What will your relationship with your managed services provider (MSP) look like in 20 years?
As technology continues to leap forward, it can be difficult to imagine what business technology will look like in a year, let alone twenty! What values lead to a lasting MSP partnership?
To explore this question, we spoke with one of Anderson Technologies’ longest-running clients, JB, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Client Relations at a St. Louis area investment firm. The firm has partnered with Anderson Technologies for over 20 years.
AT: We’d like to start with a look at your business. How would you describe your firm’s mission to our readers?
JB: Our mission, internally stated, is to advance the well-being of humanity—which is pretty audacious. We believe that we do that through our service, deep value investing, and by helping people expand their capital, which we hope will be used for the benefit of mankind. We know that many of our investors, as well as our owners and employees, are philanthropically minded. Through that, we feel we’re making a dent in the well-being of humanity.
That’s a big ask! I’m guessing you’re pretty choosy about the clients you want to work with.
Yes, that’s very true. We have two sides of the business. One is the managed account program, and we’re able to be selective on that side. But then on the other side is the fund business. We have a mutual fund, and don’t actually know who all the investors are in there, because we don’t control the access points. It’s kind of half and half, but we’re very happy to be able to help as many people as possible [through the fund].
It’s less about making money and more on improving the world in our own way.
What about your firm do you think makes you unique in your industry?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different investment strategies out there. We practice a very specific deep value investment strategy. It’s similar to what Warren Buffett was doing in the 1960s, before he got extremely large. We’re basically looking for companies that are troubled for one reason or another and investing with a multi-year time horizon with the expectation that they’ll improve. Much of the investment world is focused on high-quality or high-growth companies. We stand apart from that perspective and are definitely unique. Even within the world of value investing, we’re off in a corner doing our own thing. It’s kind of fun.
Would you say your mission about bettering humanity is another thing that makes you unique?
Hopefully, we’re not standing alone in that mission. Wall Street has a bad reputation for being driven by money and greed, which I’ve learned is not entirely true, but there certainly are those characters out there. So yes, I guess to some degree we probably stand apart from the crowd with having that at the core of what we’re doing. It’s less about making money and more on improving the world in our own way.
Let’s talk about your firm’s history with Anderson Technologies.
We’ve been working together for a long time. Our owners know Mark and Amy personally. I don’t know when [their] professional relationships started, exactly, but it’s probably pushing 30 years. You all have grown immensely over that time, so we don’t deal as much with Mark or Amy today as we used to. Mark used to actually come to our office and troubleshoot problems. Today there’s a support team for that, but it’s been fun to grow with you over the years.
Security is obviously a huge issue in the industry. With hacking and cybersecurity risks that increase each year, that seems to be a bigger and bigger focus from the SEC and just [investment] participants in general.
Does your firm have specific IT needs that are different from others in the industry?
Well, we have some specific investment software we utilize that will be different than any of Anderson [Technologies’] other clients, just because it’s specific to portfolio accounting and trading. Those software pieces are unique.
I believe we may also be unique because Anderson [Technologies] doesn’t manage our core application and file servers. We do that through a different vendor, and Anderson [Technologies] helps support that relationship along with all of our desktop and local network infrastructure.
Security is obviously a huge issue in the industry. With hacking and cybersecurity risks that increase each year, that seems to be a bigger and bigger focus from the SEC and just [investment] participants in general. For us, remote accessibility has been a big driver in the last several years, and basic functionality needs, which always seem to be changing.
You have a satellite office in Denver, and I’m guessing that’s a big part of your need for remote accessibility.
Yes, very much. Over the last year, obviously, everybody’s been working from home. That was a big deal. And we have people travel from time to time. Frankly, most of the remote accessibility is handled by the other vendor with our private hosted cloud, but Anderson [Technologies] is facilitating access to that with all of our desktops and laptops. They’re also helping us oversee the other vendor. While [Anderson Technologies doesn’t] support their infrastructure, they help us manage our total environment, which has been great. The Denver office will likely become our primary office, and they’re helping with that transition, as well.
Other than technology advancements and things like COVID making everyone go remote, how would you say that your partnership with Anderson Technologies has changed over time? How do you think that we’ve grown together?
As I alluded to earlier, [Founding Principal] Mark [Anderson] used to be the guy who would come over and fix things, and that’s not the case anymore. That dynamic has changed, but I think Anderson [Technologies has] done a nice job of hiring the right people. We really haven’t had a bad experience with [Anderson Technologies’] support people.
We’ve been able to go from just talking to Mark to having a network of folks that we can tap into when we need to, in addition to the support desk. Access to key players is so valuable. Anderson Technologies has done a nice job growing and remaining supportive.
You’re really entrusting the core of your business in many ways to your IT vendors. Even if something sounds good on paper, you want that confirmation that an expert has vetted it and it feels good going forward, just like they would want to do with their own company.
What values do you look for in your vendor relationships, and how does your relationship with Anderson Technologies stack up?
With any vendor, you’re going to want proficiency and expertise, right? Otherwise, it’s not worth having. Anderson Technologies definitely provided that. It is certainly nice to have a layer of trust. You know, we’re basically exposing all of our data to whomever our IT vendors are. There’s really no way around that because they need to have access to your systems. You’re really entrusting the core of your business in many ways to your IT vendors. Even if something sounds good on paper, you want that confirmation that an expert has vetted it and it feels good going forward, just like they would want to do with their own company.
We’re very grateful to have a trusting relationship with both of our main vendors. With Anderson [Technologies], we have full confidence that not only is our infrastructure secure, but even within the team that’s supporting us we know that Mark and Amy are hiring the right people and creating the right culture so that those people respect our data, assets, and information.
What other factors have led to such a long relationship with us?
Anderson [Technologies] has delivered on the service year in and year out, even though you’ve grown, which is the hard thing to do. As you get bigger, it’s hard to manage relationships. And I think Anderson [Technologies has] done a really nice job of it. Anderson [Technologies] has adapted to meet our needs as they’ve changed, and that’s been terrific. We’ve been pleased.
Ready to meet the IT partner you will work with for the next two decades? Let’s talk today!