The Future is Digital: Scaling DPM for Asian Investors

Clients across Asia have typically been reluctant to embrace discretionary portfolio management (DPM) services, preferring instead to research, manage and instruct their own investment choices. There are clear signs however that Asian client preferences are beginning to shift. And this shift opens up a number of promising opportunities for financial institutions – it enables them to accelerate digital transformation efforts, and to create new revenue streams. All by building on existing DPM capabilities.

Given the complexity of modern economies, it is increasingly beyond the capabilities of an amateur investor to match the performance of investment professionals. Moreover, while Asian clients have historically been averse to paying for DPM services, growing numbers see the appeal in handing over responsibilities to free up time for other pursuits.

This evolution in client preferences aligns with the interests of private banks and asset management firms. Growing adoption of DPM services means that they can decrease their reliance on ad-hoc, transactional revenues – which ultimately improves resilience during a downturn.

Simultaneously, we are witnessing an enduring switch to digital-first services. Today’s customers demand a rich, immersive, intuitive digital experience from their financial services products – with all the convenience and depth of analysis that implies. Meeting these expectations with clever technology provides service providers with a range of other benefits.

Arguably, the term digital transformation is these days suffering from overuse but it still has some utility in the context of discretionary portfolio management systems. There are inefficiencies, waste and vulnerabilities in the way current DPM processes and infrastructure are set up. Even in an industry as highly digitised as financial services, there is still a high volume of manual processes and data transfer across the systems used by a typical DPM operation. This can involve manual calculation, submission and management of trading orders. Such inefficient order management can lead to excessive trading and high costs.

A lag in recording the processing, execution and settling of transactions means that the business never has a fully accurate and up-to-date view of operations. This in turn results in weak operational controls and a higher risk of compliance breaches.

Thankfully, modern technology can solve many of these issues. Currently, DPM services are restricted to high net-worth individuals, typically with portfolios worth USD 5 million or more. This floor reflects the constraints on the number of clients a DPM team can realistically serve. However, technology tailored for DPM teams supports them by automating trading, monitoring and rebalancing asset allocations at scale. The resulting increase in productivity enables investment experts to manage a larger volume of customers with portfolios well below the usual minimum threshold – meaning that service providers can target new customer segments.

DPM technology integrates with existing systems to provide straight-through processing, eliminate manual errors and provide huge gains in speed and accuracy. It improves the quality of information available to the business, portfolio managers and clients, while reducing the risk of compliance breaches. However, to make this work you need a team that understands the infrastructure, workflows and connections of wealth management systems, and that can provide the right architecture. It’s important that technology shoulders the complexity of the task and not portfolio managers or customers.

For financial services’ retail and mass affluent customers, DPM technology gives them access to high-value wealth management services, typically the reserve of a bank’s wealthiest customers. And it provides them with a digital experience more in keeping with modern tastes – with access to portfolio and performance information at any time, any place on any device and a suite of management and reporting tools.

This value proposition is not just theoretical. Quantifeed is already helping wealth managers – with a wide variety of layers and systems – to scale their DPM operations and offer these services to more customers. In just three months we were able to implement a solution tailored to the needs of a service provider which created new online channels, introduced efficiencies and controls, and improved customer service. Shortly after the launch, the business was managing millions of dollars of assets on behalf of customers they were previously unable to target.

Right now, the growing appetite for discretionary portfolio management services is one of the biggest trends we see across all markets in Asia. Singapore, the private banking hub of Asia, is leading the way with markets such as Japan and Thailand close behind. In Hong Kong, many investors come from China and are also more inclined to trust professionals to run their portfolios.

Change in the delivery of DPM services is coming. And the business case for technology-driven DPM is compelling: it lets a financial institution scale and expand its addressable market. Financial institutions across Asia would do well to get ahead of the coming wave of transformation.

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    Ross Milward

    Chief Technology Officer &
    Co-Founder

    Ross Milward leads Quantifeed’s technology and engineering efforts to deliver innovative digital wealth management solutions. Before co-founding Quantifeed, he spent more than 15 years in investment banking, holding senior positions in equity and equity derivatives technology.

    His expertise is in developing and managing large-scale enterprise-level global trading and risk systems. A former managing director, Ross has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. He has held multiple global and regional leadership roles, most recently as head of equities technology in Asia. He has worked in Hong Kong, Sydney and London.

    Ross holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with Honours and is a Fellow of the Securities Institute of Australia. He likes pushing his limits through long distance triathlon races.

    Michael McDonald

    Head of Web Engineering

    Michael McDonald builds Quantifeed’s online wealth management web application in order to deliver a user-friendly and integrated experience. Michael has over 11 years of experience in web application development.

    As Developer for Crossroads Hong Kong, he and his team set up the infrastructure for its donation and stock management application. As Developer at e-commerce company Synapse Connect in New Zealand, he and his team helped clients build mobile applications like prospersoftware.nz, providing him with a full-stack web development and DevOps skillset, servicing clients and back-office operations.

    Michael holds a Bachelor degree in Electrical and Computing Engineering from University of Canterbury New Zealand. He moved to Hong Kong in 2014 and enjoys the outdoors sports such as hiking and cycling.

    Joy Sun

    Head of Quantitative Engineering

    Joy steers Quantifeed’s research and development in systematic investment strategies, portfolio construction and trade execution. Prior to joining Quantifeed, she worked as a quantitative analyst in asset management and proprietary trading firms.

    She led development of trading strategies, including design,simulation and risk control, and research in market trend recognition and prediction. Joy earned her PhD in Operations Research from the University of Hong Kong, her MS in Statistics from Nan Kai University and her BS in Computational Mathematics from Dalian University of Technology.

