The ProTrak Blog: articles of interest to traditional and alternative investment managers…..

May 1st, 2017
Simon Koziel

CEO/CFO Magazine Interviews ProTrak President & CEO, Simon Koziel

CEO/CFO Magazine,  May 1st 2017

Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine.

CEOCFO: Mr. Koziel, what is the concept behind ProTrak International?

Mr. Koziel: ProTrak was founded over 25 years ago. Through the work that I did with a major global US bank prior to starting ProTrak, I realized at that time, that there were no technology solutions available that could handle the complex relationship management needs of the institutional investment managers. Since the inception of ProTrak, we have grown significantly over the years as we consistently respond to our users’ needs and the changing landscape of the financial markets. Today ProTrak is classified as a CRM software provider. CRM is a coined phrase that stands for Client Relationship Management. ProTrak CRM helps our clients manage their firm-wide relationships with clients, investors, prospective clients, consultants, intermediaries, managers and other 3rd parties. The investment management space is the only industry that we serve and it encompasses traditional long-only investment managers, hedge funds, fund-of-funds, private equity managers, pension plans, pension consultants, family offices and investment research teams.

CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges or needs for the industry that requires or benefits from a specialized CRM? 

Mr. Koziel: There are many challenges, but one of the primary requirements is the need to manage many complex and intricate relationships on the company-to-company, contact-to-contact, accounts-to-investors level, and so on. This is especially important when you market and sell products/funds into the financial industry, where there are many stakeholders in a transaction. In addition to client contacts, there may be trustees, directors, outside consultants, custodians, attorneys and other influencers – creating a “web of relationships”. In fact, I consider this “a many-to-many relationships model”, where everyone is linked to provide a rounded view of who you are working with and how they relate to the other entities and contacts. Another key aspect is the regulatory landscape. Investment Managers have a very high compliance threshold. Typically, every interaction with a client or prospective client should be recorded. Each call, meeting note, sent and received emails, and all important documents should be attached to the client / contact profile for audit and review. Any changes to the data residing in the CRM should be audited, such as who added information; changed it or deleted it. The CRM system must provide the answers to the questions asked in this industry; this is an area where ProTrak excels. This leads to a business-critical reality. Since the financial industry deals with investments and confidential information, there is great emphasis on security. How secure is the data access i.e., who is allowed to see the numerous data items, or to print and export the data. On the client side, who has the permission to receive the various documents. To meet these challenges, ProTrak offers a comprehensive security matrix which is one of the fundamental pillars of our CRM solution.

CEOCFO: Do you offer different types of solutions for different types of firms or is it one solution and then depending on the type of company that is using it they will pick and choose the pieces they need?

Mr. Koziel: This is a very good point. When ProTrak was founded, we were predominantly focused on the institutional investment management space. Over the subsequent years, as alternative investment strategies arose, such as hedge funds, fund-of-funds, and private equity began, we quickly adapted our solution to the changing marketplace. We designed and built ProTrak as one would build a house. If the foundation is strong enough, then it is easy to add more floors and make structural changes. ProTrak is actually three user-defined CRM’s interacting with each other under one central ProTrak data warehouse. Depending on the type of the firm, you can configure it to fit to your unique needs. As an example, if you are a traditional manager, you would use one CRM for your clients / prospective client’s profiles and another CRM for the consultant / intermediary profiles. If you are a manager-of-managers or fund-of-funds, one CRM would be configured for managing your investor and prospective investor relationships, another for manager due-diligence and third for intermediary / 3rd party. If you were a private equity manager, one CRM would be configured for your investor LP / shareholder relationships, another for deal portfolio companies profiles and 3rd for the investment bank / other types of relationships. Today, you might have a hedge fund manager who also offers private equity funds or vice versa. ProTrak’ s multi-dimensional configuration model provides you with the flexibility to do just that, all in one platform, with the security that is applicable to your corporate philosophy.

CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach today? 

Mr. Koziel: Due to the nature of the investment industry, as you would expect, our clients are for the most part located in global financial centers, with a majority in New York and London. We also have clients across the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. Half of our prospective clients are located outside the USA. We are seeing interest coming from Europe, Asia, Middle East, South America and Africa and various emerging market countries.

CEOCFO: How do you help ease the implementation and switch over and how do you deal quickly with any glitches?

