As Calastone’s expansion into the Australian market continues apace, we were very glad to welcome the arrival of Shannon Sweeney as our new Managing Director, Australia.
Shannon’s appointment underlines our commitment to the Australian market and is just the first step in an exciting future. To find out more about Shannon and her industry expertise, as well as pick her brains on what the future might hold, we asked her the following questions:
Why Calastone? What excites you most about your new role?
At my previous company, I observed, firsthand, just how successful Calastone’s model and service proposition is. This role excites me as I’m now in the fortunate position to build on this success, and execute the country strategy, in a nimble and effective manner. Calastone is large enough to make an impact, but small enough to allow for entrepreneurial spirit. I enjoy the freedom to be dynamic, respectthe responsibility to grow a profitable business, and acknowledge our role as a utility for the industry.
Calastone has carved out a niche at the core of the Australian market. What comes next? What are your key priorities?
Calastone has certainly provided the managed funds platform/institutional space with a niche offering., Take up has been great, but there is still has room to grow in depth and in breadth in terms of both clienteleand the modulesthe market needs, for example, Reconciliations which is the next product for this market segment.
Calastone is also providing the Superannuation segment with a Gateway for Superstream. This is a new product and priority for Calastone that builds on all of the principles that have created Calastone’s success to date.
You bring over 15 years of financial services experience to the role, how has the industry evolved over that time?
My career has spanned the UK and Australia, front office and back office and a great deal of change and industry evolution.
In terms of Australia’s changes, there has been an increased awareness and investment in offshore assets, coming from a traditional domestic market focus. Neither has increased regulation and oversight bypassed Australia despite it dodging most of the global financial crisis bullets. Similar to the UK, there is a regulatory focus on commissions, disclosure and the selling of financial products, as well as STP and efficiency.
As strategy lead for Global Middle office and Fund Administration products at RBC did you experience much change in the levels of automation within the industry?
These products were more focused on automated data rather than automation of data per se. Big Data is a new buzz term used in the industry, but no matter what you call it, there is an opportunity to provide realtime tradable book of records that can be aggregated or disaggregated, viewed at any angle (sector, currency, market etc), and extracted/reported ondemand. The financial crisis and lack of portfolio exposure transparency, and the requirements ofSolvency II for e.g. has alerted the industry to the need to make this data accessible. Automation supports this by ensuring the data feeds are fed into the source of the tradable book.
Do any barriers remain to hold back automation?
In some cases verification steps like AML and KYC processes can hold back automation. These can be more automated where legislation allows for it, eg electronic imagesvs wet signatures.
Who stands to benefit most from automation? Who does Calastone’s technology help?
Everyone benefits. Where there is automation, the market can focus on their core competencies (custody, funds management, distribution) rather than manual processing and 4 eyes validation, or error rectification. Automation also ensures a level playing ground for products where the costs of processing the orders for eg can be evenly lowered in the market and not affect the charges per product offered to the market.
In Australia, there are a lot of well-established players in financial services,hence automation is typically based on connecting to legacy applications. Calastone’s more flexible approach is therefore a great advantage which allows these companies to automate more easily without large infrastructure expenditureor change.
What’s your view on how the market will develop? What does the future hold for Calastone?
With regulations likes FOFA and Stronger Super, the role and service model of platforms will change. There will be more consolidation of Super funds and administrators, and the Superannuation flows will continue to grow as the population increases. The Self managed super funds growth in Australia will be a key area for fund managers to tap into.
We will continue to work with the market to bring on more registries, custodians, platforms and fund managers and hence increase the STP rates for all parties’ orders. Reconciliations will be the next product but key to this is looking ahead towards distributions. The combination of all three will transform the currently lagging timeliness of the asset class to the market.
Superstream is a near to longer term proposition and Calastone is working with the industry to not only provide a compliance solution but also enable greater Super fund member engagement and retention.