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Is the back office function moving forward?

11 August 2020

Is the back office function moving forward?

In this CFO e-Lab session, we examine how the role of the private fund CFO has evolved and how their position enables them to play a pivotal role in leveraging and managing data to drive financial performance and create value.

Leading the masterclass are:

·       Shaun Collins, CFO for Europe and Asia at Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s top 10 private equity firms. Shaun joined Apollo in 2013 as European Chief Financial Officer before taking on his current role. Before Apollo, he spent 13 years at Goldman Sachs, latterly as a Managing Director and European Corporate Controller. He also previously spent four years with NatWest Bank focused on statutory and regulatory reporting for global financial markets, after qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1992 with Ernst and Young.

·       Barnaby Piggott, Founder and CEO of Holland Mountain, a leading European consulting firm that delivers operational improvements and maximises efficiency in the private equity, private debt, real estate and infrastructure sectors. Barnaby is a highly accomplished PE project specialist with more than 15 years’ experience working with PE fund managers, administrators and investors throughout Europe and the US. He has completed over 50 client engagements with leading industry names, including Coller Capital, Bridgepoint, UBS (now MUFG), IK Partners and Octopus Investments.

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Transcript

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

Welcome to the second edition of the IQ-EQ CFO e-Lab. Launched in May, IQ-EQ’s CFO e-Lab is a unique series of topical, online masterclasses provided by leading industry experts. Each session takes the form of an interactive webinar covering both the technical and practical industry perspectives, delivering strategic, actionable insights that attendees can take away and apply to their own organisation. Following a popular inaugural session on the Singapore Variable Capital Company, I am delighted to introduce the second webinar in our CFO eLab series titled “Is the back office function moving forward?” In today's session, we will examine how the role of the private fund CFO has evolved and how that position enables them to play a pivotal role in leveraging and managing data to drive financial performance and create value. To discuss this topic, joining me today are Shaun Collins, CFO for Europe and Asia at Apollo Global Management, one of the world's top 10 PE firms, and Barnaby Piggott, CEO of Holland Mountain, a leading European consultant specialist in the private equity, private debt, real estate and infrastructure sectors. You can ask your questions at any point during the presentation by using the question tab situated on the right hand side of your screen, and Shaun, Barnaby and I will take your questions at the end of the presentation in about 20 minutes from now. Now without further delay, I turn the virtual microphone over to Shaun. Have a great day, and thank you for joining us.

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

Thank you Justin for the introduction and good afternoon everybody. Just to add to that, I would just like to give us a brief summary of my experience in order to give some high level context to my later comments. So before joining the private equity industry, my last role was at Goldman Sachs, supporting the trading division in the investment banking parts at Goldman, across a number of finance roles, but really the key to it is that Goldman was not an acquisitive bank. It very much relied on technology for scale, and that technology was often a proprietary built technology. Apollo, obviously a very different industry, and as we all know, you learn quickly in PE. While Apollo's roots have been private equity, the seven years that I've been there, a lot of the growth has been across the asset spectrum, not just in PE, across CLOs, loans, illiquid products, and that that really has meant moving away from light technology self-administered funds to the whole spectrum of different support models. And with that growth in asset and complexity and there's new regulation, you really need to then start to think about scaling, focus on preserving margin, and so thinking around how you, how you scale To support that growth.

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

Then Europe itself is a smaller part of Apollo, obviously, and we in the European offices have been very much reliant in places for the US to help us, particularly in areas like the technology, but I still have had experience of the different models of self-administered funds versus using third party admins, closed end funds, open-ended funds. I have got to experience different asset classes as well, as the firm in Europe has really gone through exponential growth. So, moving away from my background, I think really what I want to touch on in order then to promote some discussion is three real points where I think the CFO function is moving forward, and not being just a classic back office role. I think some of that you can look at as being very positive in the private equity industry itself is very much changing. Part of that is just the world and the appetite for it to find yield. Obviously PE is playing a role in disintermediating the banking sector and leading to broader asset classes and that leads to business opportunities for the industry, and then also leads to opportunities for us as the finance function, in order to support the investment professionals as they grow into those business strategies. The other thing I would say is a little bit more defensive, but there is increased competition, which leads to more of a focus on margin and expense management, which is more into the skill set of people with finance backgrounds. And also as you move into more regulated asset class or different areas of Europe, as well as things like AIFMD coming in and changes under MiFID too, there is definitely much more of a greater role that the CFO can play.

