ISG is a New Zealand financial services business, comprising five businesses within the parent brand (Devon Funds Management, Clarity Funds Management, JMI Wealth, Select Wealth Management and TAHITO). ISG provides a wide range of best practice support services to each of these businesses. This allows each business to focus on delivering their specialist financial services to clients, while ensuring their businesses remain autonomous. Together, the group manages more than $5 billion, including funds management, advisory and investment platforms.
Three years ago, Investment Services Group existed as a collective of different operating models, explains ISG CEO, Richard O’Brien. “We had a lot of work to do to establish a co-ordinated group, supported by a common infrastructure.”
With entrepreneurial DNA, a focus on growth, industry leadership, and a commitment to ensuring the client is front and centre in all decisions, ISG wanted to build a modern, cloud-based platform for the future. This needed to be contemporary and scalable, while eliminating complexity and enabling insight right across the group’s businesses. The system needed to bring together multiple disparate systems to provide a single, consolidated view of each customer.
This solution would be critical in helping ISG to stay ahead of regulatory and compliance requirements in an ever-changing and fast-moving sector. It would allow them to move away from the constraints of “old school” systems and processes to a position of true industry leadership and total client centricity.
With each of ISG’s brands bringing their own systems and processes, group-wide visibility of information did not exist. It was challenging to draw meaningful insights from the data and significant operational complexities existed within the business.
“Trying to understand what the data was telling us and bring it together in any meaningful way was enough to make people tear their hair out,” Richard says.
Additionally, many processes were manual, paper-based and time-consuming.
CFO Niall Hartigan explains, “To give one example, adviser investment reviews and proposals would take more than two weeks to prepare and this would quite literally be a paper-based process involving hardcopy records being passed between the Adviser and their assistant. We now have an online collaborative approach using a process which automatically extracts information from various sources.”
ISG recognised the need to consolidate information and streamline processes across the group. Given the pressure of major – and ongoing – legislative changes on the horizon, it was time for a solution.
“One of the first steps for us was to look at things from a technology point of view and understand whether it was necessary for each business to continue operating its own different platforms, or whether there was a more comprehensive single platform that we could transfer all the businesses onto. In short, there wasn’t, so we accepted that each business needed to continue to operate on separate platforms,” Richard says.
“From there, what we wanted to know was: Is there a common or cohesive layer, in the form of a CRM, that we can put over the top of these systems to bring them together so that clients won’t have to see or worry about any of the complexities of the systems under the surface?”
Niall describes the chosen solutions – Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, with MuleSoft providing the critical middleware layer – as a case of excellent timing and great fit.
“We had been investigating possible solutions for a while, during which time Salesforce’s Financial Services Cloud launched, which offered us a one-stop shop for everything that we wanted and gave us more than 90% of what we were looking for out of the box.”
Financial Services Cloud’s ability to map all kinds of relationships between people, companies and trusts would prove instrumental to the implementation’s overall success. Equally, having MuleSoft in place as the integration layer to do the “heavy lifting” of connecting every source system with Salesforce was critical in allowing “all the necessary complexity to be shifted into the background,” Richard says.
“In an industry like ours,” he adds, “where so many things tend to reside on many different source systems, it makes perfect sense that you need something in between these to do the translation work for you.”
ISG’s solution represents ‘firsts’ on two fronts, as both New Zealand’s first Salesforce Financial Services Cloud implementation and first MuleSoft CloudHub implementation.
In September 2018, a two-year transformation journey with ISG began, starting with a pilot with Devon Funds Management to prove out the approach. Upon success of this project, ISG then moved to systematically bring each company into the fold.
With all companies now on the platform, in recent months ISG has taken on further optimisation, digitisation and automation to streamline processes and create greater visibility. Most recently, the focus has been on implementing tools for onboarding and advice and, through the COVID lockdown period, standing up a disaster recovery case management system. This system supports digitised approval and other important workflow processes. It was built within a space of weeks, making working from home easier for the ISG team.
Richard says of the Davanti relationship: “It has very much been a partnership, with us working together to achieve the right outcomes. We’ve really appreciated the consistency and continuity of personnel over a two-year period, along with their ability to understand what we needed to do and remove the complexity throughout.”
“It was seriously impressive watching how quickly they came to grips with what we were trying to do and understand our complex requirements within the context of a complicated industry. Equally, their ability to ask the right questions and keep things simple meant all we needed to do was answer questions and explain what we were trying to do, with Davanti working out how to bring the solution together.”
ISG now has a future-ready platform to support its growth aspirations, meet regulatory and compliance requirements and to allow it to “chart its own course” without technology restraints.
Niall summarises the two-year transformation as a journey “from chalk to cheese”, with the group now equipped to take on the future with confidence and agility.
“What we’ve achieved is a platform whereby if we either chose to start a new business tomorrow or if we chose to acquire one – and both of those things are very much in our DNA – then, instead of it being a complete start-from-scratch undertaking, we’ve already got a lot of the bones to make that happen,” Richard says.
“The beauty of the solution we have now is that it’s very scalable – an advisor can come and join us and be up and running in no time at all, wherever they may be,” Niall adds.
The value of having group-wide visibility of information and meaningful, joined-up insights derived from a single source of truth is immense.
Richard explains: “Now, the information you need drops into your inbox each day in a form that you can trust, in whatever format you need it. The underlying data is all there and you can get on with it, as opposed to questioning the data or spending days pulling it together.”
In describing the ultimate outcome for ISG, Richard says: “We now have a platform to realise shareholder ambitions and objectives for us as a group – the desire to grow and be a more significant player within the industry. We’ve absolutely set the platform to be successful on that front, and I have absolute conviction we couldn’t have done that with our previous structural or operating model.”
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