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by Spiros Giannaros 
President, Charles River Development

In the months since mass quarantines swept the globe, the topic of resilience has surfaced repeatedly in my daily conversations with customers. Portfolio management and trading has traditionally been a team-centered activity conducted on-premises; and while working from home is not new, operating fully in that mode for such an extended period of time has not been contemplated until now.

Supporting our individual customers’ organizational resilience has multiple aspects, requiring both human expertise and robust technology. Our relationship managers, operations teams and senior management have been engaging our customers, responding to their needs and helping ensure they can conduct business as usual. We activated communications and business continuity plans at both the local and global level, ensuring that customers were operating from the latest available information and resources.

Practically overnight, tens of thousands of investment professionals suddenly found themselves forced to work from their homes. Ensuring performant and secure platform access regardless of location became our immediate priority, enabling our users to make the transition with little if any operational disruption. As trading volumes spiked, driven by market volatility, we began proactively monitoring customers’ capacity in order to anticipate and prevent service disruptions.

With nearly one third of global assets currently managed on our platform, reliability, performance and responsiveness have been an integral part of our corporate DNA since inception. Building time-tested technology requires significant vision, talent and resources, informed by active development partnerships with our customers.

We’ve worked hard to become an essential and trusted partner, supporting the success of our global customer base by delivering a platform responsive to their needs. Times of crisis strengthen those partnerships and build on that foundation to help define a new set of service requirements that will shape our future priorities.

When I first joined Charles River in 1999, I was an active participant in shaping the design of our platform. Three choices in particular stand out as enablers of our strategy:

  • We recognized that hosted software and services could help asset managers better align their operational footprint with market conditions, investor preferences or new regulations. Outsourced infrastructure helps asset managers focus on serving their investors, unencumbered by the significant risk and burden of maintaining legacy technology. Our adoption of Microsoft® Azure is the latest step in our evolution as a cloud-based platform, providing customers with enterprise-grade security, performance and geographical coverage.
  • We built our platform to be horizontally scalable, enabling customers to add capacity as they grow assets, consolidate acquisitions, and launch new products and business lines. Multiple tiers and computation engines are a key enabler of operational resilience, ensuring high availability, failover and redundancy of critical systems.
  • Our platform leverages a unified data model that ensures everyone operates from a “single version of the truth”. Trusted, curated data instills confidence in risk and investment decisions and enables better collaboration between front and middle office teams, especially critical on days seeing peak trading volumes.

Our performance engineering teams conduct rigorous throughput testing to ensure operational readiness, and successfully handling the trading volumes that firms are experiencing through this period of market volatility serves as the ultimate validation of platform resilience. Building and delivering highly performant technology in combination with customer-centric services is key to ensuring success, and impacts how effectively customers serve their institutional and retail investors.

From macro events like the dotcom implosion and the 2008 financial crisis through to structural changes like decimalization and MiFID II, we have worked hand in hand with our customers. These events shaped our vision, and helped drive innovations and improvements to increase performance, scale and reliability.  Most importantly, they reinforced the value of partnership with our customers that enables us to better support whatever comes next.

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