If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years when it comes to security, it’s that there’s a whole lot more to creating a secure hedge fund (or any business for that matter) than robust technology. Before identifying infrastructure components and implementing operational policies, a firm must first be clear on what its attitude is toward security. This attitude will filter through the company from the top down, and will therefore dictate how employees and the business as a whole operate on a daily basis.
To give you a clearer understanding of what we mean, we’ve created three security profiles that cover a wide spectrum in terms of security attitudes and practices.
Under the Radar: Low Security
If you’re attitude toward security is low, odds are you’re barely scraping the surface in terms of what practices and policies you should be employing to maintain proper security firm-wide. You likely rely on quick fixes to solve problems instead of looking at the bigger picture and thinking strategically about how security can both benefit and protect your business. You’ve employed minimal preparedness efforts and could be in for a difficult task if faced with a serious security incident. You probably take a “it won’t happen to me” attitude and don’t take security seriously enough – a stance that could endanger your firm in the long term.
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The last five years has seen an increase in reliance on technology among financial institutions. IT outsourcing has become more attractive to the financial services industry - but against the backdrop of increased reliance on complex IT systems and operations is the heightened risk of cyber-attacks and system disruptions.
In June 2013, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued the Technology Risk Management Guideline (TRMG), which addresses existing and emerging technology risks within financial institutions.
The objective of the TRMG is for financial firms to establish a sound and robust technology risk management framework, strengthen system security, reliability, resiliency, recoverability and deploy strong authentication to protect customer data and systems.
In today’s blog article we will take a look at some of the key guidelines covered in the guide:
The competition amongst firms in the financial services industry is ever burgeoning, and in order to achieve differentiation, it is imperative for firms to create and maintain robust, manageable, scalable and reliable technology infrastructures. Increasingly, we’re seeing more than just emerging managers opting for a cloud solution and established hedge funds and alternative investment firms shifting gears from traditional on-premise IT infrastructures to cloud services.
If you missed our webinar yesterday on Why the Billion Dollar Club is Going Cloud, read our recap below or scroll down to watch the full webinar replay, featuring Eze Castle’s Managing Directors Bob Guilbert and Vinod Paul.
The Business Case for the Cloud: Why Established Firms are Making the Move
Across the industry, established firms that have been in business for several years are moving away from physical infrastructures and adopting the cloud. Traditionally, investment firms would allocate substantial capital budgets to build on-premise Communication (Comm.) Rooms. These cost-intensive infrastructures can take months to build out, and specific expenses can vary depending on a firm’s unique needs. For example, at minimum, investment firms require file services, email capabilities, mobility services and remote connectivity, as well as disaster recovery and compliance. Beyond those, many firms also require systems and applications such as order management systems (OMS), customer relationship management tools (CRM), and portfolio management or accounting packages.
Categorized under: Cloud Computing Disaster Recovery Security Hedge Fund Due Diligence Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Communications Outsourcing Trends We're Seeing Videos And Infographics
We’ve seen the face of the financial services industry change dramatically over the last few years, with emerging technologies, investor transparency demands and growing competition fueling firms to assess their operations and focus on the health and success of the overall business. But perhaps beyond any of these trends, the focus on industry regulations and compliance efforts may be the most significant in changing the way financial services firms do business.
This year alone, we’ve seen regulatory initiatives dominate headlines and leave firms scrambling to comply, notably the SEC’s cybersecurity guidelines released this spring and the official implementation of the Alternative Investment Managers Fund Directive (AIFMD), which went into effect last week. Also becoming official this month is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, which requires U.S. persons to report financial accounts held outside of the United States and financial institutions (notably banks) to report foreign financial accounts and clients who hold foreign assets.
To identify non-compliance, the Internal Revenue Service is requiring financial institutions with foreign entities and foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to disclose information about U.S. clients with balances over $50,000. The law threatens a steep 30 percent withholding tax on payments for non-compliant FFIs.
There is also a significant cost for firms to implement compliance procedures and reporting standards to meet the legislative requirements of FATCA. It is reported that implementation costs average between $100,000 and $500,000 depending on firm size and are expected to amount to roughly $8 billion USD a year for financial institutions alone (not including costs to the private sector, IRS and foreign entities).
One of the first questions on the SEC’s cybersecurity questionnaire for financial firms asks firms to "indicate whether they conduct periodic risk assessments to identify cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities and potential business consequences", and if so, who conducts them and how often. Clearly the goal behind this question is to ensure that firms are taking a proactive approach to security. But what exactly does this assessment entail?
Here’s a quick overview.
The type of risk assessment typically associated with information technology/security is an external vulnerability assessment. Essentially, this is the process of identifying and categorizing vulnerabilities related to a system or infrastructure. Typical steps associated with a vulnerability scan or assessment include:
Identifying all appropriate systems, networks and infrastructures;
Scanning networks to assess susceptibility to external hacks and threats;
Classifying vulnerabilities based on severity; and
Making tactical recommendations around how to eliminate or remediate threats at all levels.