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

My first point is around data and the data is key in how we as a finance function and can help to support the deal makers and the investment professionals, compiling, analyzing, reporting key data. I think historically our key role has been much more around compiling NAVs for funds and also coming up with those quarterly valuations, if you are on a quarterly cycle, monthly for more liquid products and obviously more frequently for even more liquid products. But we can move away from just doing a regulatory need or statutory requirement, and really thinking about how that data can be used for the investment professionals in deal performance and analytics. We're going back to historically where private equity firms have used their portfolio companies really to do a lot of that heavy lifting of data, and then it's been a collection exercise to much more thinking about how we can collect and report that data in a much more one booking records quality secure way, but also thinking about ways of doing it away from it just being Excel. I think standardizing the metrics that come through and the requests out to portfolio companies, if it's still in a PE space, collecting it may be through a technology solution that's in house, or, obviously there is more opportunity out there in the market, to actually buy something in order to do that and then feed it through, into fund analytics, forecasting, but also just underlying deal performance that you need, again, the deal guys can use. So, data, I think is one of the key areas where we can show our worth, and part of that is obviously moving forward to work with the deal professionals, rather than just doing the statutory requirements around NAV and valuation. The second thing really is where I think, as I said in my opening remarks, the diversification of the asset classes and going into different markets really means that we can play a role in thinking about what decisions are made about which assets to go into and which markets really thinking and supporting the investment professionals in analytics or profitability analysis, not just assuming that it's a support function that the deal has been done, and then we have to find a way to, again, account for it, book it and value it, but much more around helping to make the choice, starting to think about cost allocation methodologies.

Speaker name
Speaker 2
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I'm sure all of us have done a lot of that in terms of allocating our time to either fund or firm, but expanding that really, to think about how we should build models to maybe even allocate investment professional time. So to really do a full cost analysis about whether a particular business line or product is going to be profitable for the firm as a whole. And again, I think that is something that we're going to see more and more of as private equity firms expand further and further into different asset classes. My third point, and really brings those two things together, almost like thinking of it as being a central hub, but at professionalizing that central hub for the benefit of the firm, thinking about how we streamline and automate the financial analysis, but also move into the world of target operating models, thinking about having something that is a bespoke model. So if a new product, new market, new business comes along, we've already got an operating model set up, and then that investment strategy just sits into that operating model. I think too much now, certainly in my own experience, a lot of stuff is done on an ad hoc way. So, whatever the product is, we just strive to get it and report it, but I think in order to continue to support the scale that the businesses are going through, we have to come up with much more standard operating models across private equity, across credit, across real estate strategies.

Speaker name
Shaun
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So that was really the three areas where I think we really need to work to make our voices heard and partner with the businesses, and to my mind that they were all examples of where the back office function, the finance function, is really moving forward and business partnering with investment professionals across the piece. And so that was my point. I look forward to answering questions, and expanding the discussion later in the conversation. I would now like to hand over to Barnaby Piggott of Holland Mountain, who will make some further comments. Thank you very much.

