BST Awards 2019: Winners’ Circle: SmartStream Technologies

Addressing Clients’ Pain Points and Minimizing Costs

Buy Side Technology

SmartStream Technologies won the best buy-side reconciliation platform category at this year’s BST Awards, thanks to its TLM Reconciliations Premium offering. Victor Anderson speaks to SmartStream’s Robin Hasson about his clients’ most acute pain points right now, how SmartStream is helping them manage their fixed operating costs, and what they can expect in terms of new functionality over the next 12 months. 

TLM Reconciliations Premium has enjoyed considerable success across all of WatersTechnology’s awards over the years. What separates it from other similar offerings in what is a highly competitive market?

Robin Hasson, product manager, TLM Reconciliations Premium: If you look at the evolution of TLM Reconciliations Premium, a significant moment was when we shifted from delivering discrete domain processing and became a flexible architecture for any flavor of reconciliation. We established a standardized reconciliations process across cash, positions, futures, static, etc., with best practice domain features, integrated workflow, exception management and a high-quality user interface.

Being able to customize and refine workflows and tailor the user experience are critical in solving edge-case but important issues, particularly when used for diverse needs. Most importantly for our clients, this enabled the creation of a utility model to service the wider organization.

What are your clients’ biggest pain points right now with respect to reconciliations?

Hasson: Clear pressure points surround cost, managing increasing volumes and improving the time-to-market for new reconciliations. This can be challenging in a world of increasing volumes and increased scrutiny. We utilize hosting technologies and services to reduce total cost of ownership, incorporating internal or external clouds to remove high-cost infrastructure.

Looking at volumes, a significant impact is in the growing use of digital payments mechanisms and the need to reconcile that data closer to the point of payment. Additionally, clients are increasingly looking for a single platform to centralize all reconciliations—retiring internal, vendor and spreadsheet reconciliations. This creates two pinch points: the time-to-market to migrate and build new reconciliations, and the ability to manage the increase in volumes this creates. Migrating from multiple vendor and internal reconciliations systems to a single, consolidated platform can also drive up volumes significantly.

With respect to managing clients’ fixed operating costs, how are you helping to address those issues?

Hasson: The three most valuable cost-reduction strategies are hosted infrastructure, managed services, and increased automation. We have a range of deployment models to suit clients beyond the traditional on-premises model. We offer a fully hosted cloud infrastructure, and varying levels of managed business process outsourcing (BPO) to manage, monitor, reconcile and even investigate exceptions if required. This move to a service model can return significant benefits without compromising quality or accuracy.

Looking at increasing automation, we are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in a number of ways, one of which is to automatically improve data quality as it loads into the system. Fixing data-quality issues using ML can drive up automation significantly as it removes the need to perform manual matching, which is a time-consuming and costly process.

What new functionality has been folded into the platform over the last 12 months?

Hasson: We have made many technical enhancements. In terms of infrastructure, we have moved forward with how we deliver our systems through cloud deployments, and we now use Docker, the container technology. That’s an important step change in how simple it is to deliver and deploy the solution, and is a frequent request across our client base. A range of AI features were released this year, and more are being rolled out in the coming months to continue the innovation they bring.  A major theme for the last 12 months has been on business enablement, allowing users without IT expertise to set reconciliations. Using SmartRecs, a user can define and validate the reconciliation they require without needing to engage IT until it is working as required. And if the business needs a one-off reconciliation, they can build it without IT being involved at all.

What’s on the workbench for the foreseeable future?

Hasson: First and foremost, we’ll continue to focus on what is most important to our clients: improving performance, reducing deployment times, minimizing time-to-market and empowering the business. We are heavily invested in innovating with the latest technologies, in particular for high-value AI and machine learning features, and we plan to further improve the user experience. We are increasing our integration points into the system by way of publishing APIs so that it is simpler and quicker to integrate with other systems, allowing them to manage and extract data, whether it is for user and account management or access to operational data—balances, exceptions and trades. We’ll also continue to invest in new business modules such as Digital Payments Control to deliver the controls and oversight our clients need.

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