Mr. Koziel: I can honestly say that one of the key benefits for our clients when they subscribe to our service is the depth of our professional services team that, on average, has 15+ years’ experience working at ProTrak. We are fully committed to our clients’ success and we pride ourselves on providing outstanding consulting, implementation, training and support services. We consistently receive the highest commendation from our clients such as: “Amazing technical support 10/10” or “ProTrak’s top-notch client support and engineering staff helped us to integrate our systems and CRM very quickly”. Our clients typically fall into three categories. They are either established firms, those who have been around for a few years and startups. Typically, the longer the firm has been around, the more intricate the implementation process, mostly due to their legacy data. The ProTrak team is familiar with migrating data from a wide variety of platforms, including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, and many other proprietary solutions. We work with our clients to ensure that the process is completed in a timely and effective manner. Our team will discuss all aspects of the migration process to ensure a successful and smooth transition. Once the implementation is complete, we will provide a high-quality training and on-going support. Our support services staff located in New York, Denver and London will respond to any questions regarding ProTrak’s use via phone, email or remote communications services and will troubleshoot any unexpected glitches that might be caused by a variety of reasons. Most of the questions and issues reported by our clients are addressed instantly. 

CEOCFO: What is the competitive landscape? Are there many or any CRMs that specialize the way you do?

Mr. Koziel: Absolutely. As you would expect, the landscape changed quite a bit in the past decade. There are now general purpose CRM providers and industry focused solutions. By general I mean out-of-the-box solutions that provide basic CRM functionalities that are not tailored to the financial industry and where the firm will need to customize it to fit their user’s unique needs. Some of the solution providers customized their offerings to the industry they serve. They are based on general purpose CRM provider’s architecture. The investment industry focused CRM technology providers, like ProTrak, built their platforms from the ground up to specifically address the various needs of the financial industry. In our case, we built our solution to serve the needs of traditional asset managers, hedge funds and private equity funds. Others specialize in one or more of the same pillars of the investment landscape. If you recall, we are proud of our platform’s architecture which allowed us to build an elegant and easy-to-use CRM platform based on the complex relationships model. However, when you have different competitive solutions in a mature marketplace, the questions is not what you do, it’s how you do it. Our clients, who manage different strategies, all have competition. We have competition. How do you distinguish yourself? In our case, it’s the staying power of over 25 years’ experience serving the industry, continuous re-investment in utilizing new technology, and addressing the ever changing regulatory landscape in the financial markets. For example, many common functions are found across the different CRM providers, but that doesn’t mean that these functions work efficiently. ProTrak emphasizes quick processes. Our clients will tell you that our methods are much easier to learn and more productive.  When users are engaged in the process, they’ll use the system. If it’s frustrating or non-intuitive, the CRM will languish.

CEOCFO: You have received a CIO Review award among others – HFM, and US Technology Awards. Would you tell us about the recognition and why that is important for you?

Mr. Koziel: Any recognition is better than no recognition. Indeed, it is very flattering to be acknowledged by the industry we serve. Every award addresses a unique aspect of technology that supports the investment management industry.As it happens, we were recently recognized by the hedge fund management industry which is one of the main segments of the investment industry we serve. We currently have some of the largest global hedge funds as our clients. In fact, 3 of the 10 largest global hedge funds are ProTrak clients.I have to say that the award for “Best Data Base Management Product” was very special to me. It acknowledged our efforts over the past many years to design and build a truly comprehensive CRM solution based on the open database architecture, the intricate relationships model and an enterprise query / reporting engine.

CEOCFO: Why ProTrak International?

Mr. Koziel: I can think of a few things. We have been serving the global investment industry from our New York and London offices for over 25 years and are proud of our staying power. ProTrak CRM is our only product.  It encapsulates a wealth of functions such as personalization of the user interface, email marketing / tracking automation, simplified search / report generation, comprehensive workflow manager and interfaces with portfolio / accounting and administrative platforms to name a few. Our management team has an average of over 15 years with ProTrak. Our Client Services team has over 10 years with ProTrak. With our staff’s in-depth industry knowledge, we truly understand the business. We continuously get great testimonials such as “First and foremost, ProTrak understands our business because they have been in the game for a long time” or “Your support team has been very knowledgeable and responsive to our needs,” or “We have come to appreciate the open architecture of ProTrak and ability to manipulate our data as needed”. This is why you should put your trust in ProTrak.

