Wall Street Custody Middle Office – A Day In The Life Of A Custody A/C Officer (Part 2)

In my quest to cover “A Day In The Life…”, I present Part 2 in this series.  The Overall them is Client Service and is applicable not just to Custodian Banks Bank and Middle Office, but many other Industries. As noted in my first LinkedIn Pulse Posting, “Wall Street, seen through the eyes of a Student”, I’ve have the opportunity to see “The Street” very early in my career, and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.
In our previous segment, we spoke about the monitoring of Trade activity and with primary goal being to “get in front” of potential issues. As I thought about this latest segments one of the things I want to cover is Relationships. I mentioned at the end of the previous segment dealing with locating missing funds for your client where the Paying Agent insists they paid.  So my client, an Investment Manager, had one key question, “Where were the funds?” In my situation, what was missing was an Income Payment in that should have been made in cash. The amount was something like forty thousand dollars.  I had to conduct a series of Conference Calls with the Paying Agent Contacts (My firm actually happened to be the Paying Agent in this case). Key to Client Relationship was continually keeping the client in the loop. Letting the Client know that while I did not yet have a final resolution, I was working on getting one.
I learned that the Paying Agent paid this payment and all income payments directly to a Central Depository, who in turn was to then credit the various client accounts who were holders of this security. As fortune would have it, I had contacts at the Central Depository having worked there as well and also I kept the contact information of key individuals. I went through the normal channels at the Central Depository who relayed the information that they could not find any payment that was not paid. I then used the Manager contacts I had at the Central Depository in hopes of getting more clarity on what might have happened with the funds.  Through these contacts I found out my client’s funds were sitting in suspense account at the Central Depository unapplied. I had the funds credited to delight of my client. I failed to mention that client in the past on their own opened up their own investigation with our Paying Agent contacts as well as the Central Depository using the regular channels with no results. You want to cultivate your relationships (keeping names and numbers) in your career as you never know when you might come full circle and need assistance. Those relationships were critical in getting the results that my client was not able to get. I also failed to mention that the client had this issue as a long outstanding issue and I took on the whole relationship after this issue had been outstanding for a while.
I’ll repeat that it’s important to keep a Client Relationship Management (CRM) database always on hand, which can be an address book in its simplest form. If you regularly email your clients (Internal and External) and sometimes there are both Individuals and Groups, you will want to keep within your address book individual names as well as group names. In a global environment you may have Individuals and Groups located in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Latin America, South Africa, The Middle East, etc.  Trying to remember group names for either Internal or External Clients can be a challenge, having this info immediately available in some email programs as soon as you start typing a name is critical. You may have Counterparty Contacts that you often communicate with, you may want to have a Group Name representing your contacts at that Counterparty. Back in the early days we use to have something called, “The Red Book”. This book contained all the key contacts “On The Street” or rather who did business on Wall Street. The Red Book would have contacts for various Departments. Even if the individual contacts changed, the central number listed in The Red Book would often point you in the right direction. I like electronic copies recorded in an address book, versus sticky notes and sheets of paper whenever possible, ensuring that your data is backed up or archived.
Let me also mention that getting the research done and facilitating the conference calls often happened outside of the working hours of nine to five.  As mentioned in our previous segment, it may seem crazy but a lot of what “gets done” in our business is done outside of the hours of nine to five. When you have a group of clients that you service, servicing them all and just dealing with the items settling that day, can take up your nine to five. To “get things done”, you have to, without question, put in time way before nine and way after five and maybe even some weekends.
I mentioned in my last segment in addition to dealing with the client, you also will find yourself dealing with other groups. Some days you will have to explain to the Accountant why a particular security was booked the way it was booked. They may need characteristics to verify pricing info as an example. Compliance Officers may want to question the details of a payment to a beneficiary to a country on the “Blocked” list.  You may be getting a request from an External Auditor that needs an audited statement. These are the reports that have already been validated by your Accounting Group. In addition to these groups, you have may have various other emergency requests that come up. Investigations alone can often take up a good portion of your day.
Stay tuned for upcoming segments where we will also cover Foreign Exchange as it relates to our topic with Securities, Cash, Negative and Positive Interest.
Mike Holman

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