Tag: CEORater

SS&C Technologies: Multi-Tenant Machine Learning at Scale

SS&C Technologies: Multi-Tenant Machine Learning at Scale

For the past few years I’ve poked around the machine learning (“ML”) and artificial intelligence (“AI”) space. I advised Boston-based DataRobot back in 2014 when they started to build their machine learning platform. I’ve thought about how we at CEORater may leverage ML to score CEOs and companies. Typically when we read about ML and AI it’s from the perspective of a pure-play vendor who markets and licenses its platform across multiple industries for a variety of use cases. Often the use cases we read about are focused on “power users” – people who have a PhD in Statistics or some similar quantitative background.

Recently I had the opportunity to demo SS&C’s (tkr: SSNC), new back-office, middle-office platform (“Singularity“) which has machine-learning, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (“RPA”) at its core. This was my first opportunity to observe a fintech platform that was built from the ground-up to fully-leverage ML, AI and RPA.

From a background perspective, Asset Management firms of all flavors (small, mid-sized and large, traditional, hedge funds, private equity etc.), Fund Administrators and Insurers use a variety of SS&C products and services to value assets (equity and fixed income securities, derivatives, bank loans, private placements and real assets to name a few asset classes)/ strike an NAV, settle trades and report on asset holdings. The company’s Singularity initiative will replace siloed products with a common ML-based core layer that will have modular AI and RPA services that sit on top.

Multi-tenant machine learning is a significant competitive differentiator. Some readers pride themselves on identifying businesses that have a competitive “moat”. For non-investors a “moat” is a source of sustainable competitive differentiation. Challengers who wish to compete against companies with established moats best be prepared to completely shift the paradigm and render the moat obsolete. You’re simply not going to spend your way around, over or through a moat. Brute force won’t work. If any company ever had a moat, SS&C has one in the world of portfolio accounting systems.

SS&C’s moat is about to get significantly wider and deeper as Singularity is rolled out. This is in no small part due to the multi-tenant machine learning layer. This means that as Customer X has an experience that requires a “learning”, the benefit of that learning is enjoyed not only by Customer X but also by the other customers on the platform. This multi-tenant element to Singularity’s machine learning layer is a powerful scale differentiator primarily for three reasons:

  • Large installed customer base: SS&C has a great many customers and users – therefore more opportunities for machine-driven learnings – the benefits of which accrue to all SS&C Singularity customers.
  • Purpose-built from the ground up: SS&C has incorporated machine learning into Singularity from Day One, providing the company with a significant and sustainable advantage over competitors who may try to retrofit a third-party’s machine learning layer on top of legacy products and services. Retrofitting legacy technology simply can not be as effective from a throughput and efficiency standpoint as a new, modern-architected platform.
  • Cost prohibitive: It’s not an insignificant dollar amount that’s required to build a modern, ML/ AI/ RPA-powered Fintech platform from scratch. To replicate Singularity from a domain-expertise and technology perspective would be cost prohibitive.

VC’s would be wise to avoid trying to disrupt this market. As I see it, the only way to replicate what SS&C has built would be to acquire the company.

Successful CEOs Share These Six Attributes (hint: Communication is Key)

Successful CEOs Share These Six Attributes (hint: Communication is Key)

Successful CEOs possess each of the attributes described below. This is an unscientific analysis based upon my prior experience covering and acquiring companies (equity research analyst; M&A executive) as well as my current role as founder of CEORater.
It is important to recognize that while these attributes are qualitative in nature they do impact the bottom-line.

1.) Communication:

Effective communication is the most important attribute for CEOs to embody. Our lead photo is that of Steve Jobs, the Great Communicator.  

  • Great CEOs are great communicators: Great CEOs communicate effectively to shareholders, customers and most importantly – employees!
  • Get your reps in: Jack Welch used to say that when he got sick of hearing himself repeat a particular message he knew that message was starting to take root with employees. Rocky Marciano knew the best way to maintain his edge on fight night was hard sparring during training camp.
  • Coach the coaches: Want a force multiplier effect in your organization? Coach your direct reports.