To read the whole interview, click here:

 http://ceocfointerviews.com/interviews/ProTrakInternational17.htm 

February 28th, 2017
Simon Koziel

Wealth & Finance International Magazine Interviews ProTrak Founder, Simon Koziel

 Wealth & Finance International,  February 2017

Rolling with the Times Simon Koziel, founder of ProTrak, tells us more about the firm and how it has adapted over the years to suit ever-evolving financial landscape.

ProTrak International, Inc. was founded over 25 years ago, and has been the go-to choice for traditional investment managers, hedge funds, private equity and wealth management firms seeking a highly focused, industry-specific, and easy to use CRM platform.

Founder, Simon Koziel, tells us more about the firm and its core offering to clients. “Initially, ProTrak was designed from ground up to serve the relationship needs of the traditional investment managers with a focus on institutional investment community,” he begins.

“Over the year as alternative investment strategies, such as hedge funds, funds-of-funds and private equity began to enter the industry in greater numbers, we were quick to adapt our solution to fit their needs. As a result, ProTrak evolved into a firm-wide strategic solution built on a strong CRM foundation that is the glue that binds it all together.

“Today, ProTrak CRM provides a unified investor centric view focused on client’s accounts, funds, products, activities and follow-ups plus pipeline, analytics / reports, email mass marketing / tracking, event and workflows management. The out-of-the-box configuration offers three distinct database silos encapsulated under one central ProTrak data warehouse. Depending on the type of the firm, one can separately configure the profiles as Clients / Investors, Consultants / Intermediaries, Managers, Advisors, Brokers, Deal Flow and so on.

As founder of the firm Simon is very proud of the fact that three of the top 10 largest global hedge fund managers are ProTrak clients.

“Over 85% of ProTrak’s new updates stem directly from clients feedback, and we are continuously re-investing in new functional enhancements,” he explains. Hedge Funds are just one of ProTrak’s primary markets, the others being Traditional Asset Managers, Private Equity, Family Offices, Wealth Management and Investment Research.”

Simon is very much involved on a day-to-day basis with all aspects of running the business. His primary role is on overseeing sales, client services and product development teams. He tells us more about his role: “What helps me a lot in managing so many different aspects of running a business is our in-house ProTrak CRM solution that is used internally by all members of the firm, from Sales, Marketing, Client Services, Accounting, and Product Development.

“I am very passionate about our solution and its benefits, and in this spirit personally sign off on all of the new functional designs being introduced by ProTrak. Since the user interface is such an important aspect of a software solution, I provide a direction and approve the final design that is offered in new versions of the software.”

Simon is also very quick to sing the praises of his staff, of whom he is very proud. With a management team with more than 15 years’ experience with ProTrak and a client services team with an average of 10+ years with the firm, it’s easy to see how integral these employees are to the success of the firm.

“Since ProTrak is our only product and, with our staff’s in-depth industry knowledge, we truly understand our clients’ business,” he enthuses. “It is this skill of the team that really drives the ongoing development of our solution. They know how to identify an opportunity for improvement and new enhancements from client feedback. Since every team member has to use ProTrak for their day-to-day work flow, the knowledge of what’s available and how to provide a solution to client questions, comes naturally to them.”

The investment management space is continuously changing due to frequent regulatory requirements and political winds, especially with the election of a new president in USA. Simon explains that 2016 saw more hedge fund closings than the number of new start-ups, in effect contracting the hedge fund universe. He goes into more depth about what ProTrak can expect in the future, both with regards to opportunities and challenges.

“When ProTrak was founded 28 years ago, we were predominantly focused on the institutional investment management space. Over the subsequent years, as non-traditional investment strategies such as hedge funds, fund-of-funds and private equity began to grow in size and dominance, we were quick to adapt our solution to the changing marketplace. Today, 45% of our clients are in the alternative asset management space. There are fewer investment management firms around today than in 2009, when the last recession hit. “

“This year and beyond we plan to steadily grow our client universe in alternative management and investment research space. The vast majority of ProTrak’s clients are located in the United States and the United Kingdom, with New York and London being the most active sources of business. But, we have started to see more interest from Asia and Middle East, primarily from Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. Our most recent expansion effort has been focused on start-ups and emerging managers, which historically has been outside the scope of our client base. In order to attract this sector we have recently reorganized our fee structure and started offering a “hybrid” solution that gives lower tier clients the option to design a license that fits their specific needs. For example, we have an administrative license, a standard full user license, a view only license and an email only license. These options offer start-ups a high value system that better fits their pocketbook.”

