It is a quiet ongoing shift that most clients of SEB’s Investor Services may not have noticed yet. But as the bank and many institutional clients are re-establishing themselves on cloud architectures, a new world of service capabilities opens. Real-time data sharing between financial institutions, for example, is already producing concrete benefits.
“The message is that we are future-proofing our IT and will be able to develop better services faster,” says Marcin Valnell, Head of Fund and Portfolio Services.
In the future, will you be able to connect for a global-custody or derivatives-clearing service by ticking a box, as easily as adding a slice of bacon in your burger-chain app? The answer could turn out to be yes or no – but at SEB Investor Services, the vision is there.
“Today, individual retail banking customers can get their loan promise for buying a house in seconds, after filling out just a couple of fields in a web form. The journey that financial institutions are embarking on now follows a similar path. After software and banking ’as-a-service’, it is time to develop ’Post trade as a Service’,” says Marcin Valnell.
Takes headache out of reconciliations
Simplified and consolidated processes for reconciliations and portfolio analysis are among the benefits that institutional asset managers and asset owners are most eager to achieve. Traditionally, this work eats a lot of manpower and is sensitive to errors.
Now, by adding a third-party solution called Snowflake to its existing channels for data to clients, SEB is making this easier for many of them. In short, the cloud data sharing makes it possible for the institutions to access and use data from SEB in the same way as if it resided in their own data warehouse. Technically speaking, they go from copying data via transfers, to instead sharing it on the cloud platform. That may sound like a detail, but it could unleash vast new possibilities for co-creation between the bank, the institutional clients, and all sorts of third-party providers. An “ecosystem”.
Some typical early users of cloud data sharing at a financial firm could be a risk manager, a producer of fund product sheets, or a head of trading who evaluates counterparties.
“The daily work of an asset manager is very much about dealing with different data sets,” says Marcin Valnell.
Their own portfolio system is a key source, beside input from custodians and banks, who will channel numbers also from issuers and marketplaces.
“You can easily drown in it,” Marcin Valnell jokes.
Ask more “human” questions
The broader technological underpinning is the gradual transfer of computing from on-premises home-built platforms, to the much more standardised hosting environment provided by the leading public cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. (SEB itself has partnered with GCP but the bank’s service delivery to clients is agnostic to which platform they use.)
Together with data standardisation efforts such as financial messaging standard ISO 20022, the new sharing platforms are among the drivers making it possible to ask for insights in a way that is looking more and more human. And, well in place on the cloud platform, solutions can be boosted for example by artificial-intelligence capabilities that third-party providers offer there. Many asset managers would dream of being able to simply ask “what is my exposure to the UK”, rather than manually preparing data from many sources in complex spreadsheets.
A complete shift internally
Jens Christoffersson, IT architect, is deeply involved with the setup.
“To sum it up, we are moving to an ecosystem where our collaboration with our customers can be a lot closer,” he says.
“In our internal work at SEB, the cloud platforms are now the clear first-hand choice when we develop new applications,” Jens Christoffersson describes, lining out an explicit priority over how to host the services. If Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are feasible, they should be used. Only if they are not, the research should move step by step to managed public cloud solutions, then SEB’s ’private cloud’.
”On-premises solutions based on traditional IT are only the exceptional last resort.”
The shift starts from areas like collaboration, sales, and workloads intense on computing or reporting. Gradually, the cloud-based solutions are then expected to make their way, over many years, towards the traditional back-bone transaction systems. This transition is an important element of SEB’s strategy for 2030 and it seems to be picking up exponentially.
“The number of active SEB-internal users on Google Cloud is at 1,100,” says Jens Christoffersson. “That is twice as many as a year ago.”