Following is an excerpt from our whitepaper, Outsourcing Point-Counterpoint: Examining C-Level Perspectives at Hedge Funds and Private Equity Firms. If you want, click here to jump ahead and download the paper in full.
Outsourcing IT can be controversial across the C-suite. Your firm's CFO may see the move as financially responsible and a long-term strategic solution. Your CTO may have concerns about retaining control of the IT environment. Both sides have unique perspectives.
Just because CFOs/COOs and CTOs have different views into IT operations, outsourcing and the cloud, doesn’t mean there is no common ground. After all, both leaders ultimately want what’s best for investors and the firm. When you dig a little deeper, there are far more areas where CFOs/COOs and CTOs agree than where they differ when it comes to outsourcing IT. For example:
The outdated due diligence argument against going to the cloud has been turned on its head in the current regulatory environment. CTOs may feel they’re doing the appropriate due diligence to manage all the risks themselves. However, assessing your own risk is incredibly challenging. To thoroughly evaluate risk as well as address investors’ five, 10 or even 20-page due diligence questionnaires about technology, partners, vendors, cybersecurity and operations, CTOs need to devote enormous amounts of time – repeatedly. Risk assessments are not one-and-done tasks. Vulnerabilities, particularly cybersecurity weaknesses, should be assessed in depth every six months, and remediation of identified issues must be addressed.
Voice over IP has come a long way, especially in the business world, but many financial services firms still have hesitations about making the switch. To assist hedge funds and private equity firms in making a decision about voice solutions, we're debunking some common myths.
MYTH 1: Poor Call Quality – Everyone Will Know I’m on VoIP
A main concern of VoIP is call quality, which can be impacted by a number of features including the network, available bandwidth and even the type of phones being used. However, a well-designed business-caliber VoIP system can deliver quality of service comparable to an in-house phone system. In business settings, where calls are made over private IP connections, Quality of Service (QoS) can be monitored and guaranteed because the entire IP connection is controlled by the party making the call.
When evaluating VoIP for financial firms, it is important to inquire about the underlying network and how voice traffic is prioritized and routed. You want a provider that has full control over network traffic and can ensure high quality of service. For added confidence, ask to speak with existing VoIP customers (over the phone!) to hear about their experiences first-hand.
I love a good Throwback Thursday, and for today's post, I want to throw it back to five years ago this month. It was April 2012, and we were hosting one of our biggest and most ambitious events: a Hedge Fund Cloud Summit. At the time, cloud computing was widely discussed and adoption was certainly growing, but there were still a number of lingering questions heard across the industry with regards to financial and business impacts of the cloud, effects on in-house IT staffs and, of course, security.
We still answer many questions related to these topics today, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the four panel topics we addressed back in the 2012 event and examine how much the conversation has really changed - or in some cases, how perhaps it's stayed the same.
Making the Business (and Financial) Case for the Cloud
For hedge fund COOs and CFOs, the business impact of a move to the cloud is still a critical consideration for established firms. But many of the myths and common questions that were prevalent back in 2012 are now pretty easy to explain. How do investors feel about the cloud? In 2017, investors are generally comfortable with the cloud if not in favor of it over legacy, on-premise IT infrastructure setups. Is the cloud really more cost-effective? This question was a long-standing 'myth' that's been debunked; for some firms, yes, costs may be lower depending on their previous infrastructure and personnel situation, but for all, the predictability of cost is what has become a primary driver for cloud adopters.
With the gravitation towards all things cloud, understanding the role a global network plays in all layers of connectivity is crucial, especialy for the financial sector where firms rely on low-latency and seamless access to counterparties across the globe.
So, as we often like to do here on the Hedge IT blog, we turned to the experts.
Mike Abbey is the vice president of network services here at Eze Castle Integration. He joined the company in 1999 and is currently responsible for ECINet, our global carrier class network platform. Mike also provides design consulting and best practice audits on fault tolerance and scalable optical, Ethernet, and IP-based networks, from single and multi-site domestic networks to multi-site, global deployments. He is a graduate of Binghamton University.
Q. Mike, what are you hearing from clients regarding networking and Internet services?
A. To be honest, most hedge fund managers don’t have the time – and don’t necessarily want – to grapple with the complicated intricacies of securing and maintaining an enterprise-class network or Internet service. That’s where my team and I come in. We help simplify this process for our clients using Eze Castle’s ECINet global private network.
The technology treadmill is a tough place to be these days. Technology refresh cycles last only a mere three years, forcing firms to replace their infrastructures and make costly software and hardware upgrades on a too-frequent basis. And with hedge fund budgets tighter than ever, many firms cannot afford to stay on this path.
But the hedge fund technology treadmill is not a firm’s only option. Costly in-house, 'traditional' IT services have given way to more cost-effective outsourced IT and managed services that get firms off the treadmill and on a path to success.
Let’s have a look at some of the key reasons why hedge funds and other investment management firms are moving from on-premise technology infrastructures to cloud and managed services.
