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By: Data Front Editorial Team
Published on: 2022-11-16
One of the most important trends in the business world in recent years— the proliferation of low code or no code applications for business web development—is emerging in the domain of fund reporting. The implications of this advancement are important because it promises major efficiency gains the likes we have witnessed in the world of conventional web development.
The low-code marketplace was valued at roughly US$13.8 billion in 2020 by Gartner, Inc. and is projected to be one of the fastest growing segments of the technology sector over the next decade. Its arrival in the fund reporting space is important for many of the reasons it has taken the rest of the business world by storm. The trend has reduced or eliminated the need for specialist web development teams—reducing the cost of development—and just as importantly reducing the time it takes to develop commercial websites.
Imagine developing fund reporting or client reporting sites in a fraction of the time it once took to develop a traditional site. It is not hyperbole to say that these sites can be developed up to ten times faster than before. Crucially, the use of no code or low code platforms does not mean that companies must sacrifice functionality or customizations to their reports. It is not a trade-off.
Rather than write lines of codes to develop a fund or client report in HTML or PDF format, low code solutions allow users to access reusable components and process modelling to develop their reports. With the use of visual, declarative techniques that are accessed by the application users, reports can be transformed, modified and designed with little or no knowledge of code. Moreover, these solutions promote a mobile-first, fully responsive approach and will also provide compliance with accessibility standards such as WCAG 2.0.
The ability to develop a fund or client report without having to rely on a team of web developers is significant from both a cost and time saving perspective. When it comes to development costs, asset managers and advisors can reduce or eliminate development teams. One estimates from KPMG puts the cost saving as high as 40%. [i] It's no secret that over the past five years, the cost of running web development teams has risen significantly as demand for web developers exploded due to the Global Pandemic.
One worrying trend in recent years has been a developer shortage that has prevented asset managers from making timely changes to their reports which has impacted sales support, the ability to keep up with regulation, and just as crucially to maintain information security.
This bottleneck is set to change: “In today’s world of SaaS, cloud and low-code and no-code tools, everyone can be a developer,” according to Jason Wong of Gartner. [ii]
The proliferation of no code or low code applications has created a new breed of employee dubbed the “citizen developer.” Citizen developers do not require specialized degrees to build reports or website— just the right tools to facilitate this work. They are part of a new army of business technologists who develop technology but are not part of the IT department, and it is management’s role to enable these technologists with the tools they need to affect a digital transformation at their firms.
According to Forrester’s Developer Survey, 2022, 20% of companies say that they recruit non-degree-bearing candidates, and 24% state that they recruit university grads with non-IT degrees.[iii]This is a direct result of the growth of now code and low code solutions for IT development, and asset managers and dealers will benefit from this trend.
The amount of time that is saved by accessing pre-developed components that do not require coding from scratch is even more powerful for fund reporting given the ever-changing requirements that asset managers and dealers are faced with in support of marketing, sales and compliance. New product development and compliance requirements demand it.
The need to change a fund report to support product development and sales traditionally requires engaging a development team with long lead times because corporate websites are tightly guarded for security and continuity reasons. Changing corporate website code requires detailed requirements, specialized developers, quality assurance and testing leading to long lead times and high costs. Any time that code changes, there are opportunities to introduce errors that can lead to downtime and in a worst-case scenario malicious code injection that can have major security consequences.
One of the key findings of the low code trend is that applications built on low code platforms tend to be more secure according to Forrester research. [iv] Low-code vendors take on major responsibilities for securing their platforms on their "own” clouds and ensuring the technical quality of applications built with their tooling according to Melissa Bongarzone of Gartner.
Another important aspect of low code or no code solutions is the ability of these applications to be able to talk to other applications within the tech stack—interoperability in technology parlance. None of these solutions are a panacea for reporting, and they will need to be able to talk to other internal and third-party applications especially legacy applications that financial firms are often stuck with for any number of reasons.
Low Code solutions for asset managers and dealers allow for scalability because the latest breed of low code platforms is achieving enterprise class scale through cloud native technologies. For example, Kubernetes containers allow for applications to be packaged and deployed in cloud computing centres such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. These solutions are easily deployed and updated, are readily scalable, and highly available with multiple layers of redundancy.
The integration of data APIs with low code reporting solutions means that asset managers and dealers are starting to experience the efficiencies that low code solutions have brought to traditional web reporting. The low code revolution for fund and client reporting will allow for process automation and the adoption of agile techniques to the asset management industry. The trend toward automation of manual processes in the fund industry is well underway. The next phase that utilizes low code solutions will pave the way for efficiency gains and cost savings.
The value of a low code reporting solutions is amplified by the reusability of its components. Rather than building one component for a web profile and another distinct component for a factsheet or a sales deck, the same component is repurposed across all reports guaranteeing that reports align in look and feel, data accuracy and even legal disclosures.
When it comes to compliance, it is crucial that reports are updated with the appropriate disclosures that cut across multiple report types. The ability to reuse disclosures or have those disclosures baked into the applications is a major relief for compliance managers. The need to update disclosures each time a new report is created is eliminated because they are baked into the reporting components.
Its highly promising; however, successful implementation of low code or no code reporting solutions hinges on easy access to reporting data. This is equally true whether developers are coding reports or citizen developers are utilizing a no-code solution. Therefore, a low-code reporting application is only as good as the data that feeds into it, ideally by way of API access to reporting datasets.
There are thousands of lines of text devoted to the topic of data quality and data access. Suffice it say, reporting solutions require quality data feeds either directly to the asset manager’s data layer and often to third party data sources. In the former case, it’s the firm’s IT department facilitating API access to its data, and in the latter, it requires API access to the third-party data provider which can and should be facilitated by the reporting solution.
The landscape has changed and the opportunity to develop low-code or no-code fund reporting websites and other collateral is upon us. The promise of this type of solution is tremendous because it reduces the cost and time to develop reports by months by reducing the development cycle.