Investment house adds data management tools

For Natcan Investment Management Inc., effective data management is not just a competitive advantage, it is a potentially good return on investment. Montreal-based Natcan is a National Bank of Canada subsidiary specializing in portfolio management for pension funds, endowment funds, pooled funds and wealth management.

According to Natcan, the goal is to keep up with the growing number of client portfolios. The firm has undergone considerable growth over the past few years; it was becoming necessary to invest in its IT systems and to implement optimal data centralization strategies and straight-through processes (STP).

According to Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm Gartner Inc., financial services providers are looking at STP to improve operational efficiency, cut down on labour costs, enable greater transaction volumes and improve data quality.

Specifically, Natcan is in the process of implementing Eagle PACE (a central data hub) and Eagle Performance, a collection of composite management, performance attribution, and analysis and reporting tools. For report generation and workflow Natcan will use Eagle’s client reporting and the Eagle Portal, a browser-based data delivery platform.

According to the companies the Eagle Professional Services team based in Toronto will manage the implementation in collaboration with Natcan’s information technology team based in Montreal. The data hub will allow Natcan to consolidate its various third-party data feeds and centralize the data management process, said Charles Leblanc, assistant vice-president, IT at Natcan. He added that the hub would also ramp up the data analysis and reporting capabilities.

The key reasons for turning to Eagle were the Web-based technology and client reporting, according Leblanc. The business case was to improve performance measurement at the firm. Currently, Natcan has an IT system that measures performance but needed technology that went beyond that to include features for attribution, composite management and reporting, as well as maintaining an industry standard, Leblanc said.

Also, Natcan needed to improve its client reporting as the system was getting old. On the IT side, implementing the data hub enables Natcan to centralize information allowing the back office and accounting systems to feed into it, Leblanc said.

Natcan is a Microsoft IT shop, Leblanc said, and added that the decision to go with Eagle was heavily based on that, as well as the vendor’s expertise with the financial services sector. With respect to the IT staff, centralizing the data makes the IT operations a lot simpler, Leblanc said. “So when you want to produce reports or interface with other systems, the data is in one central place.”

The entire project is slated to take 12 to 18 months. “Does this give us an advantage? Maybe but I think that everyone else is doing this,” Leblanc said. “We believe this will give us the foundation to get ahead, especially with the data hub.”

Gartner noted that STP is neither a front-office nor an operational back-office function. The research firm commoditizing the transaction process will make seamless service delivery a given and ensure STP is no longer a competitive differentiator but a condition of doing business.

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