Q&A with Colleen Nichols, Director, Client Services & Reporting, TIAA-CREF
Director, Client Services & Reporting,
Colleen shares her views on some of the topics being covered at the Client Reporting & Communications North America conference, June 20 & 21, NYC
QEarlier in the year, TowerGroup anticipated the push towards higher levels of transparency and disclosure to be a major business driver for organizations. To what degree has the push for transparency, in terms of client reporting, had an impact on your operational practices?
Institutional clients in the traditional fixed, equity, and mutual fund space are asking for market commentary monthly, even weekly, instead of quarterly as a window into the economic factors that impact performance. We’ve had to accelerate timelines and critically examine existing processes to gain efficiencies. In the real estate space, institutional clients are looking for real time updates on any major capital expenditure for each property and any significant regional updates.
Q How much do think that a firm being able to distinguish themselves in a competitive landscape is down to the technology systems they use and the ability this brings to aggregate data and map it correctly for their clients?
While data integrity and reporting flexibility is essential, I’m not sure that it matters which technology systems are utilized, as most of the offerings seek to rise to the same level.
QWith more digital reporting becoming cloud-based, do you think that investors may be increasingly concerned about levels of data security? If so, how can investment firms assess their risk exposure?
It is incumbent upon the software vendors to secure proper certifications for all virtual environments. For instance, our department is rolling out an investor portal next month to allow for online access to fund level reports and client statements. The vendor has both SAS-70 Level II and ISO 9000 certifications. Aside from vendor due diligence at the enterprise level, companies need to have their own robust and secure control environment and be able to articulate how they work in a way that is clear to clients.
Q In the current environment investors want more than just stats, they want to know the story behind the data, the reasons decisions were made/risks taken etc. Can you tell us about how much customization you offer your clients? How much data do you think should be made available to clients?
Timely commentary has been the most frequent request from our clients, however, we allow for custom templates, depending on client needs.
QHas the changing face of client reporting over recent years meant that skillset requirements have changed within your department? Is it more about understanding the technological aspect of the client reporting function, as opposed to actual client interface??
Absolutely. Running an operations team that handles direct client requests requires agile, technically astute team members with a client service focus. Fifteen years ago, these skill sets were almost mutually exclusive, where you could find a handful of highly technical, highly client focused individuals. In the global, virtual world, moderate to advanced technical skills are necessary to a successful team. It’s been my experience that in looking for qualified candidates, it’s more important to focus on the soft skills, since most people entering the job force have an almost inherent aptitude for technology.
You can hear more from Colleen and these topics at the upcoming Client Reporting & Communications North America conference being held June 20 & 21, in New York.
To get a comprehensive overview of the conference with your copy of the program, simply complete your details below:
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