Keys factors driving hedge funds to managed services
Many firms are turning to managed IT services because it allows them to align their IT requirements with their business needs, including tighter control on budgets and staff. Moving to a managed service platform provided by a reputable outsourced IT provider not only makes it easier to deploy technologies, but also allows firms to benefit from platforms inherently designed to meet the constraints of limited IT resources and budgets.
Traditionally, private equity firms have allocated significant capital budgets to build out their own sophisticated Communication (Comm.) Rooms, which can take months to provision and bring online. With servers to buy and install, software to license and configure, and voice/networks to deploy – not to mention recruiting, hiring, and managing expensive and hard-to-find IT talent – it’s no wonder cloud solutions have emerged as the dominant choice for computing infrastructures at private equity firms large and small.
Not surprisingly, many firms – including those with well-established in-house infrastructures – are making the move to the cloud for a number of compelling reasons, most notably these five:
Timing. Understanding when the right time to move to the cloud might be is a smart first step. There are three typical inflection points: when you’re adding new applications, moving or opening a new office, or in need of an IT refresh. But even if you’re not under any of those circumstances, there are a lot of motivating factors (keep reading).
Cost Containment. You may not always be able to reduce the cost of IT in the long-run with the cloud (depends on your firm’s size and scope), but you will have a predictable budget to work with, which means you can contain costs and create greater predictability and smoother, linear cash flows. As an added bonus, you can better allocate funds to other strategic projects and areas more directly relevant to the business mission. Even within the IT discipline, instead of spending time on mundane, daily operation of commodity IT resources, the firm can focus on proprietary application development, application integration, cyber security protections or other strategic initiatives.
Hedge fund outsourcing is not a new trend, as buy-side firms have long dispersed the responsibility of many functions to third-party service providers more adept and accomplished at said functions. Technology, for example, is an area where many firms choose to leverage outsourced providers to manage complete or partial infrastructures, support projects or supplement on-site IT staffs. The benefits to outsourcing are numerous, but the true measure of a successful service provider relationship comes when an investment firm’s level of risk in using that provider is low.
Risks are everywhere, particularly in today’s cyber-focused environment. But the risk a hedge fund undertakes when outsourcing a function of its business to a third-party is enormous. Not only is the firm relinquishing control to an outside company, it also takes on the added burden of managing that company, in addition to its own.
It’s one thing to put faith in your service providers to do their jobs effectively. It’s another to ignore your own firm’s responsibility to manage that third party as a means of protecting your own firm. Successfully managing risk associated with third-party service provider relationships is a full-time job, especially for financial services firms working with dozens of various parties. Here are a few tips to help your firm properly manage third-party service provider risk:
They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. Turns out it’s a pretty accurate assessment of the hedge fund industry then and now.
You see, back in 2011 we hosted a “State of the Hedge Fund Industry” event that yielded some interesting trends and perspectives, and we thought it might be fun to not only look back at those trends, but compare them to what we’re seeing in today’s industry – more than five years later.
Like I said: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hedge Fund Market Trends & Challenges
THEN (2011): It’s been an interesting year thus far for hedge funds and other alternative investment firms, as inflows have been high but performance low. In addition to performance challenges, hedge funds continue to deal with increased competition for investments, and thus asset-raising remains a hurdle for many funds – regardless of their size or strategy.
When evaluating a cloud services provider there are a lot of factors to take into consideration: features & functionalities, security protections, provider experience, and industry certifications just to name a few. We've identified some of the most important questions today's investment management firms should be asking cloud services providers during the selection process.
Five or seven years ago, these questions would probably be fairly basic in nature. Does the infrastructure isolate individual client environments? (Yes). Can the cloud environment scale to meet a firm's growing resource needs? (Yes). In 2017, we can safely assume you understand the basics of the cloud, so the questions we've identified move beyond the basic and focus on critical infrastructure, security and support questions your cloud provider should be able to address.
Top Ten Questions to Consider:
I'm most concerned about the security of my data. What types of security layers do you employ across the cloud platform and your broader organization to guarantee the safety of my firm's information?
Does your cloud leverage proactive security technologies such as intrusion detection and prevention, next-generation firewalls and regular vulnerability assessments and/or penetration tests?
We educate our clients all the time about how to keep their organizations secure and mitigate against insider and outsider threats. But one area of security often overlooked is that of the home office – and the home itself on a larger scale. With new technologies constantly being released – and many of today’s devices linked via the Internet of Things (IoT) – the likelihood of being hacked or having private information stolen also increases.
Emerging ‘smart’ technologies such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are making their way into many homes, making it simple to find for users to stay up-to-date on the latest news, ask for directions, or hear tomorrow’s weather forecast. The Echo’s voice assistant, Alexa, for example, can complete advanced tasks such as turning on lights and changing the temperature of your home.
But what if these technologies are jeopardizing the inherent privacy of your own home? Let’s take a look into the future.