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With the impending end of Windows 7 support rapidly approaching, businesses that aren’t already on Windows 10 are quickly moving towards adoption of Windows 10. Windows 7 support ends January 14, 2020. If you are familiar with my blog you probably already know that even though I use Windows 10 on my primary PCs, I am not the biggest fan. Even so, I recognize the inevitability of Windows 10 for my clients. There simply isn’t another viable choice for financial services firms and other security/compliance sensitive businesses.

With that in mind, I have stopped howling at the moon for the time being and if you share my sentiments about Windows 10 you probably should too. Accepting that this upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 must be done, there is perhaps no time better than the summer to get these upgrades out of the way. The alternative of Windows 7 workstations in your office without ongoing security updates from Microsoft in January is much less appealing. So how do you make the best of this forced software reset?

970 EVO Plus - 500GB

You’ll need to take the opportunity to upgrade your systems in such a way that the disruptions associated with Windows 10’s shortcomings and fluid updates to the OS will be as limited in duration as possible. In order to do so, you should place an emphasis on the hardware to support Windows 10 and other software well into the future. As someone that shares in the decision process or possibly makes that decision at your firm, you need to be sure that your hardware is up to the task of running Windows 10 effectively.

Trust me. Spending money in the right places on hardware that is running Windows 10 will pay for itself. Like much of life, it isn’t necessarily about how much you spend, but more importantly what you spend it on that will determine how happy you are in the future.

IT is all about potential bottlenecks and eliminating any you can. If you are knowledgeable enough you can pick and choose what you need to focus on, or you can simplify things further by removing as many barriers to optimal performance as possible. When configuring workstations and servers I prefer to do it in such a way that they never need to be upgraded over their useful life. My recommendations to help achieve that goal follow.

 

CPU
Your processor is the most obvious bottleneck to local processing of data, spreadsheets, file management and other locally processed information such as Axys reporting. Picking a processor that performs poorly in comparison to a significantly more powerful processor at a justifiable price point is a decision you will pay for as long as you own the PC. When evaluating CPUs, it is important to understand your primary applications and whether those apps require optimal single thread performance or can utilize multi-core performance to its full potential. I frequently reference Passmark’s CPU benchmarks when choosing processors.

Armed with this information, you can make the right choice regarding what processor is best for you. Though I tend to lean towards Intel, AMD’s latest Ryzen processors are surprisingly powerful yet affordable. For example, when comparing the Passmark CPU Mark of AMD’s Ryzen 3700X and Intel’s i7-9700 @ 3.00GHz, AMD appears to deliver about 50% more processing power than Intel at the same price point. That is a huge difference and shouldn’t be ignored.

However, buying new workstations with Ryzen processors instead of Intel from traditional channels like Dell isn’t as easy. If you decide to go with Ryzen processors, you may need to make your purchases through a less traditional sales channel and that may be an unpopular idea since Dell is well-established as perhaps the most popular and reliable source of high-quality PC builds for businesses.

How fast is fast enough? That depends on the applications that are most important to you and your firm, but given what is available today and the overhead of Windows 10, I wouldn’t want a new PC that has a CPU Mark less than 10,000.  I’d prefer to see a new workstation configured with a CPU Mark somewhere between 12,500 and 20,000 depending on the type of heavy-lifting involved and the available budget.  Intel’s newer generation of processors (the i5-9500, i7-9700 and i9-9900) fill out this range.

 

Memory
It makes no sense to have less than 16gb of RAM on a new workstation running Windows 10 Pro. Though arguments can be made about whether you truly need that much, the current price of RAM makes this a decision a no-brainer. For an extra $100, some may be tempted to go for 32gb of RAM in the name of future proofing their configuration.

 

Motherboard
Your motherboard either empowers you take advantage of the latest technology advances or hinders your ability to do so. Newer motherboards offer support for some of the fastest processors and have compatible expansion slots available for latest NVMe storage devices, which you want in your new systems.

 

Storage Device aka Hard Drive
Last, but not least, one of the most important decisions you can make regarding your new system is that it supports the latest NVMe tech. The newest storage devices are cost-efficient game-changers that will make any system not running them seem soooo sloooow by comparison.

To understand the import of the latest NVMe technology you should know that some of the fastest mechanical hard drives, which are still in use today operate a roughly 1/5 of the speed of more traditional SSD drives that plug into a SATA port. By comparison, the fastest traditional SSD drives are roughly 1/7 the speed of today’s fastest NVMe devices. An NVMe could potentially be 35x faster than the hard drive in your PC today.

