Navigating the waves of change
Roy Saadon, AccessFintech’s CEO and co-founder, discusses why 2021 was a breakthrough year for data infrastructure activity in the cloud and how the company has been able to carry itself on the right wave of industry changes
What were the main takeaways and technology themes of 2021 for AccessFintech?
I think the year was marked, not by what individual companies did, but more by how the market reacted to the nature of COVID-19. 2021 was very much defined by the pandemic, with its peaks and periods of low infection rates, as well as the different variants that
arose. Through this time, the pandemic created an acceleration of a lot of technologies that were always going to be the future of infrastructure, but were taking the industry a long time to consider and consume.
In my mind, it really was the breakthrough year for data infrastructure activity in the cloud. I do not necessarily look at the company itself, rather at the whole ecosystem, when considering how everything really accelerated.
At AccessFintech, we were lucky enough to be in the right position with the right level of readiness, thanks to our team. It is like a ship on the sea — if you are heading in the right direction and at the right time, and you catch the right wind or the right wave, with the right momentum you can propagate. If you are facing the wrong direction, it will hold you back and hold you down.
AccessFintech has recently partnered with HedgeServ to deliver enhanced controls and efficiency for buy-side clients, through utilising real-time settlement data. How will this be achieved?
The relationship with HedgeServ directly correlates with what the buy-side has been going through with adoption of administration and outsourcing.
The momentum of this seems to go in waves. Industry outsourcing is becoming more accepted and is becoming a more mature service that has really come into its own. We have the ability to work with multiple buy-sides at AccessFintech, with the same infrastructure
that we have.
We reach out to the buy-side with a single workflow in a single lens, and potentially a single acquisition point that accelerates the whole momentum of the network. So the data is always what drives the transactions.
These institutions need data to operate and to function more efficiently. It is great to work with an administrator who is so forward-thinking and knows it wants to consolidate data.
How does AccessFintech differ in its approach to utilising a business’ data with its platform Synergy? And how does it compare to other fintech firms in the financial services sector?
There are plenty of fantastic ideas in fintech. Even when banks have the appetite to embrace it, change in any bank will often be a long process. But banks really have to solve something that is a repeating problem and not just agree to “aggregate technology”.
We have been focusing on data normalisation and data strategy. That was our strategy, that is what we did, and it appealed to a lot of banks.
Where we differentiate with other fintech firms is that we focus solely on the provision and promotion of data, rather than solution functions.
We interact with many different fintechs because we actually shorten the whole adoption cycle by giving them access to data — we are an enabler for the whole fintech adoption of the banks.
We have got a very unique niche. There are other players within the data space, but we specifically try to solve the whole idea of sharing the data and collaboration of data as a strategy, and I think that sets us apart.
As a global company, how are your clients’ needs changing? How does AccessFintech equip itself for the range of contrasting client needs across the different jurisdictions in which it operates?
The founding team here are all from technology companies with extensive fintech backgrounds, which helps when servicing the institutional and vast international firms. You have to be global from day one, and our clients trade globally, from Sydney to San Francisco. They interact all the time; there is not really a localised solution if you want to be a serious provider for that activity. But with technology and cloud, there is a difference between offering a longterm solution and being present in every jurisdiction. Cloud allows you to have a really different way of looking at distribution. You no longer have local installations or local activities, but you have to feel like a 24/7 company to the clients.
From a client relationship perspective, as someone technology provisioning, you do have to have a local presence. For a company like ours, being global means that the thing to focus on is making sure that the relationship and the value is understood globally.
Having said that, the delivery of technology is so much easier than it used to be, so you really are out of the gate on day one — from day one, you are a global company. But you have to differentiate what your client relationships are versus what your technology delivery is.
What is the major regional difference, particularly between Europe, the UK and North America from AccessFintech’s perspective?
It has to be regulation. We are not regulated, but our clients are, and we are sensitive to the different regulation understandings. In our world, regulation is impacted by data governance and data controls. But the regulation also impacts not just how you manage risk, but also how your data is accessed and how your data is managed.
The biggest impact for us is subrogation of data as well as the encryption and protection of data. Data has become such a valuable asset, you really have to treat it as if you could trade it, manage it or govern it.
As the February implementation date for mandatory buy-ins has now been pushed back, how is your Implementation Working Group helping its clients resolve their remaining data issues with the extra time that has now been given?
We have one working group that works on the regulatory side, with regulatory feedback, but also another direct working group that allows banks to talk to each other about the actual implementation itself.
Navigating the Central Securities Depositories Regulation (CSDR) has been a frustrating stopping and starting process, because the whole industry is trying to navigate it left and right. If you go too far one way, you may feel like you are over invested, and if you do not go far enough, you may feel like you now have a really limited time to meet compliance.
The industry definitely shifted from focusing a lot on buy-ins to focusing on penalties. At the end of the day, regulators have fully achieved what they want — which is to achieve better settlement rates. Our specific approach at AccessFintech is automating buy-ins and penalties. And if we over commit, it is a risk that a vendor has to take to be a provider of that area.
Our working group allowed us to make sure that while we take a gamble in doing more, at the same time, we knew we were targeting a common set of problems that were shared by the banks. And if we saw the banks were taking different approaches, we could actually collate and highlight the differences to bring to their attention to help create a common set of understandings. This takes our risk away, but also takes a lot of risk away from the banks on the buy-side to know that they are looking at things with collaboration in mind, and that they have a local understanding.
As a fintech, how is AccessFintech helping clients better comply with ESG strategies and regulations?
It is a topic that is massively close to my heart. If working with the cloud results in a company having a smaller carbon footprint, then we help people go to the cloud. If better usage of data and better replication of data also helps lessen carbon footprints, then will help with that. If working from home is a catalyst for a smaller carbon footprint — and the ability to work from home seamlessly reduces carbon footprint — we shall increase that model of working. We learned that we can work remotely — even on the client relations side and on the sales side.
Everything has changed in the last year in terms of how we look at ESG as well as mental health. Mental health is a big topic. I do not think the nature of the pandemic created this awareness, it was already there, but it enabled benefits and improvements in these two important areas. Yes, COVID-19 drove these changes, but at AccessFintech we are looking to create momentum out of them — the understanding and awareness.
What has AccessFintech got planned for 2022?
AccessFintech reached a critical mass in 2021. That level of change, brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, altered the needs of our clients. Prior to last year, they may have always wanted a network such as ours, but did not want to be on the first wave of the adoption, and were more likely to be on the second or third wave, once it was tried and tested by others.
We are in the midst of that type of growth that comes in through the participants who are more risk averse. It is exponential growth, because the number of participants is dramatically bigger than what it was before COVID-19, so really, the network effect is in full flight. For AccessFintech, 2022 will be all about growth, coverage, onboarding, and all hands on deck.
Journalist: Jenna Lomax
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