Many private funds firms know what master data management is. But how to actually get to a place where data initially housed in one department can be organized in a way that is accessible and meaningful to all departments can still seem like an insurmountable ask.
“A lot of firms will tell me, ‘We’ve been trying to solve that for the last decade. We’ve tried a few things but nothing has quite worked’,” says Barnaby Piggott, CEO of UK-based Holland Mountain.
The consultancy firm recently announced it had opened an office in Manhattan in hopes of bringing Atlas, its industry-specific MDM software system, to more US managers. Piggott said that Atlas, which was the result of a 2018 purchase of UK-based data analytics firm Consolidata, is the only such software system on the market. “Our competition is usually the internal teams within private equity firms, trying to build out data solutions on their own.”
As the private funds industry has grown, individual managers have often employed data management solutions at the departmental level, solving for one group’s problems while potentially creating further issues for the organization as a whole.
“Different departments find themselves keeping duplicate versions of the same data that is then renamed and reclassified, usually in Excel, in order for it to align with their reporting needs,” Piggott says. “What we’re trying to do is get investment teams and IR teams self-serving on finance data.”
He points to the fact that, for example, finance departments organize data based on legal entities whose names often bear little or no relevance to, say, a particular pension fund that invests with the manager. Should IR want to use data held in finance to get a clear picture of a given investor, staff would have to extrapolate the relevant data from those various legal entities.
Of course, managing such a process in perpetuity is resource intensive, time-consuming and involves a high risk of errors being introduced. Barnaby says that Atlas is designed to sit above whatever data entry and management systems firms have put in place – systems like eFront, Investran, Dealcloud, iLEVEL, Dynamo – and give executives a single point of entry to all the firm’s data in whatever format is most useful to them, reducing error and freeing up staff for higher-value work.
Fund admin oversight
Piggott says there are areas where such an approach to data can unlock previously hidden value. One area he points to is what the firm calls “fund administration oversight.” Many firms essentially shadow bookkeep their fund administrators, not having direct access to their fund admin’s data or simply not wanting to rely wholly on the information they do get.
“We take our pre-built fund administrator oversight module and connect it directly to the information held by the service provider, much of which the manager has never had access to in this way. We’re then able to provide real-time access into their fund administration data, on an ongoing basis,” Piggott said.
For some administrators with sophisticated APIs, that data can be easy to pull, organize and present to clients in whatever time intervals they need it. For others, it requires more labor on the part of Holland Mountain. Either way, Piggott says, it once again allows firms to free up staff for more value-added tasks.
Jack Willoughby contributed to this report