Monthly Archives: July 2016

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Conferences and Events

Is Your Life and Work Working for You? Here are 5 Quick Tips that can Help

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Some days you hit a wall. Or as Martha Coakley tells it, “I was marked present today. You will have days like that. Then move on.” iStock_hitting a wall(2)

Coakley shared this takeaway in her talk, “Ten Not-So-Secret Tips to Make Life and Work Work for You,” at the Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network Breakfast. The breakfast came on the heels of Boston Financial’s Managers Meeting, where our leadership team talked candidly and openly about how they integrate life and work. Both meetings sparked lively conversations on managing your work, career, and life in general.Martha Coakley_perspectives(2)Here are just a few of the takeaways from Coakley’s talk and our leadership team:

1. Always learn, challenge yourself with new skills, take on new challenges, keep growing, and be prepared for lifelong learning. If you feel that you are ever stagnant or stalled, create a plan and find a way to move forward. Robert Kiyosaki said that “The most successful people in life are the ones who ask questions. They are always learning. They are always growing. They are always pushing.”

2. If you don’t get into the game you can’t win. Taking chances and risks is the best way to reach your goals professionally and personally. Throughout the year, you should periodically take time to review progress toward the completion of your goals. Each goal should be set using the SMART method. Ask yourself if your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

3. Learn to negotiate in ALL aspects of your life. Negotiating isn’t limited to raises and promotions. Coakley advises negotiating with yourself to find out what is important to you. Doing this will also help you integrate work and life better. We should also be negotiating in our personal life – with our spouses and partners to find the middle ground. Bottom line: know your worth and leverage.

4. Confidence comes from experience. Do stuff, just do it. You will learn what you don’t like, not everything will be perfect. Roll with it. Lead the way. At Boston Financial, our organization is full of tenured associates with loads of expertise. Look to those within your organization, within your team, who have tacit knowledge; leverage them to learn more. Encourage the possibilities of the future by stepping outside your comfort zone and asking for stretch goals. You’ll never know what you like until you try, and you might have fun along the way.

5. Define yourself, don’t let others define you. Be yourself, be authentic. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, you don’t get another chance. Work life balance is part of defining who you are and your capability to contribute to your colleagues and your organization to the best of your ability. Prioritize what is important to you so you can ultimately define who you are, both for yourself and your organization.

At Boston Financial, we continue to motivate and drive each other to be the best we can be, achieve our goals (both personal and corporate), and attain a work life balance. But we also recognize that having fun is paramount. And after hearing Coakley speak, we know she would agree. Marhta_Julie_Nicole(2) What is your experience when it comes to work life balance?


Julie Cadogan, who also attended the Martha Coakley session and Boston Financial’s Managers Meeting, contributed to this post. Some background on Julie:

Jcadogan perspectives

 

Julie, a Senior Human Resources Consultant, joined Boston Financial in 2009. She works on a variety of human resource initiatives supporting the finance, business technology solutions, and financial control divisions at Boston Financial. Her background includes workforce planning, compensation, recruiting, and employee relations.

Category: Industry Trends, Innovation, Technology

Now What? What Blockchain Means for the Transfer Agent

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Blockchain technology promises to increase security, efficiency, and compliance. Analysts believe blockchain’s transparency could potentially reduce the need for some audits and reconciliation functions, which could potentially reduce operating costs overall.Lightbulb image(2)

So what does blockchain mean for the mutual fund industry? And for shareholder record keepers and the technology they use?

At this stage in the game, the answers to these questions are speculative because financial services companies are still in the earliest phases of experimenting with the technology.

Firms like VISA, Citigroup, and NASDAQ are exploring how blockchain can help them meet their business goals, according to Forbes. In this same article, it is reported that “several other companies and organizations have also released protocols for running… private distributed ledger networks, including… Corda, a consortium of 44 global financial institutions, including Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Wells Fargo; and Ripple, which is focused on using distributed ledger technology for instant, low-cost international payments.”

Closer to home, Boston Financial’s parent company, State Street Corporation, is exploring how blockchain can be used for institutional banking, and processing and monitoring loans, mortgages, and other financial products. DST Systems, Inc., our other parent company, is running internal tests on blockchain code to demystify how it works, and building prototypes of potential use cases to determine where blockchain might be leveraged to enhance the financial services solutions they offer to clients.

Much of the industry’s experimentation with blockchain lies in how securities trades are recorded, which could affect how and when transfer agents receive information used to manage the shareholder record. This will require the same type of systematic adaptation being triggered by regulatory change like money market reform.

Our information technology team is monitoring other areas where blockchain may influence our business. For example, the minimization of the central clearinghouse function for managing trades means blockchain could reduce the number of days needed to settle a transaction from T+3 to T+0.

The open and transparent nature of the technology offers the potential to streamline compliance functions like fraud monitoring and KYC (know your customer). Lock image(2)This is because the movement of securities may be done on a private and highly secure network of trusted financial services firms; if shareholders conduct business with multiple firms within the trusted network KYC checks would only need to be done once.

 

While blockchain may offer real benefits and material use for mutual fund industry, at this stage, it appears as if shareholder record keeping has the potential to be influenced, but not radically transformed, by the technology.

