Making Financial Services Faster
Making Financial Services Faster
Our mission is to eliminate paper from financial services; leaving our clients free to focus on a digital future and reducing costs for consumers.
In 2005 a small group of technical evangelists concluded it was time to tackle the mountains of paper still driving large parts of the financial services industry. We formed Altus to deliver on that vision through automated software solutions and bold, independent consulting advice. Fifteen years later, we continue to innovate and accelerate the free movement of data.
Unlike the Hollywood scenes of huge computers humming quietly in deserted halls, real financial services companies are still awash with paper and people. Whilst they have invested heavily in computers, much of the processing power consumed by large banks, asset managers and insurers is actually spent manipulating spreadsheets. Moving beyond the automation of isolated tasks in the back office of these large companies and towards genuine straight-through-processing (STP) requires much more than brute CPU force. Crucially, it requires a forensic understanding of the data flowing around the industry followed by widespread agreement on standards for that data.
Our first foray into developing an STP solution piggy-backed on extensive data standards work by the HMRC which culminated in the government gateway initiative launch in 2001. Most people first encounter the gateway via their personal tax return but it also deals with various reports from business to government including, since 2007, registered pension scheme returns. Altus developed the first commercial software system to automate this process and that system still accounts for the majority of electronic reporting from pension schemes today.
Deciding where best to focus next was a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, we decided to model the haystack in software and use computers to find the needle. The PEAK system we built now covers over 10,000 discrete flows of financial services data and powers both our meticulous consulting work and the development of new solutions.
The first needle emerged from the haystack in 2009 in the form of our pension funds trading solution built on ISO messaging standards which has gone on to dominate its market and saved countless trees in the process. 75% of electronic pension funds trading is now done via our systems and many fax machines have been retired.
Around this time Altus annual revenues passed £1m and we transitioned from fledgling start-up
to established SME employing over 40 people in the beautiful city of Bath. Aside from the aesthetic benefits of being based in a world heritage city, there are some practical advantages too. Bath university is renowned for its computer science teaching and many graduates choose to stay having fallen in love with the city. Several of them now work at Altus and we never have trouble attracting new staff or, indeed, prospective clients who relish a trip to the West Country.
The next and most ambitious Altus product so far took on the complex task of digitising the transfer of entire investment portfolios between firms. It’s a notoriously slow and cumbersome corner of the industry that consumes huge swathes of time and paper and, this time, we were deeply involved in creating the data standards required to transform the process. It’s a marathon job that spans the entire financial services industry but, so far, we have managed to get almost 450 organisations to adopt electronic transfers with over half of them using Altus software to do it.
In parallel to our software business, our independent consultancy has grown to become a major disruptor to the traditional model. Having completed over 1000 engagements, Altus is now recognised as a leading Management Consultancy by the Financial Times and is trusted by over 150 financial services companies across all parts of the FS industry. Not surprisingly, that coverage has led to more software initiatives and the latest one, Finscape, looks set to propel Altus to even greater heights. We now employ over 85 people and last year our revenue passed £10M for the first time – and that figure looks set to grow further even in the face of a pandemic. In summary, Altus is proud to be a South-West success story.