BST Awards 2022 Winners' Circle: MSCI

Born to perform

Thomas Moser, MSCI
Thomas Moser, MSCI
Thomas Moser, MSCI

MSCI won two categories in this year’s Buy-Side Technology Awards: best performance measurement and attribution platform and best overall buy-side product for 2022. Thomas Moser, executive director, product management at MSCI, speaks to Victor Anderson about BarraOne, the product responsible for delivering the wins for MSCI in this year’s awards, and explains how the platform differentiates itself in what is one of the buy side’s most mature and competitive market segments. 

WatersTechnology: What differentiates BarraOne from other performance and attribution platforms on the market, bearing in mind that this is a mature and highly competitive niche, especially from a buy-side perspective? 
Thomas Moser, executive director, product management, MSCI: Differentiation is very important to us―we communicate with our clients, and anyone else interested in our performance attribution capabilities, to help them understand how we differentiate ourselves from other providers and why they should choose MSCI

Our performance attribution module consists of several models, each designed with a specific persona and use-case in mind. For example, we have dedicated models for fixed-income portfolio managers, who have very strong requirements to understand the performance of their investment funds, because historically―at least in the last couple of years―the performance in absolute terms has not been very large. It was important for them―and still is―to be able to understand on a very granular level what drives the performance of their portfolios vs. the benchmark so they can make the right investment decisions.

That’s a very different use-case and persona compared with an asset owner who is worried about asset allocation decisions on multi-asset class portfolios and having to get the big investment decisions right. They need to understand allocation selections on a much higher level, which uses a different set of models designed specifically for that use-case. What differentiates MSCI [from other attribution providers] is that we have all those models and can satisfy a large set of teams within clients’ front and middle offices and across different asset classes. 

Two trends that we have been working on for some time―and we believe will continue to shape the investment industry in the future―are ESG and private assets
Thomas Moser, executive director, product management, MSCI

WatersTechnology: What are you hearing from your clients with respect to their day-to-day performance and attribution headaches and their needs and challenges, and how is BarraOne as a product addressing those challenges?
Moser: What we have heard a lot in the last few years is the objective of investment managers to distribute analytics―specifically performance analytics and insights―throughout the organization, not only to dedicated teams, but also to make that data easily accessible to the front and middle offices and other stakeholders within the company. As a result of that, we have worked on making it as easy as possible for a large set of users within our clients to consume that data.

For example, we have partnerships with order management system (OMS) providers like Charles River, which means portfolio managers who are already in that ecosystem using Charles River Workbench or thinkFolio or other OMSs can access all the performance analytics capabilities and insights without having to log into yet another system. Similarly, the C-suite at our clients expect their teams to be able to present information to them so that they can make decisions quickly. So, we have built ready-to-use PDFs and Excel reports that we run on a large scale for our clients overnight, which allows them to use those reports directly in their investment committee meetings and provide PDF versions to senior decision-makers without having to go through the hassle of creating PowerPoint presentations and extracting information from various systems. 

WatersTechnology: What is on BarraOne’s radar for the immediate future in terms of new features and functions that your clients need to be aware of?
Moser: Similar to our clients who want to get their big investment decisions right, we’re also trying to get our product investments decisions right. So, we’re looking to identify and focus on the big secular trends, ensuring that we actively contribute to them to satisfy our clients’ needs. Two trends that we have been working on for some time―and we believe will continue to shape the investment industry in the future―are ESG and private assets.

For instance, on private assets we are working with several of our asset owner clients to help them better understand the performance of their investments in this asset class so that they can make better investment decisions. With ESG―which is an area where we as a company are already well-known―we’re focusing our expertise and our large research teams in order to enhance our capabilities so that clients can in the future better understand how ESG considerations and decisions are impacting the performances of their portfolios. 

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