer’s overall experience. Moreover, they don’t have the right means to measure improvements in the overall experience to show a direct or indirect return on any investment.

The shift to mobile and digital; an outside-in look should be driving your customer experience goals. Simply put, the landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Everything should be approached with the mobile and digital users in mind and having this strategy drive offline goals. Without this focus, context and content may not be tailored correctly to the digital users. Let digital drive print versus the previous line of thinking which did the opposite.

Think long term and put away the conventional playbooks of targeting. Gone are the days of using simple age brackets or account types to target certain items to certain users. Think of the Google Now approach: Google uses all available data to predict and tailor what is shown to you. The more you know about your customers and advisors, the better; throw away crude targeting. Adopting this approach will improve the user experience and give you added intelligence about your customer and advisor base.

Respect people’s time: Make usability easy and content “snackable.” Study usability as an external user. You shouldn’t have to relearn an online interface each time you use a site, nor should you need instructions on how to use things. Make content easy to digest and cater the content to the type of device, so users aren’t forced to scroll through eight pages on their phones (for example).

Barriers should be as low as possible. Make everything available to most users without logins, cumbersome registration processes, or worse yet, a call! Think about what content truly needs to be behind a login, and what you can do to make it easier for a user to get access to that content.

With technology and customer expectations changing daily, the conversation around customer experience will continue to evolve. Events like the Boston Financial Client Forum are a good opportunity for the industry to come together around this topic and share best practices. New ideas brought to the forefront help us to evaluate and challenge processes. And this ultimately gives customers the best experience possible.