Have a mutual fund industry topic you’d like to understand better? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll do our best to help out.

Category: Industry Trends, Innovation, Technology

Disruption Ahead: Is Blockchain the Next Disruptor to Hit Financial Services?

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Well-known disruption guru and management expert Clayton Christensen describes disruption as being both creative and destructive. And therein lies the catch. Being able to grasp and embrace the possibilities that disruptive innovation can bring even though it flies in the face of how you may think and operate today. Blockchain image2

But disruption doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word, which was the theme of the recent NICSA East Coast conference. Blockchain, a topic gaining a lot of traction these days, was one of the featured topics. Some are predicting that it will be the biggest impact to business over the next decade.

Blockchain may be a game changer, but what are some of the implications for financial services? And if a firm isn’t “all in” at this time, has it missed the blockchain disruption innovation train?

So before I had even headed into NICSA’s session on blockchain, “Blockchain Unleashed: What You Really Need to Know and May be Afraid to Ask?” my interest was already piqued.

Here are a few takeaways from the session:

What is blockchain? It’s not bitcoin (blockchain is the technology underpinning bitcoin). The panelists described it as a shared public ledger, employing complex cryptography that “strings” together “blocks” of transactions. Others describe blockchain as a distributed ledger.

When blockchain approves a block of transaction, it then adds it to the string. In essence, one database or ledger is shared to perform transactions, contracts, etc. The transaction can be currency-based, contracts, etc.

What stage is the technology in and what is financial services role? While the technology is still in its infancy, “experimental” stage, financial services isn’t sitting on the sidelines according to the panelists. Some of the biggest financial institutions are making significant investments in the technology, with many developing proof of concepts and participating in R&D consortiums. One of the biggest consortiums is R3.

R3

Although financial services firms may not be creating the technology, many are focusing their efforts to direct the formation of the architecture and use applications. John Burnett, a panelist and a vice president at State Street, cited State Street’s involvement with R3 as well as some of State Street’s other blockchain-inspired initiatives.

What are some of the implications and potential uses in financial services? Because blockchain eliminates the middleman, transactions will complete in a much shorter timeframe. The float on transactions, which can be a lucrative source of revenue when interest rates are high, could all be eliminated.

On the flip side, tremendous efficiency gains could result. Operations and back offices becoming more streamlined. Down the road, many firms could leverage the technology for internal processes, but there may also be revenue opportunities too. Regulators are also interested in the technology since blockchain keeps a record of all transactions that take place. The benefits from an audit perspective could be substantial.

What are the security ramifications? Panelists described blockchain technology as a tamper proof “trust.” How so? Blockchain is a distributed database, replicated in multiple locations and requires each transaction to be validated before being accepted to the chain, the more transaction layers (blocks) the better.

Therefore, the more people who are on the chain and participating in the validation, the more secure the chain becomes and harder for a hacker to break. But security concerns and questions still remain, and understandably so in today’s world of cybercrime.

My final takeaway: Have we reached a milestone yet when it comes to blockchain and the financial services industry? No. Is our industry deeply invested? Yes. Will the technology have real benefits and material use for our industry? Stay tuned.

blockchain tweet

 

 

Category: Innovation, Technology

Demystifying Blockchain

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digital-abstractDo you understand “blockchain” well enough to explain it to a lay person?

Sure, we’ve all read news articles and participated in conferences and webinars where blockchain, the technology best known for supporting bitcoin, has been discussed. Chances are you know blockchain is an open source software tool heralded as a resource for transforming the financial services industry.

Perhaps your knowledge is a little deeper, and you are aware that firms like Microsoft and State Street Corporation are exploring how to leverage this distributed ledger technology, first introduced in 2008, to securely meet their data management needs. And maybe you’ve even heard of some of the advantages blockchain; for example, according to State Street’s Explainer Series, blockchain is secure, efficient, and can be open or closed. 

But, unless you are a tech professional, are you confident that you could you REALLY explain blockchain?

I couldn’t.

So, I went to the web to find a reputable and up-to-date source to demystify blockchain and help me understand all the excitement about it.

A quick Google search for “blockchain” and “mutual funds” revealed more than 75,000 entries in fewer than 30 seconds.

As I scrolled through the results, my eyes pounced on an article in the Wall Street Journal‘s CIO Journal series published in February 2016 entitled, “What is Blockchain?” The article leads with an illustration by Oliver Wyman describing the function of a distributed ledger.

binary-cubesPerfect. Understanding the function that blockchain fulfills is an important first step in demystifying the technology.

Skimming the subheadings in the Wall Street Journal article led me to the second paragraph, which reads, “A blockchain is a data structure that makes it possible to create…”

From there I devoured the article written by staff reporter Steven Norton.

The simplicity of the piece helped me understand the power and potential of blockchain.

Do I understand what it means for the mutual fund industry? Not completely. But I am interested to learn more. So I plan to talk with our Chief Information Officer Don Foberg, and Business Solutions Analyst Phil Blake to learn how Boston Financial is leading and learning from the industry discussion of blockchain. And we’ll report the findings here.

Have a mutual fund industry topic you’d like to understand better? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll do our best to help out.