Speaker name
Barnaby
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Thanks Shaun. Hi, by introduction, my name is Barnaby Piggott. I run Holland Mountain. We have two strands to our business. One is consulting and advisory services to CFOs, COOs and CTOs, basically helping them to achieve the target operating model that Shaun has referred to, as well as providing target operating models, we'll also provide roadmaps to help firms achieve that target, or hit that target operating model. Within our advisory business, also helping with selection processes for service providers and software to support the target operating model. We work through that and then we will also help firms with implementing the solutions that they select, effectively providing project managers or business analysts. The second strand to our businesses is the data services. We acquired a company a couple of years ago, called Consolidator. We recognize that had a great platform for aggregating data across different teams, and really being able to provide firms with one source of truth. So what we wanted to do is take that platform and effectively dedicate it, completely focus it on the private capital space, helping firms pull data from the back, front and middle office together, and effectively creating that hub concept that Shaun referred to, a central one source of truth for the firm. Just to give you some context around my comments, we do work in the US, we are familiar with the US market. I think it's fair to say that a lot of the larger US fund managers or GPs are very much ahead, four or five years ahead of where we are in Europe. Most of the work we do is with firms in the UK and in Europe on improving their operations and systems. I thought just really sharing some of my observations, having worked in the industry for 20 years, of what I have seen and where that fits in terms of relevance to the CFO role. Back in the early 2000s, firms were very much investment team led, doing investments, raising money, there was very little operational support, a little investment in technology from the CFO's perspective, the CFO's role was very broad. They're basically bought in to handle everything that was not deal related. So that was finance, IT, HR, tax, legal, very broad remit and all the projects that went with it tended to land on the CFO's desk. It's worth pointing out back then, I think pretty much most firms were doing their fund services or their fund accounting, fund administration reporting. They were doing it all in-house. Now move the clock on. So post global financial crisis, so five to 10 years ago, firms really were focused on building their platforms and becoming more operationally robust. How do they support IR in fundraising? How do they focus on the portfolio? There was a lot of growing up that went on around that period.

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

The role of the CFO was sort of narrowed as firms recruited CEOs and CTOs and various other people, that the role of the CFO is narrowed back in to be finance related and then focused on finance and supporting the firm's growth. I think a couple of comments around that as well. The firms have been scaling with their fund size, but the complexity has increased enormously over the last five to 10 years through regulation, investor demands, investment structuring, the complexity has hugely grown. The last part is technology hasn't really moved on, software vendors, software providers, have really moved on a lot in particular in the back office over the last five or 10 years. So there's a lot of outdated technology out there. One of the other key things that we've seen is that the fund administration, fund accounting, fund reporting, those services tend to be outsourced. Those processes tend to be outsourced, which has a bit of a shift compared to where they were 20 years ago. So let's talk quite a bit about the firm and the opportunities that are there for the CFO to support, increasing AUM, becoming more global, taking on additional asset classes, improving margin, wholly agreed with all of those. I thought what I would focus on is some of the challenges that I see that firms are facing that really the CFO needs to be thinking about or taking note of. Again, increased complexity, through regulation, investors, investments, this is ongoing and it's just going to get more complex. And so when you're thinking about target operating model, designing that target operating model to handle that increased complexity is absolutely essential, particularly if you're going to have multiple asset classes. I think one of the big challenges that firms face today is there's three silos within the business and with data, and that's the investment team, the finance team and the IR team, they all have different priorities, look at the business and the data differently and want to do things the right way. Most firms end up with silos of data, the same data across those three teams, big problem that needs to be challenged, and we'll talk about that, how we solve that challenge in a bit. Technology, as I mentioned, still a lot of outdated systems, still, I'd say a lack of investment across the board, particularly in the back office system space, heavy reliance on Excel, not just in back office, but right the way through most private capital firms. The other challenge I think that's faced today is poor support from IT managed service providers, MSPs, if they can't get the basics right around emails and file sharing and networks and laptop. If you can't get that piece right, it's very difficult to build on top of, and we see a number of challenges today with those providers. People, it's fair to say there are some skills gaps within the back office and within firms in general. They need to be thinking about bringing in system owners, data analysts, report writers, these kind of people, to support the core finance functions, again moving towards that target operating model.