We continue to speak with clients and prospects on a regular basis on the topic of cybersecurity, and with the expectation that the SEC will start security exams sometime around September, it’s evident that firms are working diligently to answer the questionnaire and shore up internal practices.
To continue fostering education around this topic, we hosted two events last week dedicated to cybersecurity for hedge funds and investment firms. For your convenience, you can read a brief recap of some of the key topics discussed or scroll down to watch our full webinar replay.
Cybersecurity a Hot Topic on State & Federal Level
By now, we all know the SEC has taken steps to assure that hedge funds and investment advisers put security mechanisms and practices in place to protect against cyber threats. SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar said there is “substantial risk that a cyber-attack could cause significant and wide-ranging market disruptions and investor harm.” Even beyond the federal level, some states are chiming in on the cybersecurity front. Earlier this month, Massachusetts and Illinois acknowledged that they were polling investment advisers about their security practices, and that based on responses, state regulations could be impacted.
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Hedge funds have known for some time the importance of effective cybersecurity, and regulation increasingly enforces this as a requirement. For any practice to be effective, however, there are a number of factors which need to be considered prior to implementation. Eze Castle’s Lisa Smith recently sat down with HFMWeek Magazine to talk about how to meet and understand the new cybersecurity guidelines advised by the SEC. Following is an excerpt of the article.
The SEC's cybersecurity questionnaire sets the framework and best practices for the financial industry. When you consider the type of information that hedge funds are handling on a day-to-day basis, it's really important that they have security controls in place. The questionnaire is a way for the SEC to ensure that hedge funds, private equity and investment management companies are taking security controls seriously and are aware of what's in place for their company.
HFMWeek (HFM): Within the sample SEC cybersecurity request document, questions were divided into five categories. What is the SEC looking for in these categories?
Lisa Smith (LS): Identification of risk in cybersecurity governance - this involves an analysis of what's in place. So for instance - when I conduct a business assesment I'll focus on what's currently in place versus what should be in place in accordance with the recommendations from the SEC. Anything that is not in place that should be goes into our risk assesssment summary and is categorized as low, medium or high. It's about ensuring that hedge funds have certain controls and security policies in place to protect their environment and data.
As your firm evaluates moving to the cloud – as most firms today will inevitably do – your list of priorities will likely include:
Regulatory and investor impact
Migration plans and operational effects
Hardware disposal and infrastructure changes
But another critical business area your firm should put some thought into is the effect of the cloud movement on your internal IT department (assuming you have one). What exactly happens to a firm’s IT team once it moves operations into a cloud environment? Is there still value in maintaining an in-house staff?
The simple answer is ‘yes,’ but the day-to-day responsibilities for those staffers may not look quite the same post-cloud. With a fully managed service provider, everyday management is typically taken care of – leaving internal resources with a lot more time on their hands. But that doesn’t mean there’s no longer a need for an IT department.
Earlier this month alongside KPMG, we hosted a seminar in New York on “The Transformation of IT and Hedge Fund Operations.” We asked experts to examine the changes impacting hedge funds today and the future of this industry transformation. Our distinguished panel included Vinod Paul, Managing Director, and Steve Schoener, Vice President, at Eze Castle Integration, John Budzyna, Managing Director, and Dave Messier, Director, at KPMG, Timothy Ng, Managing Principal at Clearbrook Global Services, Jon Anderson, Global Head of OTC Derivatives at SS&C GlobeOp and Sheldon Rubin, COO/CFO/CCO at S Squared Technology LLC.
Below is a brief recap of the topics discussed during the lively event. To listen to the full audio podcast of the event, click here.
What do you see as the greatest transformation the hedge fund industry has undergone or is currently in the midst of?
There is more acceptance of outsourcing. Many firms are leveraging outsourced service providers for front office support, for example, and leaving their in-house departments to focus on the core business.
Many firms starting today don’t even consider building out a middle and back office – they immediately look to outsourcing. The quality and opportunities provided by outsourced service providers, including administrators, are much better than they have ever been before.
The following article is part of our Emerging Managers Insight Article Series. Read more articles from the Series HERE.
What are the keys to starting a hedge fund? How does an emerging manager ensure success in a constantly-changing world of legal and regulatory guidelines, increasing investor expectations and evolving technology platforms?
In order to answer these questions, Asset TV and the Hedge Fund Association recently gathered an expert panel for a video roundtable focused on hedge fund startups. Our own Managing Director, Vinod Paul, was featured on the panel, along with experts from The Kingdom Trust Company, Eisner Amper LLP, and Thompson Hine LLP. Watch the video below to learn more about a variety of topics important to new fund launches, including:
Technology Infrastructure Priorities
Dodd-Frank & Regulatory Requirements