To read the whole interview, click here:

https://issuu.com/aiglobalmedia/docs/wealth___finance_february_2017/62

January 25th, 2017
Simon Koziel

Interview with ProTrak CEO – Simon Koziel

 Holland Mountain, 25th January 2017

Over the course of the last few months, we have been sitting down with some of the leading figures in alternative asset management software to get their outlook on current and future industry hotspots, to discover what they find to be driving product sales and development, and to obtain their overall view of the market – where the benefits of their products are able to gain them a competitive advantage, and their advice for firms looking to invest in a new system.

SimonSimon Koziel is the President and Founder of ProTrak International. He has over 30 years of experience in the investment management, investment banking and consulting industries, having held senior roles at firms including J.P Morgan, and Arthur D. Little. Prior to founding ProTrak, Simon was the President of a software consulting company serving the investment management community. Simon holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science from the City College of New York – School of Engineering.

What is your outlook for expansion, sales, people and clients? What are the perceived hotspots (e.g. geography, sector)?

When I founded ProTrak almost 28 years ago, we were predominantly focussed on the institutional investment management space. Years later, non-traditional investment strategies, such as hedge funds, private equity and funds of funds, began to enter the industry. Many of our clients began to evolve into alternative techniques, and we were quickly able to adapt our solutions to fit. As a result, ProTrak is not limited to any one asset class. Our clients are split across traditional investment management, hedge funds and private equity, with 45% still in the traditional investment management space.

London and New York are our most active sources of business, but we have started to see more interest from Asia. This is primarily from Hong Kong and Singapore.  We used to have a stronger pipeline from South America, and particularly Brazil, but the depreciation of the local currency have made it more difficult recently for funds to invest in asset management technology, like ours.

Our most recent expansion effort has been focussed on the start-up sector, which has historically been outside of the scope of our client base. Initially, we found that the pricing of our solution was out of reach of most start-ups, so we reorganised our fee structure whilst developing what we refer to as a hybrid solution. This gives our lower tier clients the option to design a license that fits their specific needs. So, for example, we have an administrator license, a standard full user license, a view only license, and an email only license. These options offer start-ups a high value client touch system platform in a more economical solution, and have driven our expansion in the start-up sector. 

What benefits do your clients most often see from implementing your product?

One of the key benefits of the ProTrak solution is that it has an open architecture. This means that our clients can easily import and export practically any data without having to write any kind of script. This is a significant benefit for those who are used to working with Excel spreadsheets, especially those that have their investor data coming from portfolio accounting system or third party administrator, this ease of import and export is of significant value.

Another key benefit for our clients is the ProTrak platform’s unparalleled security matrix. When it comes to security, firms have a number of choices. There are benefits to having all of your data in the cloud, but the safest possible option is to have it on premise. ProTrak offers an entirely on premise solution, which is very attractive to many of our clients. In our experience, security tends to be one of the most pressing client concerns.  Most would prefer to keep their data on premise, as they are still wary of data integrity with the cloud.

How do you differentiate your product from others when speaking to potential new clients?

The key thing that sets ProTrak apart is that it is not just a CRM. It is a strategic tool built on a strong CRM foundation. We designed and built it as one would build a house. If the foundation is strong enough, then it is easy to add more floors. Unlike a standard CRM tool, ProTrak doesn’t only provide support for sales, marketing, and investor relations.  Our solution is actually three CRMs in one. There are three user-defined databases, and each interacts with the others.  As an example, for private equity, one is for the deal side, one is for managing limited partner relationships, and the third is for investment banks and other intermediaries.

Another ProTrak differentiator is its versatility. Because of our experience across multiple sectors, the ProTrak platform can easily adapt if a client wants to expand into another investment strategy. For example, if a private equity firm were to decide to get into hedge funds, or vice versa.

You can configure the ProTrak platform however you like, and given that we have been in the industry for over 25 years, developing and evolving with our clients’ needs, our ‘out of the box’ solution has everything that most of our clients will need. 

What features have you introduced recently and what features are to come?

Our next release in early 2017 adds a new functionality based on email tracking.  For example, If one of our clients were to run a mass email marketing campaign, this tool will allow them to easily track the number of people that open the email, click on links, open the email multiple times, those who opt out, and those who respond positively. All of this data can be organised by company, by individual contacts or campaign.

