BST Awards 2018: Best Fund Administrator—SEI

Martin Bayfield and Tim Dissen

Some things, apparently, never change. Take, for example, SEI and its impressive track record in the Buy-Side Technology Awards, specifically the best fund administrator category. Oaks, Pa.-based SEI wrested control of the award from GlobeOp Financial Services—now part of the SS&C Technologies stable—back in 2010, and since then has exerted a stranglehold on a category that over the years has consistently attracted fewer entries than most others in these awards, even though the fund administration market is a mature, lucrative and highly competitive one. 

Large numbers of buy-side firms rely on their fund administrators to manage extensive areas of their business, especially manually intensive, costly and often complex back-office functions where they feel they cannot add much in terms of value to their clients. That is SEI’s bread and butter, and if you scratch a bit below the surface of the firm, you’ll find all sorts of new and innovative technologies and services designed to alleviate much of the grunt work associated with the institutional asset management industry. 

SEI, founded 50 years ago and now with close to 4,000 employees worldwide and annual revenues of over $1.5 billion, prides itself on what it describes as its “startup mindset,” underlining the significance it places on technology development, nimbleness, time-to-market, client collaboration and responsiveness in terms of addressing the industry’s most acute needs. “Our global teams of experts guide our development, so we’re offering what we feel are the best solutions in the market, often customized to best fit our clients’ unique needs,” explains Donal O’Neill, director of client services at SEI. “This year, we focused on better integrating and streamlining our solutions and simplifying processes, while integrating new technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). As the entire investment process is becoming more and more digitized, we are conscious that our clients’ experiences and their end-clients’ experiences should still feel bespoke and personalized.”

According to O’Neill, SEI is looking to leverage AI and the various technologies sitting within the AI family, while also focusing on the scalability, resilience and security of its entire fund administration proposition. “Obviously AI is a popular topic, and we think natural-language processing is hot on its heels in terms of what’s coming next,” he says. “Regardless of the new financial products and innovations being introduced, however, we must not forget that the technological and operational infrastructure we provide our clients is robust, secure and scalable. Data and investor security and regulatory compliance may be boring, but they are also critical aspects of everything we do.” 

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