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

The last challenge that we see a lot of today is around inefficiencies with third party fund administrators or asset servicers. Often we see firms that are using admins or multiple admins, and because of poor relationships or they're not getting the data quick enough, they're shadow bookkeeping, and they are keeping things duplicated within the firm. You have really got to focus on how do you solve that problem? And it's back to that target operating model. So what should the CFO be doing about this today? So I think for me working to shape the firm's target operating model is absolutely key. How do you break down the silos? How do you position finance data at the core of the firm and how do you get IR and investment teams self-serving on that finance data at that hub that Shaun referred to? Absolutely critical priority to be focused on going forward. Combined with that, the CFO needs to be driving the change agenda, as the business, engaging with IY, engaging with operations, to make those functions and the overall firm successful with moving towards a target operating model, but the change associated with moving towards a target operating model. The CFO should be pushing for investment in technology, not just in the back office, but across the board, and likewise reducing the reliance on Excel, absolutely core of what needs to be happening today. I think lastly, and I mentioned it before recruiting the right people. So, basically getting the right people in that will support the future state or the target operating model when you get there, very important. Lastly data as an asset. So how do you achieve data as an asset? What I'm talking about here is really looking at data quality, making sure the data you've got is a good quality that can be used throughout the firm, putting in data governance and mastering that data well, so that it's managed well within a framework, and then centralizing that and making it accessible, whether it be through Excel, through power BI, whatever the firm uses, and enabling firms to visualize that data. The key with that sort of data piece and data as an asset is to really walk before you run. People come and talk to us about robotics and AI and machine learning and all those good things and their data's in Excel spreadsheets and word documents and outlook and emails. If you don't get those building blocks and get it correct at a base level, then you're not going to be successful with some of those innovative projects that need good sound data within the firm.

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

So, tomorrow’s CFO, some common themes with, with everything we're seeing today, really supporting the growth of the firm, driving the AUM growth, supporting the margin improvement, absolutely key, thinking about systems, flexibility, and robustness. Flexibility to support the various complexity of different asset classes and robustness to support scaling and then transparency and moving towards a more data centric model, breaking down those silos. I think one thing that we'll see in future more of that we don't see a lot of today is automation. I think that's coming, but again, we need to have the operational systems and we need to have the right culture around data to make automation successful. That's everything for me. I just want to say, thank you to Justin and the whole team at IQ-EQ for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. I think we're going to move on to some questions now.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

Great. Well, thank you, Barnaby for joining us and Shaun is coming on as well. We've had a couple of questions from the audience, and I would just encourage everybody to please pop your questions into the question tab to ask. We've got over 40 years experience here, excluding me of course, with Barnaby and Shaun, and I want to make the most of that experience during the session today. So thank you for the insightful overviews. I think Barnaby, I'm picking up on the TOM point, essentially first, you've talked about the TOM and the effect of data on the TOM in the three key areas. Can you give us a sense of the key considerations and naming the benefits of the changing TOM? So, how have some of the clients you work with benefited by changing their TOM because of data considerations?

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

I think most firms at the moment, when they're looking at a target operating model, are trying to think four or five years ahead. I think for the clients that we deal with, it's that whole piece of having different assets or different asset classes to manage. And, you've got sort of similar investors coming in, investing across those asset classes, they're looking at how do they report on that data individually? How do they combine that data and report it to investors? How do they handle investor queries that span those asset classes? So I think certainly, we've got a level of maturity now around operational systems, in the main, and it is really now about pulling the data out of the operational systems, combining it, and then adding value to internal processes, or to be able to provide clear and faster information to investors.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

Fantastic. I mean, in terms of Apollo's own journey, as you've seen investment systems over the years, has it had much impact on the TOM at Apollo? Have you seen shifts in either European or US business?

Speaker name
Shaun
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Definitely, from just picking up on what Barnaby said about more and more standardized requests coming through from LPs, I think, obviously in all firms, LPs are the lifeblood of the firm, right? And we are definitely looking at Apollo at ways to put in an investor portal, which is what we are calling it. And in order to actually standardize that reporting back to all LPs, I think the interesting thing, and again, just picking up on what Barnaby said about the 45 year time horizon, you can't do everything all at once. So if you pick up on the fact that you want to get standardized reporting out to the LPs, don't jump into saying that you want to give everybody an individual cash flow for their underlying fund. Maybe start at a NAV and then you then build down and then be behind what you're then trying to provide and your overall target operating model. You can do more in trying to standardize the system because it's very different about the data that you might have for an open-ended granular loan fund versus you will have a large PE fund with 20 investments, whatever it might be in there. So that definitely, I think it's key that you choose something and then really set the rest of your target operating model agenda around that. And again, the LP experience is pretty important for all of us.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

I suppose the more standardized or modulated you are in terms of asset class or structure, the most straightforward is to standardize for your LPs. But if you're starting to get into multiple asset classes, all as diversified as a major manager, but for those managers who are stretching into other areas, we've seen more smaller managers follow look at parallel debt funds alongside PE and you may have different data, different metrics, more difficult to standardize the data for properties?

