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The financial services industry presents unique challenges to Managed Services providers. In such a regulated space, working with specialised IT solutions providers can prove to be extremely beneficial for firms. Vinod Paul, Chief Operating Officer of Align, outlines the many benefits of working with IT partners that have an in-depth understanding of the financial services industry and the associated challenges of meeting stringent regulatory demands, ever-increasing cybersecurity risk, and other specific technological needs unique to hedge funds.

What are some of the biggest challenges your firm is facing in the current environment, and how are you overcoming them?​

In recent years, both the SEC and general security demands have witnessed a notable escalation in the stringency of regulatory requirements. The evolving cyber landscape has become increasingly perilous, with cybercriminals advancing in sophistication, resulting in more accurate and successful attacks. As a result, the necessity for comprehensive cybersecurity measures has intensified, aiming to effectively mitigate risks and minimise the impact of potential breaches. Through continuous innovation, strategic partnerships, and ongoing training, we have consistently enhanced our solution to meet these evolving challenges.

The emergence of distributed teams as a result of hybrid work environments has led to heightened demand for collaborative solutions that prioritise security and productivity, regardless of physical location. Employers now seek optimal safeguards and seamless collaboration for their professionals, whether they are in-office or remote. At Align, we anticipated this shift early on and designed our IT solutions with the hybrid workforce in mind. As the new era of work continues to evolve, we remain committed to meeting the demands of this evolving landscape, providing secure and efficient solutions for the changing needs of businesses and their workforce.

What opportunities do you see emerging in the industry in the near future, and how are you positioning your firm to take advantage of these opportunities?​

Align stands out as the pioneering MSP/MSSP in the financial services domain, distinguished by its public cloud-centric platform equipped with integrated cybersecurity controls. We focus on the alternative investment sphere, specifically hedge funds and RIAs. Given the rigorous regulations governing these sectors, we assist our clients in surpassing operational due diligence standards and regulatory requirements set forth by the SEC. This direct impact on our clients’ success becomes evident as they effortlessly meet compliance obligations, leading to the flourishing of their businesses.

By embracing a fundamental approach of collaborating closely with our valued clientele, we have effectively empowered their success, resulting in a remarkable client retention rate. This accomplishment has been the driving force behind our expansion, spanning across 23 states and 21 countries, firmly establishing our global footprint in the market.

What three key pieces of advice do you have for emerging hedge fund managers seeking to differentiate themselves in a crowded market?​

Benefit from an MSP with an integrated cybersecurity offering – By choosing a managed service provider (MSP) that incorporates cybersecurity measures, you can effectively maintain compliance with the rigorous regulatory standards prevalent in the alternative investment industry.

Prefer a platform constructed on Microsoft technology – Microsoft’s continuous innovation and widespread adoption within the business community reinforces its commitment to advancement and ensures that its solutions stay at the forefront of technological development. Additionally, the platform boasts unmatched security features, surpassing those offered by many of its competitors, thus instilling confidence during operational due diligence with an emphasis on reliability and protection for enterprise businesses.

Engage an IT solutions partner well-versed in your industry – The financial industry presents unique challenges, necessitating expertise and familiarity from all your partners, including your IT solutions provider. Selecting a company that has experience working with similar firms or operates within the same vertical can guarantee tailored solutions aligned with your specific business requirements. Partners like Align possess an in-depth understanding of regulatory demands, cybersecurity risks, and technological needs specific to hedge funds, as a significant portion of their clientele comes from within the industry.

​​How are you approaching risk management, and what steps are you taking to ensure you have adequate risk controls in place?​

Increasing cyber risk is a constant threat that has only been accelerated by the new frontier of permanent hybrid and remote work that has been adopted commonly across a large portion of companies. The distributed workforce introduces several security risks that firms must be well equipped to handle in order to safeguard sensitive information regardless of the location of their teams. Because Align’s managed services platform was architected with a distributed workforce in mind, and with built-in cybersecurity services, we have continued to ensure our clients are able to operate their firms seamlessly and securely—whether centralised, distributed, nimble, or enterprise—all while addressing prevailing compliance, technological, security, and governance requirements.

In fact, Align is a leading industry  MSP that also offers a full suite of cybersecurity advisory services, which are provided by a unique team of subject matter experts. Our focus on the alternative investment industry means that our team is well versed in the cyber threats that this industry normally faces, and is also uniquely familiar with the ever-changing regulatory and compliance requirements set forth by the SEC and other governing bodies.

What is your view on the current regulatory environment for hedge funds, and how are you ensuring compliance?​

The SEC announced new proposed rules at the beginning of February 2022 that have since been recirculated for open feedback as of March 2023. This is a continuation of trends we have seen for some time – that within the alternative investment space the SEC has consistently introduced increasingly rigorous rules and regulations. We are always improving our cyber and regulatory capabilities in tandem with these changes to ensure that we are best equipped to support our clients, the majority of which are hedge funds and other financial firms.

Our improvement and investment in our cybersecurity services has allowed us to provide top-of-the-line protections against cybercrime. Over the years, these attacks have become more complex and numerous, but Align has remained dedicated to minimising our clients’ vulnerabilities and the impact of successful attacks.

Vinod Paul, Chief Operating Officer, Align – Vinod Paul brings over 20 years of in-depth financial services and technology experience to his role as Align’s Chief Operating Officer. Vinod’s responsibilities include the strategic development of Align’s Managed Services offerings, including oversight of Align Cybersecurity, the company’s comprehensive cybersecurity risk management solution. In his current role, Vinod is also responsible for managing senior client relationships with alternative asset managers, providing ongoing guidance with respect to industry best practices and forward-looking trends in Managed Services. Widely known as a luminary in the financial services sector, Vinod previously led and innovated a leading Global Managed IT Service provider in its customer-facing engagements, including service delivery and business development on a global basis. Over his 13 years as Managing Director, Vinod helped establish this firm as a premier Managed Service provider in the financial services space. Prior to that, Vinod was a director of technical services for Martin Progressive where he supervised an engineering staff supporting 6,000 customers, as well as a management and engineering consultant to IBM Global Services, Lucent Technologies, Tyco Submarine Systems and Penguin Putnam Publishing. Vinod serves on the global board of directors for Help for Children/Hedge Funds Care, a worldwide nonprofit dedicated to supporting efforts to prevent and treat child abuse. He attended Rutgers University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. 

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