The Catalyst Group’s Director – Corporate Development and Strategy, Stuart Wright, answers pertinent questions regarding the role of technology in the Cayman Islands investment fund industry in 2023 and what the implications are for asset managers, investors, and service providers.
What have been the most significant changes brought about within the Cayman Islands fund industry by the use of technology?
Over the last decade, technology has fundamentally shifted the landscape of the investment fund industry – mainly through the emergence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Robotic Process Automation or RPA has been a key factor that has enabled the fund industry to progress in leaps and bounds over recent years. Through tools like Xceptor or even Microsoft’s Power Automate, firms have been able to remove redundant repetitive manual tasks and systemise them. The more recent introduction of Artificial intelligence through the likes of ChatGPT (or Microsoft’s Launch of Co-Pilot) is a further example of how technology is pushing firms to remove humans where tasks can be pushed to technology and add incredible efficiency. Programs like Co-Pilot for firms that utilize the full scope of Microsoft’s tools is going to fundamentally change the process, speed, and efficiency with which content is created and shared. The introduction of RPA and AI into firms’ operating models and the potential future use cases for these technologies is extraordinary. Increasingly, we are seeing forward-thinking service providers leveraging these tools to underpin and redefine how they operate.
In addition to RPA and AI the introduction of an array of applications and systems that range from workflow tools to portals and data warehouses allow both providers and clients a level of collaboration that has not been seen before. Such tools have resulted in enormous opportunities for material improvements in efficiency, cost-reduction, communication, reporting reliability and scalability.
The benefits that are being realized by the integration of these technologies are being reaped throughout the industry at every level, from service providers to asset managers and investors alike.
Have there been any challenges in the adoption of technology across the industry? Is there any hesitance from particular groups when it comes to integrating these systems into their business?
Yes, as with any change, there have been several challenges in the adoption of technology across the investment fund industry, and some groups have been hesitant to integrate these systems into their businesses. The most common challenges and hesitations are:
Legacy systems / Integrations: Integrating new technology into existing systems can be difficult, especially if legacy systems are involved. Older firms built on legacy systems are particularly plagued by this, as unplugging old legacy tech is a difficult exercise. As a result, some firms may be hesitant to adopt new technology if it requires significant changes to their existing infrastructure. The last decade has also seen an increase in M&A activities with Private Equity backed firms being pushed harder and harder to buy smaller groups. Every M&A requires systems performing a similar task to be integrated and thus adding to the burden on the acquired an acquiree. Never before has having a fully integrated system stack been so important.
Cost: Implementing new technology is expensive and takes an upfront investment. For smaller firms, justifying the initial cost is particularly difficult as the payoff doesn’t necessarily happen for a period of time. Those who are prepared to invest, are normally the ones that reap the rewards.
Data Security: With the increasing amount of data that investment funds and their back-office service providers generate and store, data security is a significant concern. Some firms may be hesitant to adopt new technology if they are not confident in the security measures. However, with the introduction of the Global Data Protection Law (GDPL) in 2016 and the Cayman Islands Data Protection Act) DPA 2021 the requirement to have structured data has never been more important. Furthermore, the increased risk of cyber attacks on firms running legacy technology is a growing concern. As cyber attacks get smarter so to is the requirement to ensure firms have the correct cyber protection in place.
Cultural Resistance: Finally, some within the industry may be resistant to change and prefer to stick with traditional methods that they know and trust.
From Catalyst’s perspective, technological innovation sits at the very heart of our service offering and is in our DNA. The team that catalyst calls its “Circle” is a representation of this and all staff are pushed to always look for ways to use technology to improve the way we work. Having teams focused on technology and not solely on deliverables has been a key factor to our growth as we have enabled our people to work smarter while constantly pushing the boundaries.
As a result, we continue to attract clients who are looking for a service provider utilizing best-in-class technology. We have found that successful adoption of new technology relies on carefully considered platform integration, remaining cognizant of the potential pitfalls and risks, and ensuring that technology is paired with a highly personalized client service experience.
What are the most significant benefits of adopting technology within a firm and how is this particularly pertinent to Cayman Islands operators?
The strategic adoption and integration of technology into our day-to-day operations is one of the founding principles of Catalyst. We founded our business with the intent of leveraging the opportunity presented by combining best-in-class technology with a highly experienced team to deliver a comprehensive service solution that was second to none.
The benefits of integrating technology into our business, particularly given the remote nature of the Cayman Islands as an offshore jurisdiction are:
- Increased efficiency
- Real time access to data and analytics
- Greater communication and collaboration with clients
- Reporting reliability and accuracy
- Reductions in storage, shipping, and turnaround times for physical documentation
- Simplification of the investor onboarding and AML/KYC process
Quality Vs. Quantity – One of the greatest challenges that firms face is scaling their businesses (increasing the quantity of clients, funds, assets they administer) whilst simultaneously maintaining and enhancing the quality of their service offering. Technology has the power to reduce the challenges associate with expanding your portfolio, allowing greater opportunity to focus on quality and innovation. Catalyst fully embraces this, and the team are tasked every day to question, “how can we do things better against ourselves.” Too many firms are constantly looking at how others are doing things. At Catalyst the team are driven to compete against ourselves and look to improve on the last deliverable – The use of technology allows for this.
Does more need to be done to further embed technology solutions within the Cayman Islands industry?
There is no doubt that technology will continue to play an increasingly pivotal role in the Cayman Islands’ investment funds industry. However, ensuring long-term success and continued evolution of the technology products that will power the industry will be dependent on the training, and education that is available to the next generation of product specialists and fund accountants in the local market.
As an industry, we need to ensure that we are aligned with the academic institutions, government, and regulators responsible for nurturing local talent and providing the technical skills and application specific knowledge needed to step into the industry equipped with the tools necessary to succeed and innovate.