How fintech can help accounting deliver timely, trustworthy investment data
Opportunities don’t stick around long, especially in the fast-moving financial world. When you’re managing a large, diverse portfolio, you need to respond quickly when opportunities arise, and you need up-to-the-minute data to act with any confidence. But accounting and investment pros can’t audit sources and verify data quickly enough to ensure the information is both updated and accurate. Without insight into the source and age of data and fresh analytics, they’re operating at a huge disadvantage.
There are several reasons why reliable data is so hard to come by. The need to reconcile information from multiple sources is a big part of the problem. Data is often siloed throughout the organization, and input from numerous departments is anything but consistent. When managers must sort through stale data, updates, revisions and inconsistencies, it’s difficult to trust the information. They’re not alone in their frustration. The concern extends up to the C suite, where the chief financial and operations officers (CFOs and COOs) and chief information officer (CIO) are looking for solid data to support sound decisions and satisfy investment committees.
Fortunately, fintech can help address this problem. State-of-the-art accounting solutions provide full transparency on the quality of the data, revisions, corrections and approvals. That results in trustworthy data — the foundation for smart, fast, strategic decisions.
Data is inconsistent and inaccessible
With a manual process, it’s difficult to ensure data consistency and availability. Multi-asset data comes from a number of sources, including fund managers and accountants, sometimes including outside contractors. Often, they use different formats and timetables, which can make it hard to collate data. Handling data collection manually is a slow, tedious process full of duplication and prone to human error. Once the information has been gathered, someone has to take the time to reconcile the results into something that makes sense.
That’s easier said than done. When staff members handling different functions import and rekey details into a variety of applications, data can be stuck in those apps and siloed in those departments. Many individuals and departments maintain separate spreadsheets for their own purposes and don’t share all the information across the organization.
Given these obstacles, it’s easy to understand why it’s hard to get accurate data that is up to date, consistent across the organization and ultimately reliable.
It’s not unusual for accountants to handle all non-investment functions in an investment firm, including tax and compliance functions as well as accounting. In addition, they’re often assigned responsibility for performance reporting and contribution/attribution analysis. That’s all well within their capability, but it’s hard to accomplish using substandard tools such as spreadsheets.
The situation gets even more complicated when the work isn’t handled in-house but outsourced to outside accounting firms. When debits and credits are booked externally, there can be a lack of detailed audit trails for internal accountants to follow. Additional problems can arise when third parties don’t know what form the data should take. Companies are unhappy when data isn’t ready when needed or is difficult to reconcile.
Shadow systems add to the complexity. These workarounds often require companies to redo the work they’re paying an outside vendor to deliver. That extra step may provide more confidence in data, but it’s expensive and inefficient, and it can wind up creating yet another data silo.
Faced with these realities, accountants can feel they’re unable to provide their best work despite their best efforts. Spending hours on routine tasks such as rekeying data into diverse systems rather than doing productive value-added work is a waste of their time and talent, leading to job frustration.
Technology is the answer
Automation can resolve many of these problems. Fintech software providers offer next-generation solutions that ingest data, record it once and distribute it to the appropriate systems for portfolio accounting, performance reports and analyses, and private investment tracking. Indexing provides both an audit trail and insight into data quality, and algorithms can be used to analyze key indicators and assign data a confidence rating.
The investment industry now has the tools to solve the longstanding problems it has had with data. By harnessing technology, firms can enjoy more control and enhanced efficiency and have more confidence in the integrity of their data. In the end, this will give them more time to manage portfolios and deliver even more valuable service to their clients.