AFTAs 2018: Best IT Integration Initiative—Schroders

Schroders won the AFTA for the best IT integration initiative on the back of its acquisition of Brookfield Investment Management’s securitized products team.

The financial services industry is littered with integration projects that for many reasons have gone awry. And yet they are unavoidable occupational hazards that must be negotiated from time to time as the industry matures by way of mergers and acquisitions. Schroders, the London-based investment manager, wins the best IT integration initiative at this year’s AFTAs, thanks to a project that entailed the integration of a research, investment decision-support and monitoring platform resulting from the mid-2016 acquisition of Brookfield Investment Management’s securitized products team based in New York. The initiative was undertaken by Schroders’ IT Integration team led by Catherine Hryszko. 

The Brookfield investment desk specialized in managing mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities. It had therefore developed multiple proprietary research tools to assess the universe of securities and run them through various interest-rate path scenarios. The resultant multiple-scenario analytics enabled the business to make informed investment decisions. 

The project involved the integration of Brookfield’s research platform, the re-engineering of nine applications and associated processes, as well as the migration of the platform’s underlying historical data. It spanned multiple business areas: investment, research, portfolio operations and data management, while Schroders used the Microsoft Azure Cloud for the first time to run labor-intensive Monte Carlo simulations.  

Hryszko was responsible for developing the integration strategy and managing the team of business analysts, developers and testers, while the third-party engineering came courtesy of Devbridge Group working out of Lithuania. According to Schroders, the optimal team configuration emerged when a representative of each function—an analyst, a developer and a tester—was present in each of the regions (the US, the UK and Lithuania). This follow-the-sun delivery approach enabled fast implementation of changes and effective resource utilization. 

Hryszko and UK-based analyst, Lucas Boone, were instrumental in driving the integration and adhering to the strict deadline. Hryszko used her financial business knowledge (she is a CFA) to fully understand the purpose of the tools and their interdependencies. As a result, 12 key business processes were not only migrated, but were also significantly improved. A new data warehouse and a separate datamart were created to facilitate the integration alongside 6,000 new lines of code with approximately 150 major releases. The delivery team was able to release changes within two hours where the usual processing time was two to three days, ultimately allowing the project to be completed on-time and under budget. Schroders’ win in this category brings to an end a run of sell-side firms in the winners’ circle, with Cowan winning the category in 2017 and Bank of America winning it in 2016. 

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