The key benefit of this new feature will be the analytical potential. For example, if you were to send each of your clients a series of emails over a period of six months, you could track the exact stage at which you piqued their interest. This could be hugely beneficial in terms of planning future campaigns to be as economically efficient as possible. If you introduced a series of products, you could see which one a potential client clicked on, and target future emails accordingly.

Another scenario in which this new functionality will be useful is in event management. We saw a gap in the market for a tool to elegantly manage and analyse the end-to-end invitation process. Our email tracking tool will allow a firm to easily manage invitations and responses, as well as the people who are attending certain events, the cost of the event per person, and so forth.  Our clients will also be able to automate follow up emails. For example, if a client responded positively to an invitation, ProTrak could automatically send a reminder in the weeks prior to the event. Overall, it is going to be a fantastic new feature, with multiple benefits for our clients.

What forum/s do you currently have to obtain feedback from your clients?

Our users are continually providing us with feedback through our client services initiatives. We have a very low staff turnover in our client services team, with each member having spent an average of 10 years with ProTrak. This means that they have truly, ‘heard everything,’ and have deep experience to fully understand any of our clients’ concerns.

It is the skill of this team that really drives the ongoing development of the ProTrak solution. They know how to identify an opportunity for improvement from client feedback.  Over 85% of ProTrak’ s enhancements stem directly from client feedback. Our core users are active, focussed and very smart, and their feedback contributes to a huge amount of our product development. 

What advice would you give a C-Level customer thinking about purchasing software or embarking on an implementation project?

The key piece of advice I would give is to task somebody in the business to clearly set out the requirements before beginning the software selection process. As a firm, you need to think about exactly how you want to work. For example, how you want to communicate and share data, how you want to work in terms of security, and so on. When embarking on this task, there has to be a distinction between a need and a want. That is very important, because no system will be able to give everyone in your firm all that they could wish for. So firstly, set out your clear business needs, then document a wish list.

I believe that this is where a consultancy, such as Holland Mountain, could be very useful.  Therefore, I can advocate for the benefits of partnering with a consultancy when embarking on an implementation project. They know exactly what questions ought to be asked, and what ought to be prioritised. They understand what is essential, and what can be put off to potentially revisit later. They will also be able to benchmark your requirements and wishes against those of other firms running similar projects. The most efficient implementations I have seen have been those with the help of a specialised advisor, particularly in the case of the bigger firms.  

The final piece of advice I would give is to factor in the time and resource for effective data migration. Data migration is probably the most time consuming part of any implementation process, because the process is like moving a house. When you try and pack up your basement, there will be loads of rubbish that you will end up throwing away. It makes far more sense to sort through this now, rather than packing up everything and taking it to the new house. Likewise, with a data migration project, firms ought to clean up the data first, rather than migrate a bulk of flawed data into a brand new system. Your employees are far more likely to buy into the new system if it begins with a base of clean data. Ineffective or rushed data migration is where most implementations fail.

To read the whole interview, click here:

https://hollandmountain.com/insights/blog/ceo-interview-simon-koziel-protrak/ 

April 7th, 2015
Jim Scaief

ProTrak’s Back-Office User Community

Business Partners

Early in ProTrak’s over 25-year history serving investment firms, clients deployed CRM only for marketing, sales, and client service purposes:  the front-office.  Now, it’s common for ProTrak Advantage CRM’s clients to have a whole-firm platform that includes, among others, research analysts, portfolio managers, due diligence analysts, and compliance.  ProTrak further adds capabilities for connecting data with various portfolio accounting systems and administrators for single-point access.

Instead of forcing a firm to embark on a costly customization ordeal with a general-industry CRM system, ProTrak’s sole devotion to the investment industry has tailored, back-office functions as standard features.

Private Equity Example:  Deal Flow Management

A deal management screen for a back-office user can be configured any number of ways to fit with his or her role and preferences.  ProTrak’s deal management comprehensiveness begins with the initial deal entry through to funding and, finally, to portfolio company oversight.

ProTrak PE Deal Flow Management Image

Hedge Fund Example:  Holdings and Transactions

Today’s hedge fund manager must take advantage of new technologies to smooth internal work flow processes and provide superior investor relations services.  ProTrak Advantage integrates the front-office’s client engagement tasks with the back-office’s portfolio, holdings, and transaction content.