If you are considering configuring a new PC with anything less powerful than one of the fastest NVMe drives available, please STOP. You can buy a 512gb NVMe drive for about $110 and that is more than enough storage space for most workstations.

 

Caveats
As always, there are caveats regarding what works with what and how well.  There are different types of NVMe devices (4x, 2x, et cetera). You must combine a NVMe storage devices with compatible motherboards to get optimal speeds.  It is also possible to double the performance of the fastest NVMe device by purchasing a motherboard capable of supporting dual NVMe on the motherboard in a RAID 0 configuration, but in that configuration a single NVMe failure would cause you to lose all of your data.

I generalize quite a bit here because this blog isn’t aiming to give every last detail related to NVMe drives, just the fact that you should have one.  If you want to learn more about the technical specifics of NVMe drives this article from PC World should help.

 

Commitment to Dell
I still like to use Dell for many of my customers’ workstations and servers, but dealing with Dell is rarely a perfect customer experience. For example, Dell classifies hard drives into types 10 to 50, which I find both frustrating and potentially deceptive. I suspect the practice is intended to simplify decision making for decision-makers, but frankly I want to know the specs of the drives I am putting in my systems not the hard drive class Dell has assigned those drives.

If you are not familiar with Dell’s hard drive classes, you are likely to spend more time than you should searching the web for a description of Dell’s system of categorizing hard drive classes. In my own experience, I eventually found a link that did a better job describing Dell’s “classes”, but I really don’t need Dell to classify drives for me. I can do that myself.

Recently, I requested NVMe storage devices from Dell in Optiplex and Precision lines, and received some Precision line quotes with class 20 hard drives. If I actually ordered those PCs the class 20 drives would have hamstrung system performance. My advice regarding purchases from Dell and anyone else is to carefully review the specifications before making your order. Making assumptions about what tech vendors are including in your systems is bound to leave you disappointed.

In summary, if you are moving to Windows 10 this year make sure that your new PCs can support the fastest, affordable 4x PCIe NVMe drives available and don’t be cheap when it comes to processing power. A properly configured workstation should have a useful life of at least three years.  For most users, that configuration should include 16gb RAM, a 500gb NVMe storage device with a compatible motherboard that facilitates maximum sequential-read speeds of 3,500MBps, and an Intel i5-9500 processor or better.  Spending a little extra money on the right equipment now should save you many hours of frustration over the life of your new equipment.

 


About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment advisors nationwide.

For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.

grayscale photo of computer laptop near white notebook and ceramic mug on table

In previous articles, I have written about the ability to take an Advent Report Writer report and make changes to it in the underlying REPLANG code. Though the program is actually called Report Writer Pro, I won’t be referring to it by that name since the “Pro” part seems a bit much.

In this article, I will take you through the basics of this process and also share some code I wrote recently to deal with a troublesome Report Writer exception. Please note, there are many modifications that can easily be done within the Report Writer interface, but this article is not about that.

You should have a good reason for attempting to modify Report Writer reports outside of the app.  For me, two fundamental issues drive this decision.  The modification either cannot be handled due to limitations of Report Writer or it is simply much more expedient to hack and slash REPLANG than it is to work within the confines of the Report Writer environment.

Okay.  Let’s assume that like me you think you have a good reason to do this. There are a few things you should know before you modify a report created by Report Writer outside of Report Writer. First of all, any report created in the Report Writer has a RPW extension, but the underlying format is REPLANG.  In most cases, any report with a REP extension was not created by Report Writer – except of course for reports like the ones we are talking about creating.

Second, your report containing code not created by Report Writer can no longer be modified by Report Writer in the future, so make a backup of the RPW file before any changes, and save the file you modify as a REP file.  That way if you need to make a change to the report later – that Report Writer would be better suited to make – you can.  In that scenario, once you have updated the report you can reapply your manual updates to the newer RPW file and then save it as REP report again.

The reason that your new REP report cannot be modified in Report Writer is not only due to the fact that the extension isn’t an RPW, but more specifically that a checksum created by Report Writer when it was last modified by the software will no longer match.  The logic behind why this is done is understandable.  Report Writer only works with certain predefined templates and does some really impressive things, but it is not designed to interpret code changes that were not created by Report Writer.

