Jacinta Munro, a partner in KPMG’s investment management and funds practice, says while the benefits of automation are understood it’s unclear in the market whose responsibility it is to drive the introduction of automation. “The benefits are very wellrecognised, everyone understands that we can’t live in such a manual, paper-based fax environment, so I think that desire to automate is very well accepted. However, we live in a world where we have scarce resources and we have priorities,” she says. “It’s not clear whose responsibility it really is to lead this – is it the custodian’s responsibility? Is it the platform’s responsibility? Is it the asset manager’s responsibility?” Munro asked in a presentation to the 14th Annual Investment Administration Conference in Sydney last month.
According to Munro, there is a consensus across the market that it’s somebody else’s responsibility. “It depends on who I talk to. It’s never that entity’s responsibility – it’s somebody else’s responsibility,” she says. This decision is one of the key challenges for the start of automation within the Australian market, says Munro. Bravura Solution’s global head of product and wealth management, Darren Stevens, is adamant that automation is an absolute requirement, no matter who’s responsible for its take-up. “Automation is here, it’s successful in other regions in the world. For Australia to be more successful and to continue to compete in the international sphere we’re really going to have to do the same,” he says. He outlined what his view of how the take-up of automation needs to be done, beginning with the current manual system moving into a bespoke automated solution before finally moving up to a standardised solution.
SWIFT, a global provider of secure financial messaging services, has been running a project for four years in Australia trying to address automation distribution domestically. The project has five live participants: Ausmaq, BlackRock, RBC Dexia, HSBC and Vanguard. They may soon be joined by two major custodians, JP Morgan Worldwide Securities Services and BNP Paribas Securities Services, plus a platform later this year. SWIFT’s commercial manager for the Asia-Pacific region, Tim Hamer, says the organisation is seeing automation gather momentum, with a number of proprietary and in-house solutions already being used. “We are seeing automation start to take off and as more and more people do embrace it, it gets more compelling for the next [group of ] people to embrace it,” he says.