Innovation comes from identifying client challenges

The word “innovation” is used far too casually, not just in financial services but across industries. At Advent Software, a pioneer of fund accounting technology for more than 30 years, the focus isn’t on delivering innovation for innovation’s sake. Rather, it is on taking a forward-looking stance, understanding where the industry is headed and listening to its clients’ needs.

“We have a responsibility to deliver solutions that our clients value and will help them operate more efficiently. In other words, innovation has to add real, tangible value and be worthwhile,” says Robert Roley (pictured), Vice President of Solutions at Advent. 

Technology firms can sometimes get carried away creating solutions that satisfy customers on an emotional level. Oftentimes, however, they miss the mark because the solution is not what the customer needs or is willing to adopt straight away. The danger of being too far ahead of the curve is a perilous one: think Laserdisc in the audio visual industry, or the Newton, a PDA developed by Apple in 1987. All perfectly good products, but they never fully took off.

For a technology firm, striking that balance in terms of offering a solution that is both relevant, stylish, and which solves a market solution at the right time, is challenging.

“It has to be something that clients are ready to adopt immediately. We want to stay slightly ahead of the curve, but also to be sure that our clients can derive real value from any new solution we develop as opposed to coming up with something that merely looks impressive in a demonstration,” says Roley. 

Take Advent’s Geneva, the firm’s flagship accounting engine used by over 300 firms across the hedge fund firmament. The genesis of this solution goes back 20 years when one of Advent’s clients asked it to build a portfolio accounting system that could do things no other system at the time could do. One of the best examples of the lasting impact of Geneva’s innovative design is the way it handles correcting mistakes. 

“A few years ago, one of the largest hedge fund managers implemented Geneva and at the end of the project they found that their staff had gained anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes a day simply because of the efficient way Geneva corrects mistakes. That meant staff could leave the office a little earlier, ultimately improving team morale,” notes Roley.

At Advent, there is an understanding that innovation cannot be artificially produced. Solutions that become innovative are almost singularly the result of client interaction. Take Advent Data Services, the firm’s data network that delivers portfolio data to its clients on a daily basis. 

“We knew our clients wanted an efficient way to download data from their counterparties and we solved that by creating a hosted multi-tenant environment, which today everyone calls “The Cloud” but that term hadn’t even been coined at the time. We weren’t trying to be innovative so much as trying to make it easier for clients to use our software,” adds Roley.

“Managers need to look for technology solutions that are going to provide value from day one and for years to come. Those are the types of solutions Advent is focused on building; ones that clients will see a return on investment over the long term,” concludes Roley.

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