Using ProTrak’s transaction history functionality, investor holdings and transaction data are automatically imported into the ProTrak database for instant access and reporting.  Records from multiple offshore/onshore fund administrators and the internal accounting system can be loaded into ProTrak.  Notifications of pending subscriptions and redemptions may also be entered and maintained.  ProTrak will match the outstanding notifications against imported transactions and remove those notifications after they have been satisfied.   

 ProTrak Account Transaction History

Company Research; FoHFs; Family Offices; Manager-of-Managers:  Due Diligence Hub

Company research, investment analysis, and due diligence are processes critical to any investment firm’s value proposition.  The ProTrak Advantage solution includes a specialized profile directory for tracking all relationships associated with these processes. The manager profile lets you track all company-level data (company executives, board members, partners, fund managers, prime brokers, administrators, etc.) such as activities, ToDos, emails, correspondence as well as any underlying funds or products.

ProTrak Manager-Intermediary Profile Image

Traditional, Long-Only Managers:  Integrated Portfolio Account Details

The account detail option in ProTrak puts an extensive amount of information at the fingertips of anyone who interfaces with clients, including account start up, account management (objectives, guidelines and restrictions), fees and billing data, benchmarks, and performance rates of return.  All the client’s account detail data-field labels are user-definable so that each organization can customize the system to suit its own terminology. 

ProTrak Account Detail for Traditional Image
February 21st, 2015
Jim Scaief

Beyond the “C” in CRM

Business partnership and teamwork

Since its inception, a CRM system has focused ona firm’s “front office”, those employees that handle revenue-producing relationships (e.g. sales; service; support).  Indicative of this, the“C” in “CRM” refers to “Client” or “Customer”.

At investment firms of all types, volumes of important relationships (the “R” in “CRM”) also exist in the back office.  Think of the back office as the collection of processes that produce a firm’s services.  The table below defines back office relationship networks and the typical roles that manage these relationships.

ProTrak March Newsletter - Network of Relationships Table

A CRM’s “Relationship Management” processing power tightly fits the needs that back-office employees have in documenting, managing, and analyzing relationships that form the firm’s key product/service delivery processes.  This is especially the case with the critical processes that in many ways determine a firm’s success or failure:  due diligence, deal flow management, and investment oversight.

Digging deeper, the different front- and back-office relationships often generate fruitful exchanges.  These exchanges operate in the same way that LinkedIn and other social media facilitate network connections person to person.

Consider these common needs and how the other side of the firm can guide connections.

ProTrak March Newsletter Article - Front-Office Relationship Needs Table

ProTrak March Newsletter Article - Back-Office Relationship Needs Table

 

An enterprise CRM, while keeping the acronym representing the erstwhile front-office terms “Client Relationship Management”, actually lifts from this terminology the word “Relationship” as the sole focus.  In other words, relationships don’t exist with a person, department, or division; they exist for the firm’s entire benefit.  For a knowledge-based business such as investing, the firm’s relationships in all the various types, and wherever they’re located, are a precious asset.

December 23rd, 2014
Jim Scaief

Trade Secret Protection: Valuing Your Information

folder with golden lockInvestment firms don’t usually own patents, but all have vast treasures of trade secrets that define intellectual property assets.  While a detailed discussion of trade secret law is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that should trade secrets be stolen there will be competitive and financial pain incurred.

For an investment firm, its trade secrets include, but are not limited to, customer lists, client histories, due diligence processes, investment evaluations, portfolio designs, business plans, pricing tactics, and service methodologies, Unlike patents that have a fixed life of twenty years before accessible in the public domain, a trade secret never loses its special, proprietary status as long it is treated as a secret.

A common scenario is an ex-employee – relationship manager, client service representative, portfolio manager, investment analyst — forms either a competing firm or joins an existing competitor and uses the former employer’s trade secrets to his or her advantage.  The courts are very clear that such an advantage is improper (a misappropriation) if the former employer treated the stolen information as secrets.

The “if” in the previous sentence is key.  The former employer has a direct line to temporary and permanent legal recourse in the presence of a trade secret protection (TSP) program (and little recourse in the absence of one).  A TSP program comprises various activities the firm uses to establish its proprietary and valuable information.  Typical activities are signed confidentiality agreements, an inventory of the firm’s secrets, password protected files, the word “confidential” or something similarly affixed to printed or electronic materials, the practice of locking file cabinets and desks, new employee orientation meetings, annual employee trade secret update meetings, visitor logs, and departing employee exit interviews.

ProTrak leads the industry in providing our clients with powerful capabilities that deliver highly valuable evidence should your firm encounter trade secret misappropriation.