2.) Accountability:

Great CEOs hold themselves and direct reports (and by proxy all employees) accountable. Do not confuse accountability with intolerance for it is important to encourage smart risk.  

Don’t shoot to kill: Sales person misses sales target. OK fine, no variable compensation reward for the period. What behavior will change as a result?

  • Is there a communication breakdown in the sales process?
  • Where is the pipeline weak?
  • How are we engaging with customers and subsequently ingesting and disseminating that sales intelligence? Is that information circulated not only across the Sales organization but with Product Management?

If behavior changes for the better – i.e. improved communication – the miss may have been worth it.

3.) Employees First:

The tried and true principle of taking care of your own first. In return employees will take care of customers. The benefits trickle down to shareholders. 

Past and present CEOs that put employees first:

  • Sam Walton, Walmart;
  • Aron Ain, Kronos;
  • Jack Welch, GE;
  • Tony Hsieh, Zappos;
  • Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, Home Depot;
  • Reed Hastings, Netflix;
  • Scott Scherr, Ultimate Software 

Don’t confuse “taking care” of employees with free lunch, coffee bars and foosball tables. Those trivial items may help at the margin, but at the end of the day employees want to be recognized and rewarded for successful missions – both large and small.

4.) Intellectual Curiosity:

Intellectual Curiosity is an attribute we have paid increasing attention to as of late as we began our CEO Personality Analytics effort this May (“Personality Analytics: Technology CEOs Analyzed“)

Our experience is that intellectually curious CEOs are never satisfied (that’s not to say they are perpetually dissatisfied). They are relentless about “what comes next?” and “what aren’t we doing that we ought to be?”

  • Intellectually curious CEOs are more likely to solicit feedback from direct reports.
  • They are motivated to find the truth, not to have their opinions validated.
  • Intellectually curious CEOs are more likely to consider and deploy creative strategies and tactics to deliver customer value.
  • They view obstacles as opportunities rather than impediments.
  • Intellectually curious CEOs create “adaptable” cultures capable of flexing their business model as customer dynamics and competitive landscapes change.

5.) Long-Term-Oriented:

We consider long-term to mean 10 years or more. Similar to the “time value of money” principle where investment decisions made today can have an enormous impact in the out years, capital allocation decisions made today can impact a given company’s competitive positioning and operations in significant and unimaginable ways 10-20 years in the future.

  • Amazon (AMZN): As recently as a few short years ago analysts beat up Amazon for re-investing profits when AMZN appeared to be close to achieving operating profit break-even. Those investments made over a 24-year period (primarily in physical distribution) have paid off handsomely, enabling Amazon to offer same-day delivery service for a mind-boggling number of products. A competitive “moat” if I’ve ever seen one.
  • SS&C Technologies (SSNC): Founder, CEO Bill Stone and his team have taken a measured, strategic approach over the years to augmenting the “core” business with a series of reasonably valued strategic acquisitions. This strategic approach has enabled the company to build the deepest and broadest product and services portfolio across the financial services industry in non-discretionary product areas such as portfolio accounting. Early in the company’s life-cycle certain acquisitions may have seemed somewhat inconsequential. However, 30-plus years and $13 Billion of market cap later the company is the leading Financial Technology provider with solutions that address back, middle and front office workflows across the Financial Services industry.

6.) Trustworthy:

No love without trust. One could also use the word “transparent” to describe a CEO that exhibits consistent behavior whether engaging with a senior executive, a front-line staffer or a customer. We opted for the word “trustworthy” because at the end of the day employees typically describe their CEO as someone they “trust” or don’t trust.

Why is it important for CEOs to be trustworthy? If employees don’t believe you “have their back” – they are less likely to break theirs – for you or for the company.

Communication Breakdown

 

 

CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index Outperformed in Q1’18

CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index Outperformed in Q1’18

The CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index returned 8.2% and 8.4% on a Weighted and Unweighted Return basis respectively (click here for detail) during the January 2nd 2018 – March 29th 2018 period.