Lastly, if you haven’t waded into REPLANG code created by Report Writer it will take some getting used to.  By nature of the fact that RPW files are created to be extensible the REPLANG code is more abstract. In other words, the code generated by Report Writer appears far less direct with regard to its purpose than code that an individual might write for a singular and well-defined purpose.  If you are not familiar with REPLANG coding, I wouldn’t recommend trying to modify REPLANG reports created by Report Writer.

Some examples of the types of things I find myself doing when I modify Report Writer reports from REPLANG directly follow:

  1. I need to do a calculation that I find difficult or impossible within the Report Writer interface.  If you have any experience using Report Writer to create user-defined formulas, this really isn’t that hard to imagine.
  2. Adding a piece of data that isn’t readily available from the Report Writer.
  3. For expediency sake, I know how to do something in REPLANG in a minute, but doing it in Report Writer might take an unreasonably long time.

Dealing with Report Writer Exceptions

Recently, while working on some reporting extracts for a client, I attempted to take what appeared to be a relatively simple Report Writer report and change the format to a CSV file.  Doing so is a basic function of the product and only requires a few mouse clicks.  It is something I tend to do on a regular basis and it usually works well.  However, this time Report Writer went haywire.

Instead of taking the twenty-two thousand line report and making another similar sized report as I expected, it created a ridiculously long report (hundreds of thousands of lines of code) that Report Writer could not test or run.  Even a twenty-two thousand line report sounds big and it is.  By comparison, the longest standard report(persave.rep), which updates performance files,  is under four thousand lines. Most of the standard reports are significantly less than a thousand lines of code.

It is not the first time I have seen this problem, but this time I decided to do something more proactive to deal with this issue in the future.   The report that I was attempting to change is fairly simple.  There are no summary records.  So, the output is just a table of detail records and that helps to simplify the coding requirements of what I want to do.  To deal with this issue in the past, I have simply renamed the RPW to a REP file and modified 10 to 20 lines specific to placing the output on the screen and reformatted them to be CSV friendly.

There are alternative ways to do this. You could create the Excel file output manually by exporting the report output to Excel once the report has been generated and saving it, or by writing a script to generate an Excel file, but in this particular instance I preferred to create a more flexible CSV report.  We could also do a standard search and replace function within a text editor, but having seen this issue more than a few times I wanted to create a utility I could use going forward.

So I quickly wrote the code in the section below to change the original report, which was sending output to the report view screen, to send all the output directly to a file.  I find it very easy to code things like this using Visual Basic (VB) or Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Since most users also have access to VBA via Microsoft Office, it is a programming option you can find and use on almost any PC. As such, I frequently use VBA when I am doing spontaneous and simple coding tasks or projects that don’t require a more complex development environment. I am not a huge fan of verbose comments, but I thought they might be useful here.

Sub MAIN()

' This routine takes a REPORT WRITER report which sends output to the
' screen and creates a report that sends output to a file. The routine
' was created to address an exception where the normal function to make
' a change in a RPW file created an obscenely large Report Writer file
' that couldn't be tested or run.

' written in VBA by Kevin Shea (aka AdventGuru) & published 06/26/2019

' Disclaimer: This routine works fine for the specific instance it was
' created for, but could need additional modifications for different
' circumstances.

'Initialize variables
Dim InputFileHandler As Integer
Dim OutputFileHandler As Integer
Dim Filename$
Dim Record$
Dim IgnoreRecords As Boolean
Dim ReportLocation$
Dim OutputFolder$

ReportLocation$ = "f:\axys3\rep\"
OutputFolder$ = "f:\axys3\exp\"

' Axys users will probably need to change the two locations above to
' match their actual folder locations of Axys.

' APX users, depending on the APX server name, the preceding statements
' might need to change to ReportLocation$="\\apxappserver\APX$\rep\"
' and OutputFolder$ = \\apxappserver\APX$\exp\"

InputFileHandler = FreeFile 'fetch an unused file handler
IgnoreRecords = False
Filename$ = InputBox("Report file name?")

Open ReportLocation$ + Filename$ For Input As #InputFileHandler

OutputFileHandler = FreeFile 'fetch an unused file handler

Open ReportLocation$ + Left$(Filename$, Len(Filename$) - 4) + ".out" For Output As #OutputFileHandler

Do While Not EOF(InputFileHandler)

  Line Input #InputFileHandler, Record$ 'read a record from the report

  If Left$(Record$, 4) = "head" Then IgnoreRecords = Not (IgnoreRecords)

  ' REPLANG marks the beginning of the header definition with the
  ' statement "head" and ends the header definition with the same
  ' statement. We don't want to write the header to our output file,
  ' so we are going to ignore all of the code between the two head
  ' lines of code.

