Sally Crane, Linedata
HFC’s Stefan Nilsson decided to have a chat with Linedata’s Asian Managing Director Sally Crane about her work in the complex and fast-changing financial markets and why Asia is not for the faint-hearted.
What is your background and what brought you to Asia and the hedge fund industry?
After graduating with a degree in Financial Services from Sheffield Hallam University I moved to London to begin my first job in the city – working in the market data and software space. Within two years I had an opportunity to join FactSet to open up their Hong Kong office. I jumped at the chance and moved to Hong Kong for two years – 18 years later I am still here. My first 14 years In Hong Kong at Factset served me well in understanding Asia and the institutional and alternative markets – then four years ago I chose to specialise in hedge funds by moving across to Linedata.
Can you tell us about what Linedata is offering Asian hedge funds?
Linedata is a company that had grown by acquisition and it has many different products servicing the asset management segments of front, middle and back office. The hedge fund product is called Linedata Global Hedge and it offers an integrated and flexible platform including trading and order management, portfolio management and middle office, investor accounting, pre and post compliance, and risk and reporting. The system is modular meaning you can add functionality as your business requires. We also offer the service elements of hosting, managed services, consulting and support. We recognise that the financial markets are growing in complexity and changing faster than ever so our response is to be experts in the areas we cover. Those Linedata experts act as an extension of our clients’ internal teams and we pride ourselves on our exceptional client service. We also continually invest in our suite of systems and services enabling us to support our clients’ growth.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for fund managers operating in Asia today?
Asia is large and diverse representing many countries, both developed and emerging. So for those trading across these multiple markets, that represents a challenge in itself. Each market has its own set of regulations as well as the fact hedge funds need to adhere to regulations from their investors’ domicile. So the regulation burden is immense. There is also a different approach to trading and the use of derivatives in each market as well as the fact that the markets in Asia are much more volatile and change rapidly. You could say that Asia is not for the faint-hearted…
One of the issues in the Asian hedge fund industry is the relatively small size of assets managed by a typical Asian fund manager. Are you able to serve smaller start-ups as well as multi-billion dollar managers?
Linedata Global Hedge can serve small startups with under US$50m and offers them the operational efficiency to allow them to grow into billion dollar funds, of which we have many. Each year we sign both small startups and those who have either outgrown their current system or wish to move off an internal system, so they can refocus on generating alpha by leaving the technology piece to us. Linedata Global Hedge is a very robust platform that is customisable and flexible and offers the choices of either being hosted by Linedata or deployed to the client’s infrastructure.
We have seen a number of asset management-related frauds in Asia in recent years. Subsequently many investors are now spending more time on operational due diligence and scrutinising funds and their service providers. Has this had any impact on Linedata’s business in Asia? Do you check potential clients more thoroughly now than you used to?
Many of our new clients are referrals from either existing clients, prime brokers, fund admins or even existing users moving on. When we start working with a new client, we spend a lot of time helping them answer many questions that their investors are asking. So we are very much involved in helping them design processes, creating audit trails etc. to help them give investors the right amount of transparency.
What do you think the future looks like for the hedge fund industry in Asia?
There is definitely demand from investors for Asian strategies and Asian based managers. We have seen a healthy flow of startups which doesn’t look to be diminishing. Historically most of the money has come from Europe, now we are seeing more US money. As the market in China matures and becomes more accessible it will be source of future opportunity for hedge fund managers in the region.
If you hadn’t been working in financial services, what would you have been doing for a living?
I never really had a back-up plan, I knew I wanted to work in financial services, so I studied for it, saw an opportunity in Asia and jumped straight in….