    John Threlfall

    Head of Site Reliability Engineering

    John leads the SRE team in Singapore and is responsible for the overall infrastructure and SDLC of Quantifeed’s technology platform, QEngine. He ensures the design, availability, and reliability meets the requirements of both our internal and external users. He has over 20 years’ experience in the banking industry, with a demonstrated history in transforming back-office technology and developing reliable engineering systems for large financial institutions.

    Prior to joining Quantifeed, John held technical and leadership roles at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Standard Chartered Bank. He holds a BSc degree in Artificial Intelligence from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. John moved to Singapore in 2008 and enjoys travelling with his family, football and scuba diving.

    Lars Bischoff

    Head of Core Engineering 

    Lars Bischoff is a lead senior software engineer on Quantifeed’s back-end services, with a focus on trading and external interfaces.

    Before joining Quantifeed, Lars had a number of leadership roles across major investment banks including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, UBS, and Citi. These roles included designing and implementing systems for Equities and Equity Derivatives Trading. Lars also held roles as country lead for Equities and Equity Derivatives Technology, as well as global lead for Equity Derivatives Trading.

    As a former Executive Director in Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan, Lars has extensive experience in building local and global development teams. In this capacity, he also defined and realised the technology direction and innovative platforms in the Equity and Equity Derivatives space for these two organisations. Lars holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, from Macquarie University, Sydney.

    Chetan Shetty

    Head of Product Management

    Chetan leads Quantifeed’s product management capability and drives the implementation of features in our product that continuously solve digital wealth management problems for our clients.

    Chetan started his career as a software engineer in the aerospace industry working across the entire software development lifecycle. Subsequently he worked in various roles helping large enterprises in Hong Kong solve business problems with process and technology solutions. His experience ranges across aviation, insurance, public sector services and consulting. He has lived and worked across multiple countries and enjoys travelling to new places, tasting new cuisines and occasionally writing his blogs.

    Eric Lee

    Singapore Country Head & Head of Program Management

    Eric Lee leads the Singapore team in managing the delivery process to key regional clients such as DBS Singapore.

    Eric has held leadership roles throughout the capital markets technology domain in Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America. He has worked extensively as the technology leader covering a broad set of functionality including  portfolio order management, equities, and electronic trading. Eric has worked around the world in locations such as Tokyo, London, New York City, and Hong Kong. He is currently based in Singapore.

    Eric has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

    Conor Doyle

    Head of Pre-Sales

    Conor has over 20 years of experience of leading sales and service teams in high-growth financial software vendor organisations. His previous work experience focuses on leading multinational, cross-functional teams in the provision of leading-edge, highly complex and high-value fintech business solutions.

    Conor is an expert presenter, negotiator, and business operations manager; able to forge solid relationships with both clients and partners and build consensus across multiple organisational levels. He has demonstrated capacity for leadership and project management, with proven track record of meeting targets, overcoming challenges in real time, and delivering tangible results.

    Conor is bilingual (English and Japanese) with strong technical and integration experience and a Mechanical Engineering degree.

    Robert Rice

    Chief Sales Officer

    Robert Rice leads Quantifeed’s sales strategy and works with clients to define and deliver digital wealth management solutions. Based in Hong Kong for over 15 years, Robert has held sales leadership roles in APAC and EMEA at London Stock Exchange Group (formerly Refinitiv), Fitch Solutions, OFX and SNL Financial, leading teams servicing wealth managers, asset managers and financial institutions.

    His career is focused on brining innovative platforms, products and solutions to market helping clients meet their objectives. Robert is an appointed Mentor for the Hong Kong Fintech Week advising start-ups and market entrants on various topics and go to market initiatives.

    Audrey Wong

    Chief Operating Officer &
    Chief Financial Officer

    Audrey Wong manages operations and financial affairs to deliver on Quantifeed’s business strategy. Audrey joined Quantifeed from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where she was COO for the equities division in Asia Pacific. Audrey’s tenure at Merrill Lynch included senior assignments in Toronto and New York, before relocating to Hong Kong in 2006 to take a new role as the Finance Head of Equities Derivatives for APR.

    Her responsibilities expanded to CFO of APAC Equities in 2011 and CFO for APAC Global Markets in 2013. Audrey holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Brock University of Ontario. She is also a Chartered Professional Accountant of Ontario and Chartered Financial Analyst. Audrey enjoys biking and swimming with her two children.

    John Robson

    Chief Commercial Officer

    John Robson drives Quantifeed’s client partnerships. He works with financial institutions to assist them in developing their digital wealth management future. Based in Hong Kong for over 30 years, he has held regional leadership roles at JP Morgan, Nomura and Merrill Lynch managing teams which serviced the region’s consumer and private banks.

    His career has been focused on the development of investment platforms and products. He has been instrumental in introducing significant product innovation to wealth management platforms in Hong Kong, London and Tokyo.

    Alex Ypsilanti

    Chief Executive Officer &
    Co-Founder

    Alex Ypsilanti spearheads Quantifeed’s mission to solve the challenges of digital wealth management.

    Before co-founding Quantifeed, he spent fifteen years as an investment banking research analyst. His work enabled investors to improve their risk-adjusted returns and to gain access to a wider range of market strategies and risk premia. Alex, a top ranked analyst by Institutional Investor, had a leading role in the growth of the European ETF market, hedge fund replication and the use of volatility products in portfolios.

    A former managing director for Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Alex has built and led teams of derivatives and quantitative strategists in London, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

    Alex holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Information Systems Engineering and a PhD in Mathematical Finance from Imperial College, University of London.