Sell-Side Technology Awards 2022 Winners' Circle: Bank of America

Connect Studio: the art of the possible

Bank of America won the category for the best reporting platform or service for the sell side in this year’s Sell-Side Technology Awards, thanks to its Connect Studio platform. WatersTechnology speaks to Laura Hamilton, managing director, global head of corporate treasury technology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, about what Connect Studio is, what it allows its users to do, and the premise behind its development.

WatersTechnology: Can you briefly describe what Connect Studio is, what it does, and how the platform came about? 
Laura Hamilton, managing director, global head of treasury technology, Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Connect Studio is a self-service analytics and management reporting tool designed to help us find new insights into our products, our financial performance, our trending analysis, and our forecasts. It is different from other platforms because of its real-time integration with our data sources and model execution engines. It features state-of-the-art data visualizations and a number of one-click features that are common to analytics and reporting [functions].

It resulted from a recommendation that came out of our creative technology team, which was observing how our business teams were starting to interact more and more with data and model outputs and all the reporting requirements that came with all our projects. Sometimes our reporting requirements took longer to implement than the actual projects and creating the metrics themselves. So it was about developing a holistic solution to enable our business users to use the data and model output in a different way.

WatersTechnology: What does Connect Studio allow users to do that they weren’t able to before its rollout?
Hamilton: It’s really about more deeply analyzing the data and our model output. It brings together data from all of our different engines across the bank; we can pull in billions of rows of data into our analytics in an as-needed way, and these one-click features really help our common analytics that our risk, finance and business teams use over and over again. An example might be where we run a model execution, but we’ll calculate the standard deviation at the same time we’re calculating the core metrics. It allows us to do all the month-over-month and year-over-year average balances and variances, and provides us with the ability to toggle between, for example, local currencies, US dollars and percentages―all the things that you typically see in our management reporting.  

We’ve also introduced a lot of 3D visualizations of our data to help us drill down into our charts. This has been helpful for our liquidity and capital metrics and being able to understand how products are performing, how different trades are impacting our liquidity and capital, and looking for new [business] opportunities. We also do a lot of event-driven scheduling. We can now trigger a host of analysis based on certain events, in addition to the standard time-driven analysis where you run things every day. Having that real-time and event-driven approach gives our business teams a whole new capability. 

WatersTechnology: What has the response been like from the business? Are there any measurables you can share that illustrate the effectiveness of Connect Studio across a range of functions it supports? 
Hamilton: We’ve had very positive responses from the business―it’s been a true partnership. The platform has been an integral part of our operational excellence program, and we’re focused on driving more automation. It helps us shift people’s time from creating metrics to spending more time using the output and creating the analytics. We’ve been able to eliminate 98% of our spreadsheets and we’ve reduced team handoffs by 75% because everything is so transparent. Now we have people logging into the system instead of emailing results back and forth. In the risk space, we’ve seen cycle times speed up by days and we’ve seen teams go from spending weeks preparing trending analysis to it now being handed to them in a matter of hours. We’ve received a lot of great momentum around what the art of the possible is. 

WatersTechnology: What does the future hold for Connect Studio in terms of new features and functions?
Hamilton: We’ve have some really good momentum, and what we love about that momentum and the adoption of the platform is that we have a lot of new ideas. We’ll continue to expand the rollout―we’re spending a lot of time within our chief financial office and within risk, global markets and other business teams. We have some new features coming with machine learning and AI capabilities natively integrated [within Connect Studio], and we have natural language processing for auto-generating some of the commentary to speed up the creation of our management reports. We’ll also be expanding our data sources and our connectivity to other key platforms. 

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