“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”  – Henry David Thoreau

As an investment operations professional, you may feel like you’re multitasking all day without an end in sight. On a given day, you’re likely managing the administrative and operational processes for client portfolios, preparing and managing client reports, collecting and verifying the price data of securities, computing fees, providing support for other areas of the firm, and perhaps assisting with trade and account reconciliation, too.

You’re required to switch gears constantly and ensure that all the data maintained is always accurate, error-free, and delivered on-time. It’s an environment ripe for errors, but there is no room for error.

Operations professionals in other industries can rely on a series of automation tools that help manage multiple work streams to improve productivity. However, the unique nature of alternative investments makes it difficult to automate these complex and error-prone processes that demand an exceptional level of accuracy.

Through first-hand experience, we identified four key operational headaches and developed actionable tools to counteract them. Even investment operations professionals working with highly unstructured data can benefit and see productivity gains.

Productivity Boost #1: Define your Operational Workflow

The first step is evaluating your workflow and spending time every night organizing the next day. This means going into each day with a plan. Ask the following questions:

  • What are the important tasks that you must execute and deliver on every day, every week, every month, and every quarter?
  • What are the tools you use to accomplish those tasks?
  • Who do you rely on internally and externally to accomplish them?
  • What is the normal turnaround time to execute on each task?
  • When do you find time with client meetings, internal meetings, and other tasks to get your most important work done?

These are all important questions to ask while structuring your day to ensure the most vital tasks are always completed.

While these organizational elements are vital in any industry, investment operations professionals take multitasking to the next level with hundreds of alternative investment reports to manage on a daily basis.

Some reports come in through email, others via portals or proprietary systems, and some arrive in the snail mail. All the information must be organized and synthesized, so it’s vital to have a defined and streamlined workflow for this process that eliminates errors and guesswork.

Productivity Boost #2: Build your Tech Stack

Your second step involves lining up all the tools you use to stay organized. You likely use an email client, shared calendar, to-do list tool (Evernote, Google Tasks, Apple Notes or Reminders) or paper, and messaging tools like Microsoft Lync or Slack.

When it comes to managing alternative investment reports and documents, you will likely want the ability to track those documents that are received, missing, or late in a system that can be updated in real-time and shared across your organization.

Having an automated system like this in place can help reduce the stress around maintaining all these details and searching for documents, ultimately freeing up time to service clients.

Productivity Boost #3: Organize your Files Like a Pro

The third necessary step is organizing your files. Come up with a file name structure to better organize your information. This can be done by client, investment, or date with YYYY-MM-DD formatting to keep all your information as organized as possible.

This sounds like a simple action, but consider these facts from K2 Enterprises:

  • Typical office workers spend 40% of their time looking for information.
  • Professionals spend over 500 hours annually reviewing and routing files and another 150 hours looking for incorrectly filed documents.

By creating a file naming convention and sticking to it, you will never have difficulty finding the information you need exactly when you need it.

Because organizing files is a tedious and monotonous task, we’ve developed a way to automate it. As new alternative investment reports are received, Canoe actually renames and stores your files so they are always consistently named and easily searchable.

Productivity Boost #4: Constantly Improve your Workflow and Share Strategies with your Colleagues

The fourth and final step is to constantly look for ways to optimize your workflow so that it focuses on the most important tasks, and share your findings with your team so you can all grow and become more efficient.

Every day, there are new apps and tools for managing efficiency at work and at home. Take a look at the tasks that are most difficult to manage and look for automation tools to help you manage that particular operational process.

We take this approach every day, and are on a mission to eliminate manual data entry for investment operations professionals dealing with alternatives.

By solving for each aspect of this process from document ingestion and categorization to extraction and validation of key data points, and finally to delivery of the data to the appropriate systems and tools, we are constantly creating ways to boost productivity.

Conclusion

Implementing these four approaches can set you on the path for improving operational efficiency at your firm, and ultimately delivering an enhanced level of service to your clients. What are your largest operational headaches and how have you been able to counteract them?