RBC Dexia Investor Services (RBC) has made the online real-time portal of its global unit registry system available in Australia, furthering its lead in registry over competitor custodians and making an industry-backed ‘utility’ registry solution less likely, according to a prominent admin consultant.

RBC’s SARA platform provides registry of wholesale and retail investors at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Aberdeen Asset Management, Schroder Investment Management and the Treasury Group stable of boutiques.

The roll-out of ‘SARA Web’ will enable financial adviser clients of those managers to access their investors’ positions, balances and recent transactions through a password-protected web portal, according to RBC’s local managing director, David Travers.

Along with RBC being one of two custodians live on the Swiftnet managed fund automation initiative in Australia, Travers said the investment to localise SARA Web was an example of RBC making the “step from wholesale to retail registry” that other custodians are still grappling with.

“The challenge of moving to retail registry is the volume of information you’re dealing with. You need much stronger imaging and workflow built around it…If you’ve got a [wholesale] customer with 100 or 200 investors, doing maybe 20 transactions a week, you can afford a workflow with manual pieces in there, your mail house can probably consist of people stuffing envelopes and putting stamps on them.”

RBC made 145,724 transactions through its Australian unit registry in the six months to December 31, 2008 (the latest figures available from the Australian Custodial Services Association), which was nearly three times as many as its nearest rival, Ausmaq.

RBC’s registry capabiltiy was now a big differentiator to prospective funds manager clients looking to outsource backoffice, according to Drew Vaughan, a principal at investment admin consultancy Dymond, Foulds & Vaughan.

“Australia’s unit registry market is very fractured. There’s still a number of small, in-house registries, or outsourced registry mandates which have been tailored to client-specific requirements, which means legacy systems…[RBC] has taken a sensible step, which is adapting a global transfer agency system to the very specific reporting requirements of Australia, a process which has its challenges and charms. But RBC’s target market is funds managers, who are not going to outsource custody and fund administration while leaving behind a retail unit registry…it means RBC has something to compete on apart from price,” Vaughan said.

However, Vaughan did not think that RBC, or indeed any custody-backed solution, had a chance of becoming the industry ‘utility’ recently touted by ACSA chair Bryan Gray as a way of reducing costly duplication of commoditised registry services.

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