The S&P 500 Information Technology (TKR: S5INFT) returned 1.8% on a Weighted basis over the same period.

The Guggenheim S&P 500® Equal Weight Technology ETF (TKR: RYT) returned 4.7% on an Unweighted basis over the same period.

Top Tech CEOs: Bezos Is Best as Measured by Total Stock Return

Top Tech CEOs: Bezos Is Best as Measured by Total Stock Return

Bezos is Top Tech CEO with a Total Stock Return of 83,639%

We recently queried our CEORater database to identify the Top Technology CEOs as measured by stock price performance during each CEO’s tenure. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos topped our list by a wide margin. For purposes of this exercise it helped to have been a CEO for an extended period of time. It is also interesting to note that 8 of the Top 10 and 14 of the Top 20 CEOs on our list are Founder CEOs. We define “Founder” CEOs as those CEOs who were present for the first dollar of revenue earned. Additional detail may be found at CEORater.com.  Contact sales@ceorater.com for Excel spreadsheet detail.

Top 20 CEOs TSR
Top Technology CEOs based upon Total Stock Return (“TSR”) as measured during the CEO’s tenure. BP = stock price on CEO start date or IPO date (if not public on CEO start date). EP = stock price on Feb. 16th 2018. Contact sales@ceorater.com for additional detail.

AMZN 1
AMZN’s Jeff Bezos. Click on the image to expand.

NFLX 2

NVDA 3

MCHP 4

ATVI 5

CSGP 6

STMP 7

CRM 8

CHKP 9

ULTI 10

Technology Companies Led by Founder CEOs Outperform the Benchmark

Technology Companies Led by Founder CEOs Outperform the Benchmark

Our Hypothesis: Founder CEOs Will Outperform Over the Long-Term

We believe that founder CEOs will generally outperform non-founder peer group CEOs as well as broader benchmarks over the long-term. We believe this to be true both in terms of stock market returns as well as operating performance as measured by traditional financial measures such as Cash ROIC, ROE, ROA and Economic Value Added.

We recently created the CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index in part to help test our hypothesis. Over time we plan to operationalize the index to where investors may use it as an investment vehicle (stay tuned).

Founder CEOs tend to take a long-term view of the companies they created (their children). Where hired CEOs focus on the current quarter and year, many founder CEOs want their respective companies to thrive in perpetuity.

Legacy Matters to Founder CEOs

It’s about legacy for founder CEOs:

  • It’s why Jeff Bezos (AMZN) thinks about 50 year increments as opposed to quarterly increments;
  • It’s why Reed Hastings (NFLX) pushed OTT, original content and international investment when many investors wanted a U.S.-focused DVD distribution company;
  • It’s why Bill Stone (SSNC) has built one of largest FinTech companies during a period when much of the Capital Markets industry has become commoditized.

AMZN
Jeff Bezos, AMZN Founder & CEO

NFLX
Reed Hastings, NFLX Founder & CEO

SSNC
Bill Stone, SSNC Founder & CEO

We reviewed Total Stock Returns over the January 3rd 2017 – February 8th 2018 period:

  • The market cap weighted total stock return for the CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index over the measured period was 55.5%.
  • The market cap weighted total stock return for the S&P 500 Information Technology Index (ticker: S5INFT) was 32.0% over the same period.

CEORater Technology Founder Index Outperformed S&P 500 Technology ETF

CEORater Technology Founder IndexWe examined the stock performance of Technology companies led by founder CEOs vs. a broader Technology index where the CEOs of the component companies are not necessarily company founders. The CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index is an extract from our CEORater database. You may view the component companies here.

We reviewed the period from January 3rd 2017 through January 22nd 2018:

Amazon HQ2 – A Masterclass in Marketing

Amazon HQ2 – A Masterclass in Marketing

Earlier this week Amazon released the 20 finalist cities in the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes. By running a prolonged, public HQ location selection process, Amazon is in effect running (and benefitting from), the world’s largest free marketing campaign. We discuss in CEORater Podcast episode 112 (which is now available on Amazon Alexa-powered devices such as the Amazon Echo product family via TuneIn).