A core resource is ProTrak’s TSP workflow.  This workflow structure guides each client in creating a TSP program in which the resulting activities define clear evidence that the firm’s information is secret and treated as such.  Next, and wholly unique to ProTrak, is an audit function that identifies if any employee at any time takes a data dump and its contents (e.g. client/prospect lists, notes, reports, etc.) as a printed report, an export file, or e-mail to Outlook.

Certainly, no company likes to contemplate an employee leaving with underhanded motives, but it happens with regularity to large and small firms alike.  With ProTrak, our TSP program resources will deliver essential evidence to the former employee and/or the new employer that legal action will result without remedies (i.e. conveyed in a “cease and desist” letter).  This evidence package often gives a court the necessary evidence to issue a temporary injunction.

The ProTrak evidence package, an attorney letter, and a temporary injunction filing routinely blunt the misappropriation.  At this juncture, the trade secret owner eliminates the use of stolen information and saves significant litigation costs.  This cost avoidance accrues to ProTrak’s ROI as a clear differentiator arising from our deep knowledge of the high-end investment industry.

October 14th, 2014
Jim Scaief

Client Data Security: Cloud-Computing Issues

Cloud technology concept: Cloud Network on digitalIn just a few years, cloud computing has become a commonly accepted technology infrastructure.  A cloud-based system offers two primary advantages in low overhead and license simplicity. 

Determining the best alternative for accessing cloud computing’s benefits requires a thoughtful analysis of a company’s need for control and security. While all cloud approaches deliver anywhere/anytime access for users, high-end investing firms such as hedge funds, private equity, and institutionally-focused traditional managers face vastly greater client-data security requirements.

The core issue is this:  While a hacker may not care about a few hundred clients of an investment firm (compared to millions of data targets elsewhere on the cloud vendor’s site), the investment firm must report the breach to its clients.  Just the possibility that data was accessed by someone with ill intentions cuts to the very core of the investment firm’s trustworthiness.

It’s one thing for a business to encounter a data security breach arising from stolen transaction data.  However, it’s a “bet-the-company” proposition if a high-end investment firm has its clients’ data hacked.  A high-end investment firm subscribing to public cloud software can be innocently caught up in a hacker’s broader ambitions in which the physical and data security layers have less exacting operational and regulatory requirements than the investment firm mandates. 

ProTrak emphasizes a Private Cloud for companies with dispersed and/or traveling employee users. (We also provide on-premises computing for firms in which all employee users can be directly connected to a server; these two options meet our clients’ usage needs while giving appropriate attention to client data security).

Private Cloud and On-Premises configurations allow a company to secure client-level data as well as physical devices and communication mechanisms  An investment firm gains the benefits of highly efficient, distributed processing without being commingled with hundreds (or thousands) of other subscribing businesses.  In this advanced, but tightly controlled environment, the firm operates below a hacker’s radar in the general obscurity of millions of small, private companies.  

We welcome the opportunity to discuss our private cloud configuration that incorporates ProTrak Web (our browser-based license) and our two mobile licenses (iPad and iPhone).

August 22nd, 2014
Jim Scaief

CRM – A “Core” Technology for Alternative Managers

In today’s volatile markets and stressful economic environment many alternative investment managers consider a Client Relationship Management system as a “must have” piece of software.  More hedge funds, funds-of-funds and private equity managers are realizing that CRM is a vital part of their “core” technology, along with their trading, risk management and accounting systems.  CRM no longer means “contact management” for the sales team!  ProTrak Advantage CRM was designed with the investor relations, research and compliance groups in mind, in addition to sales and marketing.  Don’t forget that the “C” in CRM stands for client.  A CRM system designed for the general market won’t work as optimally as an industry-specific solution.  Nor will those vendor’s support teams have the necessary understanding of the investment manager’s business needs.

But why are CRM systems now becoming a core technology component for hedge funds?  Especially in this challenging economic environment, there are four factors that are critical to a hedge fund managers continuing success:

  • Maintaining and growing existing clients
  • Acquiring new business
  • Meeting regulatory and compliance requirements (due diligence)
  • Controlling internal business costs (doing more with less)

 

An industry-specific CRM solution like ProTrak Advantage plays an important technology role in support of these four business needs.  Click Here to download the White paper “CRM – A “Core” Technology for Hedge Funds”.

