A rapidly implemented automation project, in swift collaboration between BNY Mellon and Deutsche Bank, is cutting spreadsheet files – and work hours – from the flow around emerging-markets FX. And at both banks, it has triggered a taste for more.

See the full video from PostTrade 360° Copenhagen, where BNY Mellon’s Jordan Barnett and Deutsche Bank’s Jeslyn Tan share their journey tale – from problem identification, to implementation and future implications for the whole industry.

“We were creating hundreds if not thousands of spreadsheets and emailing them back and forth with our subcustodians. The process was being measured in hours, and even days if there were exceptions.”

[This is an expanded version, now featuring the video, of our article. The brief original version was published on the conference day, 23 September. The presentation was pre-produced for PostTrade 360° Copenhagen by BNY Mellon, while the Q&A session towards the end took place live at our event. Note the menu-looking icon in the player window, and white dots in the time bar, leading to labelled sections of the video. ]

As he took over global custodian BNY Mellon’s programmed-trading business in foreign exchange, and flew to visit the trading desk in Singapore, Jordan Barnett didn’t just see the need for automation to replace the daily spreadsheet exercise. 

He decided to do something. 

“A very, very simple goal”

As he researched the interest for change among his subcustodians, Deutsche Bank’s Jeslyn Tan immediately came to the fore. 

“In DB, I have a very, very simple goal,” she says, subtly smiling (at 4:50 in the video). 

“For whichever operations team, be it BNY Mellon or Deutsche Bank, the goal is zero manual touch. How then do we get to it, and can the whole process be automated?”

But before she was impressed, she wanted answers to a long list of ‘why’ questions by the BNY Mellon team in the first whiteboard meeting. 

“If you don’t agree on the why, forget about the how,” she says. 

“Through the whole whiteboard session we focused on the problem statement we wanted to solve for. If we wouldn’t agree on the problem statement, or why we are solving it, forget about the how.” 

An eye-opener

To generate quick results, this pilot implementation was built on the existing Symphony platform, and went live in about 6–8 months from its project start. Strategically, however, both parties see it as only the first step towards more open architecture, offering applications interfaces (APIs) to enable connections that are less platform-dependent.  

While the project was run to produce direct end-client benefits and process efficiencies, both Jeslyn Tan and Jordan Barnett expect the biggest value to appear through the ripple effect. The solution can be scaled up to all relevant currencies and more subcustodians. And then, on top of that, the method of collaborating and re-innovating processes can be held as a blueprint for all kinds of workflows. 

“I think that has really been the biggest benefit of this entire thing,” says Jordan Barnett. 

“We had an idea, we used technology … Yes, in the first derivative, clients and ourselves were getting benefits in less errors and increased efficiencies. But the second-derivative benefits of understanding that it works, and it can be done, is going to be way more impactful – as we use that same idea across all of our workflows, across our entire business.”

“This is now the baseline to be our subcustodian – the technology you will have to use to partner with us.” 


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