  If IgnoreRecords = False Then

    If InStr(Record$, ".") > 0 Then

      ' The "." in REPLANG is the syntax usually associated with
      ' sending output to the screen most, but not all, "." lines
      ' end with "\n", which marks the end of the output line. By
      ' making the "." a requirement of this logic we will only
      ' process REPLANG statements that create output.

      For i = 1 To Len(Record$)

        'ignore any code lines that are less than two characters
        If i > 1 Then

          ' We may not need to be this specific, but I want to err
          ' on the side of caution. We will only process lines that
          ' start with a period. This prevents us from processing
          ' other lines that may have periods in the remarks or other
          ' areas of the REPLANG report.

          If Trim$(Left$(Record$, i - 1)) = "" And Mid$(Record$, i, 1) = "." Then

            'Somewhat self-explantory...
            Record$ = Replace(Record$, "~", ",")
            Record$ = Replace(Record$, "#,", ",#")
            Record$ = Replace(Record$, " ,", ",")
            Record$ = Replace(Record$, "?", "")

            Print #OutputFileHandler, Record$ 'write the record we modified

            Exit For
            'Exit logic early if we are done processing the record.

          End If

        End If

      Next i

    Else

      ' This bit of code inserts the code that writes all records
      ' that weren't modified, but contains some minor code insertion
      ' (outfile) make the output go to a file. The proper place to
      ' insert the outfile statement is before any accounts are
      ' processed, which is immediately before the load cli statement.
      ' Writing to a file requires that we close (fclose) the file
      ' or the result will not get written properly. The right place
      ' to insert the fclose statement is when all of the processing
      ' has been completed, which is immediately after the next cli
      ' statement.

      If Left$(record, 8) = "load cli" Then Print #OutputFileHandler, "outfile "+OutputFolder$+"outfile.csv n"
      Print #OutputFileHandler, Record$
      If record = "next cli" Then Print #OutputFileHandler, "fclose"
 
    End If

  End If

Loop

Close #OutputFileHandler
Close #InputFileHandler

End Sub

As to why Report Writer erroneously attempts and fails to create such a long report, it likely has something to do with user-defined calculations and parsing of strings. However, for the purpose of this article we are not trying to fix that issue. It may just be a limitation of the Report Writer.


About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.

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It is that time again – Spring.  For the moment, the sun is out here in Massachusetts and the birds are chirping away.  Spring means that yet another version of APX has been released.  Though APX releases are frequent, APX users tend to upgrade when it makes sense for their firm and not necessarily the moment a new version is released.

As a result of these frequent updates, there are a wide variety of APX versions in use today.  You might find someone running APX 3.x and someone else running APX 18.x.  Years ago, Advent changed their release naming convention to align with the years.  Since that point they do two new releases per year – one in April and one in October.  This year will see APX 19.1 and 19.2 released.

Advent tried to do the same thing with Axys, but as far as I can tell they were never able to get a large number of users to adopt the to the newer versions that they released.  As a result, you will find Axys users typically on a version somewhere between Axys 3.7 and Axys 3.8.7.  Axys 3.7 was released a long, long time ago; Axys version 3.8.7 just came out in the past six months.  Most Axys users should now be on version 3.8.6 or 3.8.7, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Axys users still running 3.8.5.

Over the years I have spent consulting to Advent customers, I have seen many Axys users make the switch to APX.  Users moving from Axys to APX usually do so at a significant immediate and ongoing incremental expense.  For some firms the migration to APX it is a natural progression that can complement an aggressive budgetary commitment to technology that includes employees or contractors with the skills and experience to take advantage of the SQL back end.

For other firms, moving to APX could be a waste of time and money – given their needs and the level of commitment they are willing to make to retain the technical expertise necessary to take advantage of the enterprise features inherent in APX.

While adding SQL to the mix, APX also adds a layer of complexities that typically includes multiple servers as well as individual user rights to datasets and applications.  These added complexities can ratchet up the difficultly level to a point where IT and operations staff need to work together to resolve APX issues more frequently.

In short, APX isn’t for everyone.  As such, it should come as no surprise that some firms that have made the switch regret it and approach me seeking a way back to Axys.  Users that want to go back to Axys definitely can, but the process can be somewhat challenging.

