Executive Vice President and Head of State Street Global Exchange
State Street is taking a bet on the future of investor services and is going all in on data management. Who better to lead the way than the man who has been responsible for rolling out the custodian bank’s investor services brand across EMEA and Asia Pacific, based on an understanding of what clients need. Such is Jeff Conway’s transition through State Street, culminating in his appointment earlier this year as the head of State Street Global Exchange. State Street’s fourth business unit combines capabilities and innovations in research and advisory, portfolio performance and risk analytics, electronic trading and clearing, information and data management, and new innovations that help institutional investors gain new insights and execute investment decisions efficiently.
“Understanding client challenges and trying to figure out how to solve them has been a big focus for me and for State Street,” he says. Conway adds that success comes down to understanding the business and the industry from the inside out, and applying lessons learned to client challenges has informed his career.
While Conway has spent parts of his career in Boston, London and Australia, the unfolding regulatory landscape in Europe took him back to London where State Street began seeing the clear need for improved data and analytics capabilities. “Institutional investors have been overwhelmed by the amount of data that they’re producing and consuming,” he says. “They understand that leading-edge data and analytics capabilities will be among their most important competitive advantages in the future, but they need greater insight into that data to identify investment opportunities and make important investment decisions. This is creating new opportunities for organizations like State Street. With Global Exchange, we’re diving headfirst into understanding our position in that new market and what our clients need to remain nimble and ahead of the curve.
“The data analytics challenges our customers have really center on the front office. If you think about a number of dynamics that are occurring in the market right now, regulatory or otherwise, it created an opportunity for us to expand our reach further than just the middle and back office and support the front-office trade workflow.”
In many ways, Conway’s latest role corresponds with where the securities industry has been, where it is now and where it is going. “State Street is changing right alongside the industry. We’re in the process of transforming our own infrastructure, operations and technology strategy into a set of solutions to solve customer challenges. Global Exchange is the natural result of that transformation, and we’re excited about the opportunity for innovation before us. Clients who have partnered with State Street for years are looking to us to help solve those problems. Rather than do that on an ad hoc basis, we wanted to take a step back and think about how we can organize ourselves in a way that creates sustainable and innovative solutions for clients given the challenges they have today and will have in the future.”
Key to Conway’s latest role is State Street’s ability to adapt to industry change as a leader. “I have gone through the process of adapting to a new space personally, but State Street is also adapting. The market is changing and that changes the role of custodians. We need to adapt with it to support those clients. Much of what is at the heart of an outsourcing decision today is outsourcing data management. As we continue a digital transformation process within the industry, creating a broader, deeper set of data solutions is going to be a primary focus, whether it’s through data aggregation, complex reporting requirements or regulatory reporting.”
In the next 12-18 months, State Street will focus on four things from a macro level. Conway explains: “The industry is struggling to keep pace with the explosion of trading volumes and data as a result of the shift to electronic trading. In our recently conducted study with EIU, we found that only 20% of over 400 institutional investors surveyed have high confidence in their ability to optimize electronic trading strategies. We have an opportunity here to really see where we can help our clients trade better and faster. That’s step one.”
The second area is around risk analytics services, where State Street is seeing significant demand. According to State Street’s recent research, the improvement of risk tools is the most frequently cited priority, and 63% expect to increase their investment in this space over the next three years. The third area focuses on providing front-to-back software solutions, portfolio modeling capabilities, pre-trade compliance and front-office performance. “We’re approaching the market now as a front-office solutions provider and focused on helping clients rationalize the challenges they face with trading and data management that are charting the way ahead for our industry and our business,” says Conway.
As head of State Street Global Exchange, there are a number of things Conway will look to execute on over the next 12-18 months. “There is a terrific opportunity to combine the experience of State Street Associates, our research division, leverage the academic partnerships they have with MIT and Harvard, and combine that with innovative analytics. We’ve brought on Roger Stein from Moody’s as our chief analytics officer. I’m excited about his work with Jessica Donohue, head of State Street Associates, as they’ll be working together to think of innovative, breakthrough ideas for our clients.”
Conway is also furthering the idea of creating a virtual data back lot. “The idea is to create this back lot of data that our customers can use in assessing and aligning analytics to help solve their problems,” says Conway. “It’s an exciting time at State Street—we’re launching prototypes that allow the front office to take our existing risk indicators and other proprietary indices and leverage them in way that helps them manage their portfolio. We’re thinking about the future and what that looks like for our clients and for State Street.”
–Janet Du Chenne