A Fund Services Challenge

Maitland is a global advisory, administration and family office firm that provides legal, fiduciary, investment and fund administration services to private, corporate and institutional clients across multiple jurisdictions.

One of the offerings provided through the Fund Services business is the daily calculation and publishing of Unit Trust prices. This is done by Maitland’s fund accounting department, daily, across 700 Unit Trusts and these prices need to be published ahead of strict market deadlines.

This fund valuation process consists of multiple steps. Many of these steps are manual and labor intensive, whilst the last key step requires the review and validation of the fund class Net Asset Values (NAV).

The window available to execute the fund pricing is very small relative to the number of steps required to collect, validate and process market data, and subsequently apply this to the funds to calculate a complete and accurate NAV.

This results in staff experiencing peaks of activity typically between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Through this fund valuation process, a material portion of the fund accounting team’s time is spent on the labour-intensive steps, thus leaving very little time for NAV verification. Getting a NAV wrong can cause reputational and financial risk to Maitland and their clients. This prompted the investigation into finding innovative solutions to reduce this risk.

Robotic Process Automation Relief and Focus

In the spirit of innovation and commitment to quality and risk management, Maitland embarked on an exciting Robotic Process Automation (RPA) journey. The initiative focused on automating some of the NAV calculation steps by using RPA solutions and technology.

Maitland partnered with LarcAI, a boutique South African company specialising in Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, on this RPA journey/project.

The priority for this project focused on automating the manual steps in the NAV process. Automating these manual steps in the NAV process has allowed the fund accounting team to focus efforts on NAV validation, i.e. ensuring that the fund NAV is complete and accurate. The need for staff to work abnormal hours has also been reduced.

Once the early morning (6.00am – 9.00am) unit trust NAV processes were completed, the solution was replicated, with minor changes across the Exchange Traded Funds, where fund pricing is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). This was a great win for Maitland leveraging an existing piece of work, thus implementing the solution elsewhere with minimal additional effort.

The 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. accounting team is also now leveraging the robotic process automation solution. To date, Maitland has successfully automated the NAV processes for 500 of the 700 funds and have plans to automate the remaining 200 funds in the foreseeable future.

Business Benefit & Learnings

Maitland has realized significant business value from implementing RPA across the Fund Services business. These include, noticeably improved staff morale and improved NAV quality, which was noted by Maitland’s largest clients.

In total Maitland saved a substantial number of hours to automate the Unit Trust pricing process through the implementation of RPA, whilst simultaneously reducing the risk profile of critical business processes.

One of the key learnings recognized by Maitland was the change management needed in preparation for the RPA project as well as the involvement of employees throughout the journey. As could be expected, employees initially felt threatened and fearful of losing their jobs or being replaced by ‘robots’. Seeing this, Maitland increased transparency and involvement in the company opening two-way communication between the project team and staff involved in the automation of the pricing update process.

This assisted people in realizing that the intention was the removal of manual, monotonous tasks, enabling them to refocus their efforts on valuable tasks where insight was required, such as NAV validation.

A Great Partnership, Supporting Deep Business Demand

According to Jon Hugill, Head Information Systems for Maitland Group Globally, “LarcAI has been very supportive throughout the journey and an excellent automation partner.”

Maitland established an RPA Centre of Excellence (COE) currently consisting of five dedicated people. The COE is currently automating between 12 and 15 processes per month. LarcAI continues to support Maitland to bolster capacity to meet business automation demands.

The Maitland COE works closely with business to build a robust automation pipeline through identifying and prioritizing processes suitable for RPA. RPA solutions have been implemented across Maitland South Africa, Luxemburg and Isle of Man, with plans to extend implementation to Mauritius soon.

To date, Maitland has been able to deploy 44 processes. These processes do not run concurrently and can be scheduled 24/7, 365, which makes it very cost effective. With the deployment of additional processes, Maitland is looking at increasing the number of robots to successfully meet demands.

Technical Solution Details

LarcAI started by understanding Maitland’s goals and reviewing specified use-cases to carefully craft a customized solution that would meet Maitland’s automation objectives.

The solution was developed using UiPath, the award-winning RPA technology based on Microsoft Workflow Foundation. UiPath’s open architecture allows to incorporate not only best of breed third party technologies but also to develop custom components for unique problems.

Conclusion

Maitland identified challenging, yet very suitable processes for RPA. This resulted in significant business benefits for Maitland, including improved staff morale, efficiency and quality. This success story enabled Maitland to develop a deep automation pipeline. Through the COE, Maitland is currently automating up to 15 processes per month and has successfully implemented 44 non-concurrent processes to date.

Through a robust technical partnership with LarcAI, Maitland has established an RPA COE, buffered by technical advisory and capacity from LarcAI, resulting in a very cost-effective solution.