Data Management

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Ivy Schmerken
Ivy Schmerken
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Institutional Apps: Money Managers Soon Will "Poke and Swipe" to Drill into Data

Designers of mobile apps for investment managers see the potential for sophisticated performance monitoring tools but also tools that interrogate data.

Money management firms have been a bit slow to adopt mobile applications due to security concerns, but they are quite interested in using the iPad tablet and smart phones.

One CTO of a mutual fund manager in the Midwest told Eagle Investment Systems that the industry sees value of mobility but that data security is important, relates Terry Jenkins, product manager at Eagle Investment Systems, the investment accounting software provider.

With the iPhone 5 coming out on Sept. 12, and Apple's ubiquitous iPad and other tablet upstarts encroaching on the desktop PC space, data security concerns are top of mind, but they are not going to impede this trend.

[Wall Street Firms Beware: Apple's iPhone 5 is Coming, and So Are the Hackers.]

No one wants to carry a hefty laptop if they access their investment portfolio valuations on a sleek tablet. "You hear it more and more-- tablets are taking over for PCs. Senior managers are taking them on the road who don't want to lug around the laptop," says Jenkins.

The question is what types of mobile apps do institutional money managers want to see? One forward thinking client asked Eagle to build an exchange for mobile apps, where apps from Eagle, and/or its parent BNY Mellon, would be available for purchase or trade.

Several months ago, Eagle Investment Systems partnered with MicroStrategy, a business intelligence provider to develop both web-based and mobile apps for the firm's investment management clients. A lot of modeling goes on in the front office, where managers are moving information into spreadsheets to develop investment strategies, so Jenkins conveyed that Eagle picked a partner that could address in-depth data analytics.

The head of investment operation for a Canadian client told Jenkins that his executives are clamoring for mobile apps to monitor investment performance, not only at a high level, but how they are performing against benchmarks down to the portfolio level. "Mobile devices can provide this type of reporting and keep executives abreast of the important events and trends they see in their operations," says Jenkins.

While Jenkins says that mobile devices can help with investment management oversight, they also could spawn a second wave of apps related to operational monitoring activity-- "when alerts are coming across from a system like Eagle's, something is going on with data or a decision point has to be made. "Perhaps an initial alert goes off on a smart phone, making it possible for people to respond back to the team on a mobile device, " says Jenkins. There could be a standard set of replies that are required by the alerts, he adds. "The apps can really encapsulate a lot of different capabilities not just charts and graphs with email and video," says Jenkins.

Since institutional apps tend to be more sophisticated than a mobile app for managing your brokerage account, one of the key functions is their ability to link from one subject to another. "You have to have the data," says Jenkins, noting that Eagle's secret sauce is in providing "enrichment and data that is hard to create in any other way, even on a spreadsheet." He expects that mobile apps will make the most of the data that Eagle provides and that the mobile apps will be in a "self-contained world of information" where you don't have to leave it to someone else. "You should be able to drill down to find out whatever information" is required, explains Jenkins. Since mobile technology is good at navigation, someone could "poke and swipe" to intuitively go form point A to point B, even if there is a detour before getting to point C.

According to Jeremy Skaling, head of product management at Eagle, one should think of this as "interrogating the data." Through visualization of the data, the user can look at anomalies and explore that and continue to swipe with the goal of data discovery. Analysts do this by splicing pivot tables for analysis of large data sets, says Skaling. But exploring large data sets has only gone so far -- adoption is only 10 to 20% of the audience in business intelligence because the response time was slow, says Skaling. But now response times have decreased and the query technology and results has become more visual, he notes. Along these lines, Skaling says that Microstrategy already has an app called Visual Insight for mobile and web. In the meantime Eagle is working with MicroStrategy to tap into their expertise and to train its own team on the technology so it can takeover the development effort going forward. It expects the first mobile app to rollout in early 2013. "It's really the future of information delivery and the future of computing," says Skaling.

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 the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio
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