A debate is underway. Should Investment Book of Records (IBOR) systems be implemented as a revolutionary platform overhaul or a set-by-step process?
IBOR systems are becoming a key operational requirement in the asset and investment management industries. The solution is intended to provide managers with a comprehensive and current view of the firm's positions to better support investment decisions.
According to Mal Cullen, managing director and head of the Americas at Eagle ACCESS, if you can solve IBOR you can solve other performance measurement and risk issues, and send better data along to outsourcers. "There's a broader business case to be made. Until recently many firms saw IBOR as a front-office need only, but it's expensive, and the data can be used to solve the rest of organizational issues, and people are beginning to realize the benefit of that."
"This is going to be more of a journey with value on the way rather than something you can just put in place," says Paul Westgate, product manager at Linedata who takes the step-by-step view. "In time, the IBOR can be a comprehensive solution to change the way firms monitor and manage their holdings and positions."
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"Scarcely a conference goes by without an panel on the benefits of IBOR. But at the moment it's not very practical," adds Westgate. By practical he means something aimed at the front-office, not a solution aimed elsewhere trying to be an IBOR, like an enhanced accounting system or beefed up front-office technology. "They talk about IBOR solutions handling all aspects of wants considered to be in the IBOR space, but that's a solution that doesn't exist today."
While some of the bigger players are looking to develop the over-arching solution, including Eagle and Linedata, Westgate says a true IBOR would require fundamental changes in way business operates and the way front-office trading systems are used. Before making any investment firms need to step back and analyze what they are looking to get out of an IBOR platform, acknowledging specific business needs and the growing regulatory demands on their data. Simply put, there needs to be room for growth.
Let IBOR be IBOR
Despite all the hype around IBOR there haven't many company announcements saying they have taken on a system. It's likely organizations are aware of problem areas they need to address, like reliable information for the front-office traders and assembling the basis for risk for performance reasons, but they probably aren't thinking in terms of IBOR's ability to address the problems - and how the rest of the enterprise can leverage that solution.
For example, fundamentally IBOR provides accurate data around a firm's positions to other systems - one single version or truth of what assets look like so traders can make better informed investment decisions. This includes timely start of day positions with potential for multiple intra-day updates for the front-office. Often, it's an accounting system that's trying to send this information to the front-office, and indeed many firms are still working to create an IBOR by building around their accounting platform.
But Cullen and Westgate agree that because its primary objective is accounting, not investment, the data is less well timed and less accurate for genuine front-office trading. So rather than try to mess around with a functional accounting system, introduce a separate and pure IBOR solution that can operate outside the accounting framework. The data then can be used to populate downstream systems including reporting for regulators.
[For more on IBOR and front-office functionality: 5 Technology Initiatives for the Buy-Side, see David Kubersky's related story.]
This leads to an interesting element of the debate about how these IBOR systems will be perceived as yet another system duplicating work done elsewhere, partially as firms drive to reduce the number of systems and move to outsource more functions. "I think in all cases the view should be that IBOR solutions are not duplicating anything," argues Westgate. "It should be the prime IBOR that should feed other systems, and it's not a shadow system which is duplicating, it has its own right. Particularly, it does act as good in-house independent book or records to feed the front-office and outsource to providers."
The IBOR debate should highlight the issues around creating IBOR solutions based on what firms already have in house. Soon, hopes Westgate, we will see firms recognize they are fundamentally doing different job and need different types of positions to support those needs.
"This year is going to be quite interesting for the IBOR debate, typically as things start to take shape and move forward," he concludes. "There are going to be big projects leading to big solutions, and organizations are going to be more immediate, demanding practical solutions they can deploy and get benefits from today."