INTERVIEW | “This ‘virtual office’ construct is probably the biggest opportunity for us to reboot the workforce that we’ve ever had,” says Colin Parry, CEO of the International Securities Services Association (ISSA). Read his take on the past five years in the post-trade industry, in this lookback interview which is our third in a series. 

PostTrade 360° Copenhagen on 11–12 October 2023 will mark the five-year celebration of the brand. Colin Parry joins to deliver the opening keynote in the afternoon of 11 October, titled “Drivers and shakers – The factors shaping post trade through 2024 and onwards”. Find the conference website here.
This five-year review interview is the third one we publish, as part of a series.

“I had many conversations with people saying ‘oh, we can’t get the staff’ or ‘we haven’t got the right people’, etc. And there is a whole set of people who have left the industry because they don’t want the stress of commuting”, says Colin Parry. 

My 5-year observations
Colin Parry, CEO of the International Securities Services Association (ISSA)
• Digitalisation – including home working, cloud adoption, and new data possibilities.
• The journey towards T+1. 
• Distributed ledger technology.

Historically, workplaces would effectively put up barriers to employees or candidates with such preferences, but then the Covid-19 experience through 2020–2021 proved there is an alternative way to keep operations going. 

“We haven’t quite learned how to manage it, but I think that, by the day, we are getting more comfortable. I think that is opening up a different set of people to work in the industry – and I think that’s a good thing.” 

A data boost for small players

Cloud adoption and new data capabilities would each have deserved their own bulletpoints on the list of gamechangers, but under your editor’s strict requirement to keep it all down to three, Colin Parry packs them up with the home working transition, to one broad work digitalisation movement. 

“The cloud adoption is what enabled us to work from home. But it has also given us abilities to adopt much more software as a service, and some of the internal resistance against that has been taken out of the equation,” he says, seeing the attitude shift as driven by the home working experience. In terms of post-trade services, he believes this is what has paved the way for new software-as-a-service providers, including Proxymity, to mention one.

“It all leads on to the new data capabilities, which makes it easy to not just hold data but to analyse it, understand the ongoing changes underneath it, and use it for processes.”

In Colin Parry’s eyes, the improved availability of data services offers a “levelling ability” when smaller actors try to keep up in competition with larger ones – be it in securities services or any other data intensive industry. 

“Whereas 10 years ago, the biggest firms, who have the biggest pockets, were on a trajectory to take over the world, I think we’re now in a position where a local or regional custodian can hold their own – because they can buy what they need rather than having to get a whole data centre set up.”

Right first time

So far the first three-in-one bulletpoint. As for the journey to T+1, Colin Parry notes that it is more precisely a general trend towards faster settlements where different cycle lengths are already in play. China’s trade is largely pre-funded, so effectively T+0 already. India is overall on T+1, the US and Canada now going for it, with the EU and UK watching what goes. 

“We haven’t seen all the implications of more rapid settlement come through but there are definitely challenges where people will have to think differently about how they fund, how they do liquidity, securities borrowing and lending, corporate actions …”

Rather than just working faster, he believes it will foster a new attitude of “right first time”. 

“That will change people’s mentality and, I think, also unleash a wave of investment to get this better.”

Over-scepticism against DLT

As for distributed ledger technology (DLT), the final point on Colin Parry’s list, he believes companies have been more scared off by the early difficulties than they should have been. Many point to the Chess system-replacement disaster at the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) as a reason for the industry to stay on the sideline. 

“I think that is wrong! I think the experimentation with a new set of technologies and approaches is beginning to bear fruit. Maybe it is not for every single use case, but some of those solutions are gamechangers.”