January 24, 2014

Brown Brothers Harriman has hired Michael McGovern as managing director, chief information officer (CIO) and head of systems. McGovern joins BBH from Citi Transaction Services where he served as managing director and global technology head of securities & fund services for the past decade. Over the course of his 26-year career in IT, McGovern held a variety of positions at Chase Manhattan Bank and Chemical Bank.

Michael McGovern, Brown Brothers Harriman
Michael McGovern, Brown Brothers Harriman

In his new role, McGovern is responsible for the bank’s technology strategy, application development, and systems infrastructure across all business lines. Based in New York, he reports to BBH Partner and Global Head of Technology Taylor Bodman.

He oversees all the IT-oriented staff for application development support and infrastructure for all the businesses, headquartered in the U.S. as well as those working in subset of BBH’s 17 locations around the world. BBH is wholly owned by its partners and manages about $4 trillion in client assets.

Commenting on his career move to BBH, McGovern cited the fact that the firm is a private partnership and that clients view the firm as a solutions provider. “There’s clarity of purpose in serving those clients based on deep understanding of their needs, that coupled with the private nature of the firm. It’s a partnership and has been a thought leader in the space for almost 200 years,” he said.

The alignment of business strategy with technology was also important to McGovern. “What struck me were the flexibility and the configurability that is built into the platforms,” said McGovern, noting that BBH is unique in the securities services space. The financial institution is in a number of businesses lines including global custody, wealth management, investment management and the markets business where it distinguishes itself in FX. “But the centerpiece of its business is investor services, and asset servicing for firms which include the largest asset gathers,” said McGovern.

In 2014, McGovern said “the primary focus is going to be extending the core technology platforms, leveraging that configurability and flexibility to help some of the largest clients scale up their businesses and support globalization of our businesses.” One of those key businesses is Infomediary, a messaging transformation and translation service that enables an asset manager to send instructions to a custodian, fund administrators and brokers as well. One example of an Infomediary product is InfoFX, which takes an FX instruction from a client, reformats it and in most cases serves as the executing broker for the client, or routes the message to another third party for execution.

Infomediary a Key Business for BBH

A series of new products have been created through Infomediary including InfoAction, a capability that allows for tracking and response to corporate actions for “a portfolio manager who is deciding on what action he or she is going to take, taking the share or the cash or the warrants,” explains McGovern. InfoAction “is handling the tracking and messaging and the communication back to the custodians who are going to be instructed on the disposition of that corporate action.”

New technology is also on the agenda. While a lot of work has been conducted in looking at new technology, “That is something I want to solidify and focus on,” said McGovern. A lot of the work that Brown Brothers has done through Infomediary and through other services and technology that it provides to leading asset managers has been delivered through a cloud construct, he said. “Cloud isn’t new for us. It’s part of the strategy for a long time,” said McGovern. “It’s inherent in Infomediary, it’s inherent in providing clients with access to our configurable platform,” he said. Though the public Internet has been mentioned for financial services firms, McGovern says, “that private cloud is the only thing that works well for B2B.” “A hardened cloud infrastructure that can support institutions will look more like the private cloud than the Internet when the industry gets there.”

Mobile applications are something that BBH has been doing for some time, so it’s not a particular focus for McGovern. “We have BYOD [bring your own device] options for our folks and we’ve offered capabilities for mobile devices,” he said. One example is a mobile application for securities lending “that is best-of-breed in the marketplace,” he said.

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Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in ...