Monthly Archives: April 2016

Category: Conferences and Events

User-centric blah blah blah


When it was announced that Ovuline’s Gina Nebesar would be speaking about user-centric design at the recent Women’s Network Breakfast hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, most of us from Boston Financial who were attending the event thought:

“Tech jargon about web and app development? In the field of fertility and pregnancy management? Is this going to be a waste of our time?”

As Nebesar launched into her brief remarks about lessons she’s learned from her work with Ovuline and Automatic Apparel, it became clear that this event was not a waste of our time. At the end of the 60-minute event, the team from Boston Financial realized we had each come to the same conclusion: the principles of user-centric design as described by Nebesar are the same as the principles of client-centered transaction processing, merely hiding behind industry jargon.

Principle 1: Put Your Own Preferences Aside and Listen

tin can phone

As Ovuline set out to create Ovia Fertility, they started by listening to potential customers. They learned that their potential users were not all alike. For example, the needs of a 26-year old vegetarian newlywed are different than those of a 43-year old person with Type 1 diabetes making one last effort to get pregnant. The best products and services, regardless of industry, Nebesar said, are those that are customized to the user and the evolution of their journey with your product or service.

“Not so technical after all,” we thought. “Our business model is built around listening to our clients, and then blending standardized functions with custom features to meet their needs.”

Principle 2: Create a Culture Around User Feedback


Driven by the desire to continue to meet the needs of their customers, Ovuline embedded feedback loops into their apps. This includes smart coding that help the apps adapt to the use patterns of their consumers, easy-to-find “contact us” buttons, and regularly inviting users to come to the office to give feedback IRL (in real life). More importantly, said Nebesar, they listened to the feedback and then used it to make the apps better.

For example, Ovia Pregnancy users who experienced a miscarriage reported that the app’s push notifications were difficult to receive after their traumatic event. As a result, a feature was introduced that let users notify the app when they have a miscarriage. This triggers a message of condolence and a suspension of service until users indicate they’re ready.

Around the table, the Boston Financial team nodded, thinking of our regular client satisfaction surveys, and the hundreds of client meetings, conferences, and advisory groups we host – all designed to help us continue to make Boston Financial’s services better.

Principle 3: Leverage Appropriate Opportunities to Listen Covertly


Principle 3 underscores the importance of listening outside of the traditional channels. In the age of social media, it’s easy to listen covertly without resorting to stalker or spy tactics. Monitoring trending topics on social media sites, subscribing to industry news aggregators, and watching hashtags are within the reach of anyone with a mobile device.

“We got this,” we thought, because Boston Financial’s culture values reading industry news to stay abreast of factors affecting our clients. This content may be pushed out through email, conferences, or social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Principle 4: Share Your Own Stories

share stories

Sharing authentic stories relevant to the service you provide, using channels directly linked to your product and user community, will help your clients realize that you understand their experiences. This has the potential to increase user’s affiliation with you and your brand, which increases their use of the product and improves relationship longevity.

Nebesar credits adherence to these four principles of “user-centric design” for helping to put the Ovuline products at the top of the women’s health app list in both the iTunes store and on Google Play. And the team at Boston Financial who had the privilege of hearing her speak? We see it as fancy talk for simply listening to your customers, and adapting your solutions to meet their needs. Or, in other words, “good business.”

A team of four collaborated on this post. My fellow contributors included:

Collage photo for collaborative post

  • Marion Herlihy is a member of the NSCC Services team and came to Boston Financial in 2004 as part of a client conversion. She provides data analysis for trending reporting for management and clients.
  • Karen Mosman, a Control Service Officer in the Financial Control unit, has worked at Boston Financial since 1993. She oversees the development and continuous improvement of our Control Work Station tool.
  • Kathy Shea, a member of the Human Resources/ Talent Development team, has also been with Boston Financial since 2004, focusing on leadership and professional development.



Category: Conferences and Events, Industry Trends

The Regulatory Squeeze on Boards Tightens with New Proposals


The role of a fund board has evolved since 1940, but the primary mandate of oversight and protecting shareholders has not changed. In today’s hypersensitive risk environment though, where the waves of new regulations seem endless, board members are increasingly being pulled into the operational components of funds.

New regulations and proposals, such as liquidity risk management (LRM) and distribution-in-guise guidance introduce responsibilities for board members that mirror day-to-day management. Mary Jo White, in her keynote address at the Mutual Fund Directors Forum 2016 policy conference, acknowledged the operations creep when she said, “Determining an appropriate dividing line is a challenge, one that the SEC is grappling with as we consider proposed reforms designed to address the increasingly complex portfolios and operations of mutual funds and ETFs”.

Finding the balance between enforcement and accountability was front and center at last month’s ICI Mutual Funds and Investment Management Conference in Orlando.

Rock and a hard place - iStock_000074505495_Large

In his keynote, David W. Grim, a Director in the Division of Investment Management for the SEC, poignantly discussed the requirement for open end funds to implement robust LRM programs. He noted these programs are intended to limit market risks and protect shareholders. This may be the case, but what is the impact to boards? I’ve outlined some of the considerations below, as well as the impact of other proposals and key industry topics.