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

Absolutely, we’re going through that question at the moment about data dictionaries and trying to get that definition between each of the business classes, because we all know a definition of even if you even of a NAV might change or an IR calculation might change depending on what your asset class is or what you put into the engine. It's really important to try and upfront get that data definition agreed before you then start moving into the technology, because otherwise you'll be forever iterating for sure.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

And staying on the target operating model. When you look at Apollo in Europe, establishing a target operating model, has that been slightly different from the approach in the US firm, when you look at the two different geographies?

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

I think the approach has been the same in that we do try and operate globally, and whilst I'm a regional CFO, there's the CFOs of private equity and credit in the US, when we've sat down to talk about target operating models, we've done so as a team, but again, as we've all talked about, depending on whether you're in PE with bigger, less granular, numbers of cash flows and therefore you don't need such a sophisticated system versus being in a granular credit fund, that's certainly been very different, and we see all of those asset classes in Europe. So I think our model is the same. I would say that actually, we're just a little bit behind in terms of the fund maturity of the European funds is a little behind the US funds. We don't have the same number of technology resources here in London or in Europe. And so, there's a little bit of fighting for resource, but we certainly know where we're headed. It's just taking us a little longer to get there.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

If I understand the point, so part of the fund offering actually helps to drive the TOM in terms of the data required and service requirements. So as that continues to evolve in Europe, that TOM could evolve further as well. It might not be, it's not such a static situation. It will continue to evolve as the offering evolves?

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

For sure. I mean, again, I'm sure I'm not the only person who would like to have, standardized LPAs, but we all know that that is not necessarily the case. And we also know that investors enjoy side letters and that obviously also plays into what we're talking about with target operating models, but the more than we can get them, standardize them, the more that TOM type is an achievable goal.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

So I think the number of headaches you get is directly proportionate to the flexibility of your investor relations team, right?

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

Yes. And now I will say, Justin, you will not lead me any further into that discussion, but yes.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

On my side it is the same.

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

Very good point indeed. Yes. Right. Good point.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

It's the same on our service side as well. Right. So I did just want to point to one of the audience questions. The question from one of them was when you look at the portfolio monitoring function, when you see the portfolio monitoring function sitting within the business, do you see it as a function that could be outsourced into fund admin? This isn't me asking the question, but particularly as you know, LPs are demanding more transparency, there's lots of data required. Do you have any views on that given the data collection requirements?

Speaker name
Shaun
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To my mind again, what we're talking about here is the steps really and I'm sure different firms are different evolution and where they are with this. To my mind, a lot of the data collection currently that comes in deal by deal would go to a deal associate from that portfolio company, and then, depending on then how that obviously the accounting records are sitting with finance and some of that would also be relevant to that portfolio company valuation. I think what we're talking about is either using a technical solution, and obviously there are systems out there that portfolio companies enter data into and you put enough in there to make it both for valuation and for portfolio company analysis. And what I feel is that where we should be headed more is that that comes towards finance. And so if you're collecting data in order to do valuation or cut your NAV, you can also collect data from portfolio companies in order to then do more of that analytics and think about supporting the business plan, whatever that might be. And I do feel like rather than that being the standardized PE associate type role in spreadsheet, and you can pull that more back to the finance function. And I think all of us in finance want reasons to be able to discuss with the investment teams and having the analytical data is obviously a good way of having that discussion. It facilitates the discussion. So rather than again, just talking about value, you've got more to offer, which I think is important for all of us as we're trying to develop our roles.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

And also making the CFO's life easier, which is obviously what we're trying to address in this series. Barnaby, from your point of view, broadening the discussion to service providers generally, what do you see around service providers helping to make the CFO's life easier?

