“Radical change”: Covid-19 is ultimate stress test for hedge funds’ cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

The shift to remote working as a result of the coronavirus pandemic proved to be the ultimate stress test for hedge funds’ cybersecurity and business continuity processes – but speakers at this year’s Hedgeweek LIVE Europe digital summit believe the industry has coped well with the unprecedented disruption.

Opening day two of this year’s summit, the cybersecurity and business resilience panel fleshed out the many practical challenges thrown up by the remote working environment. These include data access, monitoring and protection, dealing with increased call volumes in a home environment, video conferencing, the potential software and hardware headaches, as well as staff wellbeing.

Patrick Trew, chief risk and compliance officer at Maniyar Capital, described how his firm, which spun out of Tudor Investment Corporation, was in the unique position of launching right in the middle of lockdown.

“We spent plenty of time preparing for the launch which, pre-March, would have been a fairly routine launch,” Trew said. “But the dynamic changed quite dramatically as events unfolded.”

The firm went through a one-month period of ongoing testing to ensure not only that the systems worked, but also that they worked remotely, he explained. “But people learn very, very fast and we have found it effective as a mechanism of operating.”

Justin Sycamore, director of sales, EMEA at SS&C Eze, said 2020 has been “a radical change from where we were 12 months ago.”

Sycamore zeroed in on the investor angle, highlighting the need for emerging hedge fund firms to spell out how their remote access capabilities are set up for clients. He cautioned that too many applications can bring more challenges in a home environment compared to an office space.

“That is absolutely a key part for our design, our UX experience, our cloud-based platform: to ensure that you can scale, whether you’re using two screens or six screens,” Sycamore said. “It’s not just about the technology and the access – it’s also about the software and the applications, and whether they have been built and designed for a variety of different set-ups, whether they’re built for remote access and can adjust to workflows.”

The panel also broadened its scope to consider how technology is assisting hedge fund managers monitor staff wellbeing as restrictions eased over the summer and firms gradually returned to the office.

“Having apps to track and trace where our staff are, and also allowing our clients to do the same – that’s been a massive trend for us,” observed George Ralph, managing director at RFA.

“If [a manager] has decided to keep a sub-set of their office open, and are allowing people to go in, we’ve had to help them work out who has been going in and who they’ve been seeing,” he explained. “If one of my engineers has gone to a fund and the fund reports to us that one of their staff has contracted Covid, I need to know that immediately because I need to stop that engineer from going to any other fund.”

While communication tools have helped bolster productivity and strengthened business resilience, supporting company morale and mental health during lockdown has also been a vital area of focus.

Nick Ttofias, director of production technology at long-running quantitative CTA Aspect Capital, which has around 135 employees, said his firm has a “collegiate approach” to working, adding that cross-team work is also extremely important.

Keeping tabs on staff participation, particularly among those who may live alone, is crucial and helps monitor the “heartbeat” of the company, he explained.

“We’ve had to adapt, working with the HR team and managers to come up ways of drawing teams together,” he said, which at Aspect has included drop-in sessions with directors and lunchtime hangouts to help foster engagement across the company.