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Q&A with CUNA Mutual Group’s Investment Operations & Technology Director

05 October 2020

In October last year, we announced that CUNA Mutual Group had selected our investment management platform, thinkFolio , as well as our Enterprise Data Management (EDM) and EDM Warehouse solutions; all running via our Managed Service.

Fast-forward eight months and CUNA Mutual Group is now live on thinkFolio and EDM following a close collaboration with our professional services team. We took the opportunity to speak to their Investment Operations & Technology Director, Mark Weber, about the implementation, managing a go-live during a pandemic and how the solutions are supporting the business.

Q: Thinking back to the start of the project, what were the main business drivers?

Scalability was the number one driver. We have very ambitious growth plans and we realized that in order to support the growth of our investment portfolio, we needed to modernize our underlying technology and operational processes.

As part of the technology modernization, we wanted to move to an exception-based environment and pre-trade compliance driven platform. Through thinkFolio, we wanted to give our portfolio managers, traders and operations team a more proactive solution that would automate our processes, requiring manual intervention only when absolutely necessary. This enables them to focus their attention on work where they can add more value.

Another driver for the project was the desire to provide our business customers with more meaningful data insights through developing our business intelligence and analytics capabilities. We plan to go live on EDM Warehouse in early 2021 to deliver self-service BI and reporting capabilities that will transform our current manual process and further support our growth plans.

Q: CUNA Mutual Group is undergoing a significant technology transformation. How did the implementation of thinkFolio and EDM go?

Like any large and complex implementation, there have been little issues to work through, but generally it's been very efficient - even amid a global pandemic!

The feedback from our portfolio managers and traders has been very positive. The system is simple to use and provides support for broad traditional asset classes as well as newer and increasingly complex asset classes. Most importantly, it has been a seamless transition; our portfolio managers and traders have been able to conduct trades from day one which is so important when building confidence in new systems. It's quite remarkable really that the roll-out has been so smooth given the complexity of the implementation which stretches across many different portfolios and asset classes.

On the operational side, we see opportunities to promote further adoption of the platform and make better use of it to drive efficiencies in our back-office as well.

Q: You chose to run all of our solutions on our Managed Service which is supported by our cloud partner, Amazon Web Services. Why did CUNA Mutual Group choose this route?

At a corporate level, our IT strategy is focused on moving to the cloud as it brings so many benefits. IHS Markit is a leader in this space and we recognized that your team could help share the burden of supporting our new IT infrastructure, allowing us to focus on what really matters to our business - the growth of our portfolio.

It also turned out to be a good decision given the current Covid-19 environment. We've been able to deliver a go-live remotely, in large part thanks to the cloud.

Q: Now that you're live, what are the main benefits you hope to derive from the implementation?

From my perspective, there are four key benefits to our business:

  1. Eliminating manual processes and therefore becoming more efficient and reducing risk;
  2. Moving to an exception-based workflow which will free up our team's time;
  3. Enabling our back-office and IT operations to support our business as we aggressively increase our portfolio; and
  4. Providing better informed data-driven insights to the business through analytics and BI.

In order to make the most of the new solutions, I will be focused on driving adoption throughout the business and ensuring we maximize use of the rich features and functionality so we are realizing as many efficiencies as possible.

Q: Do you have any advice for firms undergoing a similar IT transformation?

My number one piece of advice would be to engage your end customers early on in the process. For me, that meant our portfolio managers and traders. My team worked hard to ensure that they were comfortable with the new platform and we involved them in acceptance testing and validation before go-live. The fact that IHS Markit was able to run our existing environment in parallel with the new thinkFolio environment enabled our portfolio managers and traders to feel confident about the move and engaged in the project as a whole. This was really critical to the success of the implementation.

More broadly, I would say that firms should really understand the operational efficiencies a new platform like this can provide. From my perspective, the implementation should deliver significant ROI in the back-office too which I'm really excited about.

For us to take on this type of project ourselves would have been a daunting prospect. It would likely have taken longer, cost more and may never have seen the light of day. We wanted a partner we knew we could trust to bring our vision to life and we're confident we've found that in IHS Markit.

IHS Markit provides industry-leading data, software and technology platforms and managed services to tackle some of the most difficult challenges in financial markets. We help our customers better understand complicated markets, reduce risk, operate more efficiently and comply with financial regulation.

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