We spend a lot of time making suggestions and recommendations about what financial and investment firms should do when it comes to their technology. And while it might sometimes seem obvious, we also think it wise to remind firms what not to do from time to time. In fact, the following technology pitfalls are prime examples of what not to do with respect to your firm’s IT.
Set IT and forget IT.
Technology isn’t evergreen, and it certainly isn’t infallible. With so many investment firms today reliant on managed service providers to support their IT operations, vendor management has become a critical area of importance. IT outsourcing provides great opportunity for firms to rely on experts to manage infrastructure updates, maintenance windows and network upgrades, but the onus remains on your firm to ensure your technology is up-to-snuff and meets not only your demands but those of investors and regulators as well. A “set IT and forget IT” strategy won’t work here; even via outsourcing, your IT management responsibilities fall on you.
Plan your infrastructure only for the short-term.
A crucial mistake often made by funds is not planning for the future. From the earliest pre-launch meeting, you should be thinking about what your firm will look like and what technology you will require down the road. Planning out two to three years in advance is recommended in order to reap the most benefits with regard to your infrastructure. Plus, if you don’t plan ahead, you may wind up incurring more costs and dealing with a much bigger headache if technology decisions need to be made unexpectedly (e.g. cloud and data migration).
Categorized under: Hedge Fund Operations Cloud Computing Security Operational Due Diligence Outsourcing Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Business Continuity Planning Trends We're Seeing
In this interview, Eze Castle's Chief Strategy Officer, Mark Coriaty, discusses the emergence of the hybrid cloud and why some financial and investment firms are taking a closer look. NOTE: This article first appeared on Hedgeweek and Private Equity Wire.
Talk about the advancement and evolution of cloud services in recent years and how we’ve ended up where we are.
MC: If you step back and look at the landscape over the last four or five years, we have seen a lot of changes both on the technology front, as well as within the financial markets. Whether the result of fund raising challenges or increasing regulatory demands, the landscape for alternative fund managers has changed significantly.
We’ve therefore had to adapt to the market and this includes three different components: service, technology, and networking/security. With all the different regulatory bodies and demands from standards boards and governments, we needed to make sure we were providing a solution to our clients that a) met those requirements and b) was up to par with the security measures that we pride ourselves on at Eze Castle.
When you look at the Eze Private Cloud, it is a very controlled environment. It features a number of components related to private networking, client controls, data integrity controls, as well as enterprise-standard security measures. But as the public cloud has started to become more popular and mature in recent years, firms have started to pay closer attention to it.
Typically, this is because the cost structure is scalable. If you look at major providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, they have enough scale in their infrastructure such that it becomes less expensive for the customer to use the public cloud. However, when you analyse what they deliver versus the requirements of a lot of investment firms, oftentimes those requirements supersede what these large public cloud providers can offer.
Hence the hybrid cloud.
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. Outsourcing to the cloud continues to grow in popularity among firms small and large. 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. And it certainly doesn’t mean IT managers should be left to twiddle their thumbs.
In fact, according to our Private Equity CTO Survey, 93 percent of firms believe their Chief Technology Officer is becoming more important to their business. As the role of the CTO evolves, particularly in light of cloud adoption, many firms expect their CTOs/IT Directors to take on additional responsibilities.
In today’s market, the pressure from both investors and regulators is at a steady incline. Reporting obligations have grown complex, transparency is in high demand and compliance technology has become a vital component to a firm’s success. With various demands tug-o-warring hedge fund managers in multiple directions, a Client Relationship Management (CRM) platform could be the solution your financial firm has been searching for.
That is why firms are increasingly adopting Ledgex CRM, the revolutionary, stand-alone Client Relationship Management solution offered by our sister company, Ledgex Systems. Ledgex CRM is ideal for managing and tracking investor communications, sales pipelines, client relationships and capital movements. The highly configurable, centralized platform is tailor-made for hedge funds, family offices and asset allocators.
The product offers the sophisticated Client Relationship Management capabilities necessary to raise and retain more assets, maintain and grow clients, provide outstanding client service and meet heightened reporting requirements. Out of the box, the web-based solution delivers efficiencies, transparency and flexibility without increasing headcount or costs. By streamlining investor relationship management and capital activity, Ledgex CRM enables managers to optimize their time and focus on fostering relations and growing business.
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.
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 investment firm 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.
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.
When it comes to cybersecurity there are many factors that you need to be conscious of. During a recent webinar, speakers from Eze Castle Integration and Wolf & Company shared 10 of the most common cybersecurity gaps identified during an IT audit/risk assessment. We’ve listed the top 10 below and shared some particulars on a few of the most critical (in our opinion). For more detail on how these gaps are presenting themselves – and also best practices for avoiding them – click here to listen to the full webinar replay.
Top 10 IT Security Gaps
Risk Management and Governance
IT Asset Management
Social Engineering & User Training
Business Continuity Planning
Third Party Vendor Management
User Provisioning and Management
Incident Response Planning/Procedures
Risk Management and Governance
Responsibility and accountability for risk management starts in-house – and at the top. Even for firms that rely on third party outsourced providers, it’s imperative (and often overlooked) to establish governance controls and outline who internally maintains ownership of the firm’s security posture – and more broadly, who owns the firm’s risks.
As April 18th (US) and April 30th (Canada) near, cyber scammers are pulling out all their tax scams to trick consumers and capitalize on the flurry of activity. Our friends over at Proofpoint say that “this year, [they have] tracked malware distribution in addition to the customary phishing schemes among the email threats related to federal taxes.”
The IRS is also urging people to remember that “the IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action.”
So to help our clients stay vigilant, we’re highlighting some recent phishing tricks and sharing phishing flags every employee should recognize.
IRS Phishing and Malware Scam Examples
Example 1: Malware Distribution