June 22nd, 2014
Jim Scaief

SEC Registration for Investment Advisers

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act

Passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has profound implications for financial services firms.  Of particular importance to hedge funds, fund of funds and private equity firms is the SEC registration requirement.  All investment advisers with assets in excess of $150 million must now register with the SEC.  

 So what part will technology play in the ability of funds to effectively navigate the new requirements imposed by SEC registration? It would be foolish to suggest that any one technology solution is the full answer to a firm’s compliance reporting and audit needs. But certainly a comprehensive, industry-specific CRM like ProTrak Advantage CRM will certainly play an important role, as many of ProTrak’s existing clients have already testified.

On-Site Audits

For example, several clients have said their on-site audits have been a “breeze” since they started using ProTrak.  Having maintained accurate Activity logs with attached documentation, they just sat the examiners down at a ProTrak work station, pulled up the accounts they wanted to audit and that was pretty much it.  “It’s like one-stop shopping”, commented one client. All of the investor’s information was available from one convenient screen – all e-mail communication with linked attachments, phone and meeting notes, historical account valuations, scanned documents, due diligence and offering documents.  

E-mail Archiving

SEC requirements state that all e-mail correspondence and instant messaging must be saved for at least five years, with the last two years readily available.  Obviously a CRM program does not replace the need for e-mail archiving at the source, but ProTrak provides several easy-to-use techniques for integrating e-mail into its database for permanent retention and instant access.  E-mails can be added instantly from “automated” e-mail folders, imported in bulk, or added via 1-click buttons by individual users.  Staff sending e-mails from Outlook may use the convenient “Send & Add to ProTrak” button, or, as some clients prefer, all items in the Sent folder can be automatically added to the CRM without the users’ knowledge.  And the Compliance Officer can set an option so that e-mail activities cannot be deleted from the database.

Data Integration

A major benefit provided by ProTrak Advantage is ability to easily configure the CRM to import data from any number of external accounting or administrative systems.  The ability to re-configure ProTrak without IT support means that clients can easily import the data required for compliance reporting as well as internal management needs. Imports may occur effortlessly using the Automated Task Scheduler and the Ad-hoc Reporting engine lets clients easily mine the database for important metrics required by the new regulations.

 In conclusion, ProTrak clients that were previously registered with the SEC have found that their CRM proved invaluable for internal compliance support as well as for on-site SEC audits.  As more firms are SEC-registered, they too will see the advantages a comprehensive CRM solution like ProTrak can offer.

April 25th, 2014
Jim Scaief

Preparing for Your SEC Audit

“If you haven’t started preparing for an SEC exam, you’re already behind,” said panelist Jeffrey Squires of Vista360, at the IAWatch Fall Compliance Conference 2012.  “And if you haven’t had an exam lately, that means there is one on the way.”  And Andrew Bowden, associate director of the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, stated in his opening remarks that new registrants should expect to be examined during the first year of registering – 25% of new registrants are visited within the first 12 to 24 months after registering.

For the 1,504 newly registered hedge funds and private equity firms, these are probably not comforting words!  For the first time, private investment funds with AUM as low as $150 million need to be concerned about SEC examinations.  Listed below are a few guidelines on preparing for an SEC audit1.

  • Download the SEC document requests and understand them.
  • Have a fire drill with your employees.  Pull the data you will need for the on-site exam.  Gather your team together and make them aware of what will be expected from them when the exam takes place.
  • Work out the logistics of the exam.  For example, where will you place the examiner in your office?
  • Is your code of ethics up to date?  Pull out your compliance manual and make sure that it reflects all of the newest industry regulations.
  • Make sure that communications between senior management and the chief compliance officer about developing compliance and risk assessment procedures are well documented.

And, we might add that a robust CRM system like ProTrak Advantage CRM can make your SEC audits much less painful.  With ProTrak, you can forget about having to search through your hard copy files for copies of due diligence/subscription documents, legal contracts, account holdings, copies of investor statements, etc. because they will all be just one click away on ProTrak’s investor profile screen.  And, you will have instant access to all investor emails, calls and meeting notes on the same profile screen.  Clients who have converted from other CRM systems say that ProTrak is much more intuitive and easy to use than competing programs and examiners have said that ProTrak was the most user-friendly software they had seen.

 

1 From www.compliance.com  blog by Beth Connolly on September 25, 2012. http://compliancex.com/preparing-for-an-sec-on-site-exam-part-one-what-to-do-before-examiners-arrive/