The best IT team award of this year’s AFTAs goes to Charles Schwab Investment Management’s investments technology team, snatching the crown from last year’s winner, JPMorgan.
Charles Schwab’s investments technology team saw success this year with the delivery of a platform that can scale to support increased volumes, while developing a user experience that streamlines the firm’s money funds portfolio construction, and also increased collaboration across user groups.
James Ferrarelli, vice president and head of technology at Charles Schwab Investment Management, says that while working on the projects, the team looked at the bigger picture rather than individual needs. “The team transformed the technology architecture to deliver a flexible, scalable and integrated platform to the business,” Ferrarelli says. “Additionally, the team made business analysis and prioritization more productive by emphasizing end-to-end workflow of a business process rather than focusing on individual systems that would deliver a capability.”
Ferrarelli explains that the team was divided according to functions within the investment process, including research, portfolio construction, implementation and trading in order to keep the process at the center of development. The technology team develops applications that support all of Charles Schwab’s departments, from portfolio management, credit research, trading and investment risk across fixed income and equities, often with differing needs.
Manish Ghayalod, managing director and head of investments technology, says the teams often had to work on very different projects to support the investment management business. “Both the research and portfolio management teams focused on building an intuitive workflow to provide portfolio managers with leverage and efficiency to keep pace with business growth,” he says. “In risk management, a framework was developed that allows us to quickly introduce new scenarios to stress-test portfolios. Delivery of these projects benefited from employing key Charles Schwab foundational initiatives in data and analytics.”
Ghayalod adds that 2017 proved to be a challenge as the team had to work around mitigating risk in the current operating environment, where projects had to be able to scale without overrunning budgets. Another challenge was a changing governance framework, particularly since some of the platforms the team worked on had to extend across different asset classes.
The year ahead might be just as challenging, though, as Ghayalod anticipates projects focusing on portfolio management and regulatory initiatives. “In 2018, the team anticipates a continued focus on portfolio management and regulatory initiatives, and comprehensive integration of vendor products with our underlying platform and framework to provide a seamless investment experience,” he says.
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