 

Advent APX to Axys Conversion

 

In order to convert from APX back to Axys you need to do the following:

 

  1. Get an Axys license if you need one.

If you have a recent Axys license that doesn’t expire and you aren’t going to be using Advent’s support resources you may not feel that you need a license, but if you are planning on using Axys long-term it may be wise to update your license and sign an ongoing support agreement for Axys.  Windows 10 is an ever-changing operating system.  Without an ongoing Advent maintenance agreement, I would be concerned that future Windows 10 updates may make break Axys and eventually require patches from Advent to continue working in Windows 10.

 

  1. Export most of your data from APX.

Using IMEX, export everything you can to Axys 3 format: prices, portfolios, splits, security information, sectors, industries, asset classes, indexes, composites et cetera.  Many of these files can then be imported back into Axys with very little work.  However, you will run into at least two problems that require additional work: performance history and portfolios.  Depending on what version of APX you are using, trying to export performance history via IMEX that you want to import back into Axys will lead to frustration.

 

  1. Export and import your performance history.

Use the Performance Extract Report under the performance section of APX reports to build gross of fees (PBF) and net of fees (PRF) files that are compatible with Axys 3. Once these files are exported, they can be easily imported into Axys again.

 

  1. Export your portfolios and map them into the Trade Blotter.

As with any conversion to a different portfolio management system, a decision needs to be made regarding transaction history.  It is far easier to simply go forward in time without transaction history, but usually less desirable from management’s perspective.  Though you can export portfolios using IMEX, Axys doesn’t let you import portfolio (CLI) files.  Every transaction that goes into a portfolio needs to go through the trade blotter.  This limitation may seem arbitrary, but it ensures that any record posted through the trade blotter is also stored in the audit trail (didpost.aud) file for record keeping purposes.

 

In order to import your portfolios, you’ll need to map the transactions from the exported CLI file to the trade blotter format.  That is usually where someone like me gets involved.  I have created a tool that I use as a template to get started with the process.  The tool takes portfolio (CLI) files exported from APX and builds an Axys trade blotter (topost.trn) from those portfolios.   However, that tool only works with the transaction mappings that have already been created.  Working with another firm’s data and unique transactions usually requires additional coding to map new and/or unique transaction types.

Please note, reconstructing tax lots to match your original files can be difficult, so the endeavor of converting historical transactions from APX to Axys shouldn’t be taken on lightly, but It is certainly possible for those that decide it is important enough to merit the extra work and cost involved.

In addition, readers should note that converting from APX to back to Axys seems fairly uncommon to me.   A large part of the costs associated with moving to APX are sunk costs, so converting back to Axys only helps with the ongoing cost.  However, the ongoing cost of APX can be prohibitive.

It is worth mentioning that there is also more than one way to get APX and the cost of these APX implementations can vary significantly.  Cost alone should not drive APX users back to Axys.

Advent users can elect to:

  1. self-host APX in their local environment
  2. have APX hosted by a service provider that is not Advent
  3. have APX hosted by Advent in a dedicated environment
  4. have APX hosted by Advent in a multi-tenant environment.

With respect to cost, I believe having APX hosted by Advent in a multi-tenant environment is the least expensive option, but it can also severely limit what users can and cannot do within their shared APX environment.  Likewise, having APX hosted by Advent in a dedicated environment can be complicated by Advent’s oversight and rules to what you can do in your own “dedicated” environment.  Given these limitations, my personal preference for APX is to host it in a local environment or with a service provider that is not Advent.

 


About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment advisors nationwide.

For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.

Bull_20140121-winter-SamiraBouaou-2329-676x450A relatively predictable bull market doesn’t pose significant challenges to investment managers short of making the best possible investments.  Assuming one has embraced a decent platform and mission-critical systems are in order, investment managers don’t need to think too hard about reporting or much else during a boom.  Investment management firms are money-making machines, and in a bull market, most tend to do that well.

When markets and returns are kind, client reporting doesn’t get much scrutiny.  This is a point exemplified by the fact that during these times some clients don’t even bother to open up their statements.  In more challenging times, client reporting gets a level of attention that has the potential to be bad for business.  And yes, I know – even during those times – there are still clients that don’t look at their statements.

Over the years, report designers like myself have created a number of dazzling client reports that can look … well … not so dazzling when returns approach zero, or worse, become negative.  In the design process, most of the time is spent looking at accounts that paint a pretty picture.  Those are the accounts that get used in sample reports, so it shouldn’t be surprising when investment managers see how ugly an account with poor performance can appear.