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

A lot of the service providers that we're working with, I think there's a couple of things that they're focusing on. One is transparency and giving clients the ability to look into the survey or look into the fund administrator, understand how their processes are being handled, where they are in the process, and be able to have proper KPIs, proper metrics around the delivery of the services that are outsourced. So, transparency around workflows and things like that, which is a good one. I think the other piece is around data and reporting. So rather than having emails and spreadsheets and things flying about firms are trying to move towards a model where they can channel or funnel the data, whether it's through reports or whether it's through extracts, queries, that firms are trying to provide better data services to their clients, again, to my original point to avoid this shadow bookkeeping and keeping a second set of records. So, I think transparency and sharing of data are probably the two key ones for me.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

How about size? Could we come back to the size question? It is easy for some of the audience members to say Apollo has lots of resources, etc, large player, lots of scale. For the smaller Private Equity or multi-asset classes Shaun, and same question to Barnaby, do you think it's possible to get the same sort of efficiencies as a larger player with a smaller business?

Speaker name
Shaun
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I definitely think, as people heard in my remarks, my background is not small private equity. It's straight into larger private equity from banking, but I definitely think that when we've talked about trying to get technology tools to help us that they're out there, right? And so if you, you can use somebody else’s experience in the development of a tool and then, and use that software in order to get the scale that you need rather than trying to build your own. And at Apollo, we've done a bit of a mix. We bought a tool in order to help with the data collection. And then when we've got the data in, and then we use a well known fund accounting system. So we've got our actuals and we've got the data from the portfolio company, but then our tech team has really helped in trying to develop the analytical tools, whether it's to do fund forecasting and outcome analysis, really within stuff that we built. So, we have got the luxury of having in-house tech that can work alongside those external tools and develop a front to map model for us. In other cases maybe you need to buy in more of that, but I certainly think that the industry, as a whole, recognizes much more of what we need to be able to do. And it's not just a case of putting everything in Excel anymore. So if you're a smaller house, and Barnaby's much better off probably talking to it than I am, but there are definitely now tools out there that you can get but there's a reasonable cost, I firmly believe that.

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

I think the technology is out there. I think the smaller firms are less likely to go down the building their own solution route. So they're going to be forced to look at service providers, forced to look at technology solutions that are a little bit more out of the box, I think is where they invest the money. I mean, if you're going to hire loads of people that are good with Excel and finance, then you're going to end up with that's your cost and that's the direction. If you look at it more strategically and invest the money in the systems and technology and have different people driving those, those are the kinds of decisions that all firms need to look at, but particularly on the smaller end is how do they maximize their investment in technology with people to grow scale and do all those good things.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

You've talked about cost and investment. And one of the questions that we've been wrestling with is all the benefits. What do the benefits look like? And Shaun, I think you touched on a number of areas in your remarks about the benefits at both the manager level and the portfolio company level, and seeing those come through. Do you have a sense of where Apollo has been able to realise or will in future realise the most tangible benefits when it comes to managing data, either at Apollo manager level or at portfolio company level? Where do you think those benefits will come through most?

Speaker name
Shaun
Spoken content

There's obviously a lot of places where that benefit comes through. I think the key thing really is, well, there's more than more than one, let's do a couple. The first thing is getting accurate data out to your LPs. That's obviously key. I think the other thing though, really is if you take the breadth of product that we are now doing at Apollo, particularly as we move more into supporting insurance company balance sheets, you can't do it without having scalable systems. And so it isn't just about the accuracy. There is just much more complexity in both products and requirements. So to my mind, the benefit comes really in a lot of ways of just being able to do it and service a business and in a very competitive market, but all of us are really striving for accuracy rather than relying on manually jacking and picking it up on review. So, you can't do that without technology and scale.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

It is for quality rather than sort of immediate financial short term benefits for the long haul. But then tell me, your clients obviously, I'm sure, are pushing pretty hard on their fees when they come to discuss data with you. Where do they see the benefit from the work that you do for them, or what are the key upsides for the clients?

