Shanny Basar talks to Stephanie Clarke, senior vice president of global market intelligence within Broadridge Financial Solutions’ about the power of data, technology and diversity.
When Stephanie Clarke began her career in finance she had to use reference books for her research, or visit libraries across the City of London.
In contrast, her role as senior vice president of global market intelligence within Broadridge Financial Solutions’ mutual fund and retirement solutions business means she can take advantage of automation and the huge volume of electronic data being generated on a daily basis. She is based in London for the US company which provides investor communications and technology for broker-dealers, banks, mutual funds and corporate issuers globally.
Clarke said: “When I worked in asset management I pieced together data from many places so my firm could get a holistic view of the industry. However, every asset manager was doing this – there was no data provider providing this service for the whole industry, each firm had to do it by themselves.”
Broadridge provides financial services firms with information to support distribution, product development, sales and marketing through the use of advanced analytics and data visualisation. Distribution Insight products provide a view of the whole landscape for asset managers using consistent and granular data.
“They have the tools to understand the whole universe they operate in and so can understand the dynamics behind their firm’s position in geographies, client segments, products and their competition,” Clarke added.
She gave another example of the change in technology and data since the start of her career. When she worked for an asset manager they had to send prices for their unit trusts to Jersey by plane – and if it could not land they had to fax a page of the Financial Times.
“Data has grown exponentially to the point that now the issue is separating the signal from the noise, knowing what action to take,” she said.
For example, investors can now predict retail sales from satellite images of car parks rather than waiting for estimates from brokers or governmental statistics agencies.
Clarke added: “We would have struggled to scale to the massive increases in data volumes in the past four years if we had not employed complex data automation methods.”
Impact of Covid-19
She continued that the pandemic has brought environmental, social and governance considerations to the fore and changed the investment landscape.
“We have partnered with MSCI for ESG data and we are continuing to develop relevant ways of measuring ESG for our clients,” she added.
Clarke is a member of a return to work task force redefining how Broadridge works. She said: “In our connected workplace, we can use offices as collaboration and innovation hubs to meet with colleagues and clients, rather than a place where you come and do spreadsheets.”
The firm is also exploring new models of client engagement such as webinars, podcasts, virtual user groups and communities rather than the traditional in-person conferences.
Clarke said: “There will be more digital engagement as we move towards a Netflix model.”
She is optimistic about changes that the requirement to work from home has made to the industry by forcing recognition of staff having an existence outside the office and the need for more flexibility.
“This flexibility has not come at any cost or detriment to the business,” Clarke added. “We can come out of this crisis with less distance bias and more focus on outcomes rather than presenteeism.”
When Broadridge hired Clarke in 2016 the firm said it underlined the commitment to grow its competitive intelligence business following the acquisition of the Fiduciary Services and Competitive Intelligence Business from Thomson Reuters in the previous year.
After she joined, Broadridge bought Spence Johnson Limited in 2017. Spence Johnson provides global institutional data and intelligence to the asset management industry and its Money in Motion product tracks institutional flows.
In 2018 Broadridge purchased MackayWilliams, a specialist European fund market and research firm.
“The purchase of Spence Johnson added the institutional part of the landscape to our platform,” added Clarke. “MackayWilliams was a European specialist who understand brands through interviewing thousands of fund selectors each year.”
In addition to making acquisitions, Broadridge also look to partner with firms who provide new data sources or are best in class providers for certain niches, such as Preqin for alternative assets.
Prior to Broadridge, Clarke had been global head of market intelligence at BlackRock. She also had previous research and intelligence leadership roles at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, Mercury Asset Management and Sanwa Bank. She has an economics degree which suited her capability in both maths and English, skills which led her to looking for a career in research.
“My advice to women entering finance is that it is a great place if you have problem solving skills,” she said. “You have to find your skill-set and build your career around it by finding new adventures.”
Clarke works in a technology-driven branch of finance, which she believes needs, and wants, more diversity – not just in gender, but also in thought and perspective. “It is now a recognised fact that diverse teams bring about better outcomes” she added.
She continued that women bring a different perspective, so it is important that their voices are heard. “We have a responsibility to grow women under us and continually make sure our biases, conscious or not, are broken down,” she said.
Clarke co-sponsors Broadridge’s Women Lead program to inspire the next generation to take their careers to the next level and think really big.
She concluded: “We all have imposter syndrome but you have to shake it off and take small steps every day to travel towards your goal.”