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16 December 2020

A Candid Conversation with Karen Geiger and Steve Leivent – Co-General Managers of SS&C Advent

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with the Co-General Managers of SS&C Advent, Karen Geiger and Steve Leivent. Our wide-ranging interview covered their experiences during the pandemic, how they are approaching their new roles as business leaders as well as their outlook on the industry, technology innovation and the evolution of the SS&C Advent business.

I’m sure you’ve both seen that twitter meme, “How it started – How it’s going” and as you look back at the start of 2020, what would be your thoughts along these lines?

Karen – It has definitely been a dramatic shift, as we both have very different roles than when we started the year.  I started the year in product development and have had quite a ride these past six months after the promotion to Co-General Manager of SS&C Advent. The larger role is both exciting and demanding and it’s great to be working with Steve.

Steve – The same is true for me. After being in the business for 20 years on the advisory and wealth side, it is refreshing to get a chance to work with Karen and experience more of the investment management side of SS&C Advent.  And, going through the challenge of managing a remote business, just like our clients, really helps us both relate and provide invaluable perspective.

The SS&C Advent product road map has been well thought out with long-term strategic focus, however, what pivots or changes have you seen from the pandemic back in March, through the Summer and Fall?

Karen – We did not see dramatic pivots. Instead, we saw an acceleration of trends that were already occurring in the marketplace, which is reflected in the increased adoption of our technologies.  Clients are looking to outsource more and take advantage of Cloud delivery, as well as placing more of a digital emphasis on the front office.

Steve – The challenges of remote work shined a light on clients who needed to shed their non-core competencies in order to outsource items such as compliance and operations. The Black Diamond® Wealth Platform also became the tip of the spear for advisory firms looking for ways to engage digitally with clients in order to substitute for in person meetings and replicate those client interactions.

You spend a lot of time talking with advisors and investment professionals, what feedback are they providing as to how their businesses are going?

Steve – One barometer that points to the health of the industry is the increase in M&A volume that shows a dramatic interest in wealth and investment management.  Even with pandemic constraints, deal volumes hit record levels and new entrants and aggregators are looking to capitalize on the strength of the financial sector that SS&C Advent serves.

Karen – Uncertainty definitely drives demand for help from both financial advisors and asset managers, and both are reporting solid opportunities for growth.  They’ve all successfully made the transition to remote work and are telling us that our technology is helping them look at new markets and continue to develop relationships at a social distance.

Clearly, we are all leveraging video conferencing; do you think clients will go back to their offices once the all clear is given?

Steve – Yes and no!  For sure, the new normal will be different, as the pandemic has shown that we are all comfortable using video and collaboration technologies.  I do think we’ll want to get back together in an office setting eventually, but it will be a while before clients will welcome office visits. On the other hand, just think of all of the time, cost, and family pressures that we are saving by not traveling.

Karen – Our business lives at the intersection of both the finance and technology industries.  Some tech firms have already announced that location no longer matters, while most financial institutions we work with see value in coming back together. We’ll wait and see – but the key is balance and we believe that clients will want the opportunity to be face-to-face. But, the efficiencies are in place as we’ve been able to complete some very large implementations, without having employees physically on site.

What areas of technology have you seen accelerate in terms of adoption and usage?

Karen – The big one has definitely been outsourcing.  In the past, firms would wait for a hardware replacement before making a change, now the sentiment is “let’s not wait” and they look to engage with SS&C Advent to help shrink their IT footprint.  The benefits are there in terms of taking large fixed costs from running your own systems, such as maintenance, security, space, and people, and turn those into variable costs.  Clients are much more open to the Cloud.

Steve – Without a doubt, the usage of digital client engagement tools, such as the Black Diamond Timeline, are seeing a lot of traction. Many clients with an “on premise” sentiment who were not previously open to third party hosting have definitely gone away. The benefits of running systems on their own servers has fallen away with remote work mandates and they are now fully deploying Cloud solutions and looking to us for help.

When you look out to 2021 – what will clients see from SS&C Advent?

Steve – Earlier this year, SS&C acquired trust accounting platform SS&C Innovest and now we have some pretty impactful capabilities, particularly as we are seeing banks wanting to “RIA-ify” their wealth management services by embracing open architecture and fee-based models for their advisors.  We’ll be able to go head-to-head with any bank trust solution.

Karen – With the Advent Investment Suite, consisting of APX, Moxy, and Genesis, our new cloud-native platform for Genesis will be able to bring in data from APX and turn insights into action.  Longer term, we plan to leverage that platform for the middle office.

As we approach the holidays, what are you thankful for?

Karen – I am truly thankful that this transition has been extremely positive!  While Steve and I were not able to do any of this face-to-face, I’m thankful for the learning process and getting to know all of the areas of SS&C in order to find synergies and collaborate beyond the SS&C Advent businesses. I’m also thankful for the resilience of the entire team as it hasn’t been easy with so much going on beyond work. We absolutely do not take any of their efforts for granted and we are very excited about the future.

Steve – I am also thankful that the transition has been great and echo Karen’s sentiments for the team as they have all taken on lots of extra responsibilities.  I’m also thankful for our clients that keep coming to us and trust us with their business.  As we have seen, people want to do business with strong, well-capitalized firms, so I am also thankful to have the backing of SS&C so we can continue to earn the business of our clients each day.

To learn more about how SS&C Advent products can support your business, please request your personal demo.