State Street AlphaSM : Driving Open and Scalable Innovation

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State Street AlphaSM : Driving Open and Scalable Innovation

State Street Corporation (NYSE: STT) is one of the world's leading providers of financial services to institutional investors, including investment servicing, investment management and investment research and trading. It services and manages investments for the world’s governments, institutions and investment companies through a global network of approximately 39,000 employees* in more than 100 geographic markets.

When two years ago State Street announced the acquisition of Charles River Development and the vision to connect clients’ front, middle and back office capabilities, the industry watched closely as the concept of State Street AlphaSM emerged.  It was a milestone for State Street and for the financial industry. Since then we have seen the industry – competitors and clients – move towards this front-to-back positioning.   

State Street Alpha redefines the common industry definition of ‘alpha’ to mean powering better performance and outcomes at every point of the investment lifecycle.  The platform supports business across the entire investment process, automating workflows and streamlining operations, giving assets mangers quick and deeper insights into portfolio construction. Backed by deep enterprise data and transaction management capabilities, this interoperable platform enables clients to integrate and align their preferred systems, while allowing State Street to deliver a seamless and operationally efficient process and give clients the ability to scale in ways they would not been able to before with fragmented service providers. 

JR Lowry, Chief Operating Officer, State Street Alpha, provides his thoughts on the new platform.

Why did State Street think that it was necessary to offer the industry’s “first ever front-to back client servicing platform?”

We recognized the need for a platform that would help both asset managers and asset owners re-engineer their operating models to lower costs, streamline their operations and unlock insights from their investment operations data.

Asset managers have been facing the pressure of fee compression on the one hand, driven by the shift to passive, and rising costs of technology and regulatory compliance on the other.  Asset owners are also facing higher operational costs at the same time that a lower-for-even-longer interest rate environment is making it more challenging for them to achieve their return expectations and meet their long-term liabilities.

To better serve our clients we had to deliver a single, integrated platform that delivers results across asset classes and geographies and builds efficiencies from a cost, data access, and decision making perspective.

Has the career landscape at State Street changed with the introduction of Alpha?

Our solutions are increasingly powered by emerging technologies like machine learning, cloud computing, advanced data management techniques, and robotic process automation. We’re also embedding more user-centric design principles in our product development and looking to provide more mobile capabilities. All these areas create multiple career opportunities within State Street and Charles River Development, and have increased the number and type of product and technology roles we are hiring for. We are focused on accelerating investment workflows, providing advanced data aggregation, analytics and compliance tools, and connecting and exchanging data with other industry platforms and providers.

Talk to us about the attributes and qualifications you look for in a candidate. 

There are two things that I would highlight here.  First is the leadership skills or people skills, depending on the level of the role we are hiring for.  No matter what degree, experience and achievements someone has, one of the most critical elements is the ability to work with other people. Being a partner to clients, understanding their challenges and pressures they are under, being a leader and guiding a team through uncertainty with empathy and reassurance, and being a good colleague who is inclusive and appreciative. These are the characteristics we need right now.

However, skills play a significant role.  It’s hard to keep up with all the advancements in the technology space and challenges in our industry, so there is no degree or hard skill that will guarantee that someone will be able to do their job.  It’s not so much important what the candidate already knows but whether they’re interested in learning new things and driven by an agile environment? Are they up to date with latest changes in technology or industry trends? Are they able to think independently and challenge the status quo?

These are the attributes that have helped people succeed on our teams and that I believe will be in demand going forward.

Mike McCarter, Director of Engineering, is responsible for the development of the core framework State Street Alpha, the Alpha Data Platform and Decision Support Services.

Mike, how are you innovating to address challenges your clients are facing in the financial services industry?

From a platform perspective, our clients are focused on access to data, flexible scaling of compute power and an open architecture.  Our platform is being built in partnership with Microsoft®Azure upon Kafka and Snowflake® architectures to address these concerns.   

What are some of the technologies that you are using?

The core technologies include Java, Spring Boot, Javascript, Snowflake, SQL, Docker, Kubernetes, and Kafka.  We retain the ability to embrace polyglot implementations to match a particular problem with the most appropriate technology.  We are promoting true cloud-native development over lift-and-shift implementations of existing services.

Can you give us some specific examples of new technology you’re building out?

Alpha is a federation of investment management microservices working in concert with our data platform.  The services are built upon an event-driven architecture to allow the development of low-coupled microservices and their core technologies include Kubernetes and Kafka.  Our microservices are authored primarily in Java. Our data platform will provide data integration, aggregation, visualization and enrichment.  The data platform will utilize Snowflake®, Microsoft® Azure-based data pipelines and an open-architecture for connecting to third-party vendor data. 

What kind of talent is State Street inviting to join on this journey?

We are looking to add engineers with experience in our cloud-native target architecture who also exhibit the same qualities we have always sought: a focus on quality, a love of the fundamentals of software development and a low-coefficient of fear.

What do you mean by a “low-coefficient of fear”?

Our best engineers are curious, outspoken, eager to demonstrate their work and driven to deliver solutions that stand-up to design reviews by their peers.

How is the team doing from a culture perspective while everyone is still working from home?

Overall I would say working remotely has been a success and that our productivity  increased.  We have always promoted small, goal-focused meetings for our developers and this practice has resonated with a remote environment. 

Have project goals and timelines shifted due to COVID-19 at all?

After confirming our teams were able to maintain success with remote work, we retained our projects goals and timelines and have continued to hire into and build out State Street Alpha.

Ready to make your mark? Learn more about career opportunities in finance and technology at State Street here.

2021 © Copyright State Street Corporation and/or its applicable third party licensor. All rights reserved.

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