A survivor bias naturally minimizes any attention these accounts might receive, but in the meantime, those reporting on accounts with sub-zero performance need to make decisions like “Should we show the floor of the graph when the account is negative?” and other presentation details that most investors would rather not contemplate.

No one I have worked with says, “We want our bad performance to look good.”  They just don’t want it to look any worse than it actually is.  Though some of the changes we make to reports are purely cosmetic, most of the report enhancements we implement are designed with one thing in mind: presenting performance fairly.

Some specific examples of modifications we have made include:

  1. creating a truly representative custom index for each account
  2. producing comparative index returns and risk
  3. isolating managed asset class and sector returns to produce select time period performance
  4. providing comprehensive performance summary reports that help the clients of investment firms put occasional anomalies in perspective

 

Flashback to Q1 2016 

Coming off a relatively flat 2015, traditional investors were likely dismayed to see double-digit negative returns just two weeks into 2016.  Since many of these same investors were drafting their investment commentaries explaining the past quarter, calendar year 2015, and the outlook for 2016 (ahem), these market conditions likely spurred some very focused thought about existing client reports and how they might look next quarter based on January’s performance to date.

2016-Q1

As a result of this come-to-Jesus moment, my phone was ringing more than usual.  In January of 2016, I fielded a number of calls from firms in a few different countries and across the US.  In almost every case, decision-makers were ready to pull the trigger.  They wanted new reports and they wanted them done quickly.

Investors planning on replacing their platform with a higher-cost alternative that ultimately might address the shortcomings of existing client reports may have reconsidered those decisions for the immediate future due to concerns over time to implement, predictability and increased costs.  I have made the point in the past and I’ll make it again here: it is typically much easier to replace your reports than your portfolio accounting system.

In simple terms, it generally takes hours, days or weeks to create new reports for Axys and APX users regardless of the content.  In contrast, the time required to change your portfolio accounting system in order to leverage pre-existing reports or make new reports on a different platform is more likely three to six months.  In some cases, investors that switch to another portfolio accounting system with new reports in mind find that they still don’t have those reports a year later.

These fundamental truths along with market conditions no doubt led investors that use Advent Software products to seek out and retain the expertise of replang and SSRS report designers like me to create and implement a variety of new performance reports designed to address concerns about their existing performance reports.

In my own experience, one prospect provided me with the specifications for their new performance summary report and requested that the report be done in a week.  In another instance, I was tasked with facilitating a reclassification of securities, regeneration of performance history, and creation of a new performance report based on the reclassification before the end of January.  In each of these engagements, working as a team with responsive and motivated clients, we were able to start and complete large-scale, high-impact projects in an accelerated time frame.

As a seasoned professional services consultant, I do my best to address the needs of my retainer clients – that keep me in business – first and any new prospects second, so these non-retainer clients were fortunate that I was able and willing to commit to projects that required fast tracking on short notice.  Though I regularly take on new projects, the most interesting thing about that quarter’s new business was the timeline imposed.

There was definitely a sense of urgency associated with these reporting projects that usually isn’t there, and though consultants like me appreciate new business opportunities, investment managers cannot usually expect those results if they haven’t forged a relationship with a consultant ahead of time.

With an established, highly-motivated expert on retainer, you can call that person on impulse, have a high-level conversation in minutes with someone that is familiar with your systems, get a responsive quote for additional work if necessary, and potentially have a new report or automation created before you might be able to effectively start a dialog or get an adequate response from an alternative source.

When the financial markets take a turn for the worse, one might assume that folks like myself who make a living off of providing software products, custom reporting solutions and consulting services aimed at automating and integrating investment management systems would suffer a downturn in business.

While that is ultimately true, should the market ever become so difficult that my customers become distressed or go out of business, it is not true of “corrections” that occur in the market.  These events force the hand of investors – making them scramble to take stock of reporting, trading and any other systems that their businesses rely on with an aim to enhance, automate and improve.

The best run investment firms are constantly striving to improve their mission-critical systems and willing to retain the talent that empowers them to make changes to those systems whenever it becomes necessary or advantageous.

Investors dodged a bullet in Q1 of 2016, but doing so in the future may require changes to your client reports. I am hopeful that 2019 will be another banner year for investors, but sooner or later something is bound to change.


About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.