Historically, financial services businesses have relied on expensive specialist resources to build customised applications to improve processes. However, Microsoft Power Platform is revolutionising the way companies can quickly and easily enhance workflows, systems, and business processes in-house using the latest low-code tools and services.
But how easy is it in practice to create these new tools in-house? We asked Chris Taylor, CG Asset Management’s COO, as one of our Finance Forward 365 customers, to share his experience of building customised Power Apps to transform its compliance processes and how this could benefit all financial services businesses.
CGAM compliance challenge
Like many financial services firms, CG Asset Management (“CGAM”) was using a third-party compliance provider, but it was no longer meeting its needs. The software’s reporting engine was producing inadequate, off-the-shelf reports that were not specific enough for the boutique business. CGAM was frustrated that it needed to go through a third party each time it wanted to make a change or request a new report. These changes often involved a six-week development cycle which was not ideal for their fast-moving business.
The challenge for CGAM was whether they could build a tool themselves which would provide reporting that was bespoke to its business needs, user-friendly and could be easily integrated into their internal workflows.
Power Platform is already part of Finance Forward 365
Finance Forward 365 had been used at CGAM for several years. Power Apps was already available as part of the service but they had yet to take advantage of it. After consulting with industry peers, Chris realised that many businesses were utilising Power Apps to develop tools themselves to circumvent the need for a third-party provider. The potential flexibility that Power Apps could offer was something he wanted to explore more.
Building Power Apps is easier than you think
It was extremely easy for CGAM to learn about Microsoft Power Platform due to the amount of information and training already available online. Working with a Microsoft specialist consultant allowed the business to move forward, at pace, and understand how they could build a new application which was entirely customisable to their business needs using this new technology.
CGAM quickly realised that building a new process and solution from scratch was the best option as it allowed them to structure the data, which was being captured by the flows, in the exact format to match the output. Refining existing processes to make them more efficient was more complicated, as it involved reorganising historical datasets in a way that could then drive reporting in the future.
A firmwide data project brought existing datasets into more uniform formats and this formed the basis of the new CGAM Datahub which was stored in Azure. Maintaining a sole source of data meant it could be used to drive flexible reporting over any given time.
Making compliance procedures watertight
A priority for CGAM was to build solutions to make compliance procedures simpler and watertight.
Implementing a straightforward compliance workflow means staff can complete an attestation form which is scheduled for email delivery, once complete the Power Platform uses a rule which instantly populates a database with the necessary notes and confirmations. The process from start to finish is fully auditable and robust.
A PA Dealing process has been developed for staff seeking permission to deal on their own account. The system takes the request and automatically cross-reference the restricted list before sending the details to the compliance team who then accept or reject the deal via email or using their mobile devices. Once approval has been received the employee can upload the contract note which informs the compliance team that the trade has been completed. All this is done seamlessly using Microsoft Forms, Power Automate and Power BI.
Good governance is an essential element when designing these tools and when changes are made to the procedures. Instructions for change should therefore always be reviewed by the compliance team to ensure that they approve the change and confirm that the expectations of our stakeholders and the regulator are met at all times. CGAM has more control over its own data as it is all in the
Datahub, allowing teams to access the data to use for reporting, but with change and permissions controls keeping the data safe.
Robust processes eliminate ambiguity
Working in a highly regulated industry, the greatest benefit of using bespoke Power Apps is that it makes several internal processes robust, resilient, and easy to audit. Each automation flow that is triggered can be interrogated and controls can be implemented to ensure the output is accurate and secure.
The greatest benefits of building apps internally come from the reduction of cost and time to enhance and maintain. Traditional tools tend to be expensive and difficult to customise. Power Apps allows internal teams to make minor changes to workflows without additional cost and in minutes rather than weeks making the business more agile.
Endless possibilities with Power Apps
The possibilities are endless with the Power Platform and CGAM is already looking at other areas of the business on which to focus.
“Any task that requires reporting or repetitive data entry will be in scope.”
Areas such as engagement reporting for topics like ESG interactions are a great use of the platform. It can act as a CRM; recording meeting notes, building a trend analysis of topics that are discussed, what the engagements are intended to achieve and ultimately whether they are successful or not.
Investment research and internal analytics can be captured and recorded using a bespoke tool. The tool allows the investment team to access internal analysis, research notes and past correspondence in a single, secure application. Allowing the team to access all this information via an app means the data can be seen in real-time, make decisions and record the basis of their decision in the most efficient way. This will not only save time but allow a complete audit trail to be available for other portfolio managers and the compliance team.
Useful advice to new users
The first step is to start small and understand what this technology can do for your business.
Look to find individual problems or processes that are not working effectively that you want to build a solution. Identify areas in your business which use the same data and create flows to populate this information to prevent duplication of efforts. The technology is moving fast, and Microsoft is constantly coming out with new updates and functionality. Once you have the building blocks in place you will be able to use the enhancements to finesse your App and drive greater efficiencies.
Creating a Power App community in financial services
All financial services businesses face the same challenges; increasing efficiency, reducing cost, increasing resilience, and being well-placed to adapt to the changing regulatory landscape. The scope for developing Power Apps is infinite and there is an opportunity to encourage peer-to-peer collaboration within the industry.
Power Apps are the future and will allow financial service companies to take control of their own processes in-house without the need to increase headcount. Collaboration will allow our community to help each other solve the challenges we all face.
Would you like to learn how Power Apps can improve your business?