Speaker name
Barnaby
Spoken content

I mean, back to the sort of the people cost and how do they grow their business? How do they scale their AUM, without having to hire a whole bunch of additional people? I think that's a really key one, speed and ease. There's a lot of benefits, intangible benefits around reputation, spee, and ease of handling investor queries, and what that means for the brand, what that means for you when it comes to raising your next funds. I think those are the main sort of benefits that I would look at. I think there's another element that we're seeing a little bit more of now in terms of attracting the right talent to firms. We see some firms where they've got literally no systems at all, and they get people that come over from firms like a Goldman Sachs or from other investment banks and things like that. And they've got no CRM system, there's no investment management system, there's no portfolio reporting, so I think that's something to think about as well in terms of the systems landscape, that technology to reporting the data, you want to attract really good people, and you need to be a forward thinking firm in relation to your investment in technology.

Speaker name
Justin
Spoken content

It's a good point, isn't it? Because I think over the years, you've seen more senior people walking in and out of a Goldman Sachs rather than just starting up a new fund from scratch, walk into more established firms. They might walk in and say, well, actually the systems here are a bit behind the times when you compare them to what they've seen, what you saw in your own transition from a large bank. We recently invested in the US business. So I'm also keen to understand, I’ll leave it to Shaun first, how do you see the differences between the markets in Europe versus the US, the investments as well, and the pace of progress in terms of the different geographies when it comes to the investment?

Speaker name
Shaun
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It's difficult for me to contrast. I would say, I think it's becoming less different. It's definitely a more mature market in the US and therefore the technology is more mature. That is very true. We know that from the roles and the backgrounds of the people who historically have come into PE in Europe, rather than in the US. There's more people who come from a background from the deal side, who then do the CFO function, but that's changing too. The Europe market obviously is a very different market anyway, from the point of view of where countries versus States and the way that the regulation impacts the business that we do also means that obviously everybody has compliance checks, but you need that sort of stuff in the front end of your system. With more and more regulation coming into the PE industry, I think it's going to become even more important that we've got technology to help us with that rather than just assuming that you can do your compliance checks either post-trade, because that's just not going to be a feasible thing. So I really don't think we're that far behind. I think that the dialogue is good between houses more and more. I wouldn't worry about going into the US. I think we're not that far behind.

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Justin
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Barnaby, same question.

Speaker name
Barnaby
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In terms of the differences in the US, I think the large managers over there, Apollo being one of them, over the years, they've been investing in things like master data management, Shaun referred to the data dictionary earlier. They've really come a long way behind the scenes, getting themselves organized and structured so they can actually use and leverage their data. I think also there's been a heavy investment in portal technology, where they are able to allow investors to come in and have one view across the server, see all their information, see all their data. We don't see that in Europe yet, we're not at that. I think that's where firms are heading, but we were not seeing firms being able to offer that as it stands. And that is very much a custom led, you're not going to buy that sort of technology off the shelf. You're going to need to build that, to get that proper, robust and comprehensive investor experience. So I think the technology available to firms on both sides of the Atlantic is pretty similar. There's not a huge amount of differences there. I think there are probably more sort of start-up type software organizations in the US than there are in Europe, but those technologies are available across the board.

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Justin
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Great. Well, thank you. Thanks so much. I think that answers the last audience question we have as well. Thank you very much. That's the end of our 45 minute session, I would note that we will send out a link to all participants and put this on our website for anybody who missed part of the video. There's always sometimes a video issue, so the full broadcast will be on our website. Please do have a look and I want to thank very much Barnaby and Shaun for joining us today and sharing all their insights. I really appreciate it, gentlemen, thanks for joining us and grateful to have you, and thanks for that and to the audience for joining us well, hope it was helpful, and have a wonderful day. Thank you.

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Barnaby
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Thanks Justin. Thanks.

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Shaun
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Thanks Justin. Thanks everybody. Bye bye.