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Buy side must match banks’ IT investment

Asset managers face tough choices on technology spending, even as transaction volumes fall and margins shrink. Regulators’ push for T+1 settlement will require expensive upgrades of existing systems or purchase of new ones. Handing over the middle and back office to the revamped custody banks is an alternative. But fund managers are wary of outsourcing.

Since about 1995, banks and financial technology vendors have been throwing various platforms, portals and systems at their buy-side clients. Along the way, one phrase has been repeated over and over again: straight through processing (STP). The elimination of manual intervention from the entire trade process is a vision of paradise. The banks wanted it, and they promised that they would give it to their clients too.

Seven years on, everyone is still talking about it - an industry-wide initiative has even emerged to campaign for it. But evidence that it exists is thin on the ground.

It seems that the banks have gone as far as they can with their promises of new efficiencies and seamless transaction processing. The harsh reality now is that without the cooperation of the buy side their efforts and investment will prove fruitless.

The good news is that the buy side is interested in spending to make better use of bank-developed platforms. The drive towards T+1 by 2005, backed by regulatory authorities in the US, Canada, Japan and Australia, with the UK, France and Germany set to follow, is forcing the buy side to improve back-office efficiency.

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