  • Liquidity Risk Management Rule Proposal – funds will be required to categorize their portfolios into six categories based on the liquidity of their securities and approve the written program; the board will be responsible for continually analyzing the program’s effectiveness. Craig Hollis highlighted this further in his State Street Talks conversation with Liz Strouse on February 10 of this year.
  • Derivatives Rule Proposal – boards will be required to review a quarterly report from the advisor on the adequacy and effectiveness of the derivatives oversight program, and be responsible for approving how much leverage a fund can obtain through derivatives.
  • Oversight of Distribution Payments – the board is responsible for determining what portion of sub-TA fees directly or indirectly pay for distribution. The advisor and other parties are required to provide the board with “sufficient information” to conduct its analysis – the board should focus on understanding the distribution process as a whole.
  • Cybersecurity – boards must pay substantial attention to the controls and safeguards internally and of its service providers in order to help them prepare for potential cyberattacks. This includes understanding the full ecosystem in which their fund’s data moves, including the TA and sub-TA’s environments. Thus boards must pay substantial attention to the controls and safeguards internally and of its service providers.

In my conversations with fund officers and trustees at the ICI conference, they also pointed to their growing reliance on operations and third-party service providers to provide relevant information and alleviate operational burdens.

One of the ways Boston Financial supports our clients in this area is by hosting due diligence meetings for their fund board of directors. In addition, our Chief Technology Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and relationship managers routinely attend our fund board meetings to discuss and review operations, information security, and key regulatory topics.

In addition, our enterprise compliance team analyzes the impact to funds of any significant regulation, interprets the operational impact, and advocates on their behalf to the industry as appropriate. Our enterprise approach also helps ensure that, as an extension of our clients’ operational systems, our systems and processes remain well-positioned to implement new regulations.

Enforcement actions levied by the SEC against independent directors are also leaving many boards feeling targeted. Board positions certainly aren’t the rubber stamp role they may have once been. Mary Jo White has acknowledged that board directors must “strike a balance (with) oversight,” but proposed regulatory activity has board members’ responsibilities increasing in volume and scope. And, as presented at the ICI conference in March 2016, a board’s list of duties and the complex requirements related to it aren’t diminishing.

Category: Conferences and Events, Industry Trends

Where Are We Headed; How Are We Getting There? Insights From Industry Leaders


Why clients attended DST ADVANCE?


But, how did we get clients to leave this and attend one of the 60+ sessions?


 (View from the conference center)

At ADVANCE, Tracy Shelby, Boston Financial’s Chief Relationship Officer, hosted a panel discussion with industry leaders. Despite competing with the beautiful Scottsdale location, the session was standing room only.

Our clients want to hear viewpoints from each other and with over 400 clients in attendance at ADVANCE, there was ample opportunity to share client insights.

Tracy kicked off the session discussing how as an industry we’ve achieved several milestones, but we also manage the day-to-day incredibly successfully. We don’t typically stop to acknowledge “our business as usual” and the services we provide to shareholders. Here’s a reminder of the community we’re part of:

  • 8,116 mutual funds
  • $15.65 trillion U.S. mutual fund assets
  • 482 money market funds
  • $2.75 trillion money market assets
  • 53.2 million households own mutual funds representing 43.3% of American households
  • 90.4 million individuals own mutual funds

Our industry’s infrastructure has been built over the last 30 to 40 years ensuring our processes and services run smoothly, but, there are always opportunities and challenges. During the panel discussion, our clients shared insights into key opportunities and challenges across our industry such as:

  • Where will additional sales come from
  • How can we continue to be successful with competing products
  • Global firms are a target for global regulations, so you must have thick skin when you come into work!
  • Culture and conduct continue to be very important and with new workers coming into the workforce, need to ensure carrying forward company legacy
  • We are not perfect, yet. We need to continue to look for opportunities to enhance the customer experience; what can we do as an industry to benefit the shareholder?

Despite being competitors, we have historically been a highly collaborative industry bringing together diverse perspectives and organizations. Industry groups bring together asset managers and service providers. This helps ensure we all have a voice in the industry, we can influence the regulators, and implement industry-wide changes that benefit shareholders, advisors, and our firms. Industry collaboration was an overarching theme of the panel. Insights shared included:

  • We’re good at getting together and analyzing what went wrong and we’re very good executors.
  • With today’s distributed TA environment, managing communication flow is critical to our future success.
  • Learn from peers and share what we’re learning; this provides a safe and less risky environment for all of us.
  • Be actively engaged with your service providers and committees.
  • Industry collaboration and committees have led to increased efficiencies, automation, and decrease in risk.

Based on their industry committee experience, the panel shared their views on characteristics of effective industry committee members:

  • Actively participate
  • Speak up and share your point of view
  • Bring information back to your company; share with your peers

These days, no industry panel can escape without discussing regulatory. This panel was no different. They kept their regulatory comments brief, focusing on two areas:

  1. Money Market Reform: It’s getting a lot of attention and resources (but, probably not a lot of value). Good example of how our industry can execute.
  2. TA Rules: Despite the chatter for years from the SEC that they were looking at revising the TA rules, as an industry, we were generally surprised when they arrived. But, no big surprises in the proposed rules.

As the panelists suggested, following the conference attendees should share with their colleagues the conference takeaways. Here are a few of my high-level-takeaways from the panel discussion:

  • Industry collaboration is instrumental to the future viability and success of our industry.
  • DST and Boston Financial play an influential role in industry collaboration bringing clients together. Our clients highly value these opportunities.
  • Shareholders continue to be at the center of our industry, and we need to continue to challenge ourselves to better service shareholders.

And, another takeaway for me was to not forget to enjoy the local environment and culture; this was taken before the conference started.

advance pic4

(Anne Hebard and Lisa Light – please note who is doing the heavy lifting).