From its origins 20+ years ago as a single system of record for compliance, today’s modern research management system (RMS) solutions have become more indispensable by responding to the changing demands faced by investment professionals of every kind. Specifically, the strategic need for greater productivity, operational excellence and investment performance – all of which make a modern RMS an asset of considerable and lasting value.
With the release of 2023’s edition of The RMS Buyers’ Guide, available to download here, we’re focusing in this post on some of the key criteria for evaluating options.
Modern RMS – a definition
If you or your organization are involved in investment research and/or due diligence, then you’re already using some form of RMS. That’s simply because research data, in whatever form, needs to be managed. It could be via a bespoke, in-house developed software platform, an off-the-shelf solution, or a loose collection of cloud file sharing, note-taking and productivity apps informally solidified into standard practice according to what a dominant cohort of employees/colleagues enjoy using. To be a ‘modern RMS’, however, is to have built upon decades of evolution to fully realize its purpose. According to the RMS Buyer’s Guide a modern RMS is:
“both a system-of-record and a productivity workspace that enables critical processes, workflows and collaboration amid a fast-changing environment; both a way to demonstrate operational excellence and an opportunity to realize performance improvement and competitive advantage.”
Modern RMS evaluation criteria
Let’s get into the criteria to apply when evaluating modern RMS solutions. Here we group considerations into 5 main categories.
- User experience (UX) and accessibility
- Compliance and reporting
- Visibility and monitoring
- Integration of data, systems and workflow
Modern RMS: UX and accessibility
Investment analysts, due diligence professionals, ops/admin teams – and their respective management staff – won’t use any kind of software unless they really want to. User adoption is vital to the long-term success of a modern RMS implementation and so it’s critical that individuals like using it, and it adds value to their individual workflow/s. A modern RMS must be logical, responsive and easy to learn. Most important of all, it needs to be flexible to the way people like working.
Another related aspect to consider is ease of access to the system from anywhere. A modern RMS (and the data within it) must be easily accessible to all involved in undertaking, managing, and auditing the research/due diligence process – wherever they are, and whatever they are doing.
Modern RMS: compliance and reporting
A modern RMS should be the authoritative system-of-record for investment research/due diligence data. Applying this principle – a single digital record of all your research assets and diligence activity – enables you to demonstrate the necessary care in support of your fiduciary duties. The same goes for all other compliance requirements stipulated by the SEC and other global regulatory authorities, from Books & Records and Compliance Procedures to Regulatory S-P, GDPR, MiFID II and much more.
Modern RMS: cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a non-negotiable prerequisite for modern RMS solutions, given the sensitive, high-value nature of financial data and IP involved. The challenge is accomplishing this at the same time as allowing the modern RMS platform to be flexible, dynamic, and easy to use.
Some elements of RMS security should be a given: two-factor authentication and encrypted information during transit and at rest, for example. Look for modern RMS providers certified to industry-recognized cyber standards like SOC 2.
Modern RMS: visibility and monitoring
A watchword for modern RMS evaluation is visibility. Managers and auditors demand instant, granular insight into the research and diligence process. That really isn’t easy at all. But lacking this visibility (and data retrieval) impacts risk management and is a missed opportunity to generate intelligence that can drive process improvement and better investment decisions.
As well as being highly responsive and able to surface specific findings instantly and intuitively, a modern RMS should provide dashboards that are highly configurable e.g. showing research project and task status, document update requirements, personal performance appraisals, monitoring of investment objectives against patterns of activity, etc.
Modern RMS: integration of data, systems and workflow
A modern RMS should be able to facilitate the integration of adjacent systems, third-party data sources and existing workflows – within a collaborative team environment. Doing so helps avoid duplication of work. It also makes research processes smoother, and auditing spot tests or diligence checks simple and painless.
When investment research and due diligence data scales up, how you categorize, name and store it becomes increasingly important. A modern RMS must safeguard against disorganized, miscategorized artifacts which can rapidly snowball into an unworkable tangle of research/due diligence IP.
In terms of systems integrations and third-party information, a modern RMS should be readily capable of ingesting all manner of sources including ESG and alternative data.
In truth there are likely to be more than just these 5 areas of ‘must-haves’ for an RMS evaluation, but the specifics will come down to what your individual organization requires. Find out more in the RMS Buyers’ Guide 2023 edition.
The biggest challenge with evaluating a modern RMS solution is that requirements change all the time, while many RMS approaches and products do not. This means looking for agility and adaptability to address future challenges rather than seeking only the ability to deliver the necessary RMS functionality and integration for today’s business transformation.