Garth Smith | CEO | Silica

Silica: Technology Solutions for Investment Management

The Investment Management Industry is a volatile one,  influenced by and influencing the global economy. Changing patterns of investable assets, guidelines, rise and fall of various world economies, and the effect of technology have put the industry on an edge in the new year.

Investment or Asset Managers need to become more agile, well-informed and extremely cautious as they invest their clients’ money. With technology as an aide, it is possible for asset managers to be leaner and more agile, adding maximum value to clients. It is here that Silica, a technology solutions partner, builds a digital interface that streamlines the flow of money, information, and resources between investors, investment companies and asset managers.

Silica provides administration and technology solutions to asset managers and financial advisors throughout Southern Africa and Europe. Its technology and outsourcing services are used by some of the largest investment managers in Sub Saharan Africa. Its rich experience in the investment industry helps the company to continually innovate and improve its solutions to benefit its clients and their investors. As experts in the trade technology space, Silica’s innovative approach can help make businesses more efficient, plus save them money over the long term.

Administrative and Technology Solutions

Silica started as a project team within Investec in the late 1990s, building a custom software solution that would administer Investec’s unit trusts. After its huge success locally, the team built a similar system for Investec’s international business. They were quick in realising that most international asset managers outsourced some, if not all, of their administrative functions. So the offerings were expanded to include an outsourced administrative business in South Africa, using the technology as the backbone that set it apart.

With time, Silica started tailoring the solution to what the clients require – from using its proprietary technology to full outsourcing of the client’s entire administrative function. Graphite, Silica’s recently launched solution allows financial advisers to buy funds online, in real-time. In partnership with IRESS, the Graphite solution provides access to an open market for investment managers to make funds seamlessly available to financial advisors at the lowest possible prices to investors.

Graphite integrates directly into the financial advisor software they already use, and all information and instructions are captured at the source through a single cash and application process. “Our clients can track investor fund performance in real-time, improving client service levels and efficiency at the same time. And because everything is automated, their administrative tasks are reduced,” adds Team Silica.

An Insightful Leader

Appointed as CEO for Silica in September 2017, Garth Smith fulfilled the role of CIO in 2016, after spending his first year growing Silica’s platform solutions business. A self-driven and results-oriented technology and financial industry executive, Garth’s career began in the engineering industry and progressed into the Operational and IT environment within the Financial Services Industry.

Garth was part of the Standard Bank of South Africa Group from 2003 until joining Silica in August 2014. During this time, he took on various roles including Director of Retail Operations at Stanlib;CIO and Business Change Executive at Liberty Life and CIO of Transactional Products and Services business unit at Standard Bank.

A proven pioneer and leader, Garth uses his more than twenty years of experience to develop and build teams that drive business transformation to deliver customer-focused success.

Growing Efficiently Over the Years

Silica has adapted over two decades of operation, learning from challenges and growing stronger while always staying true to its original goal ‘to add value to its investors and to never stop innovating’. The company has managed to transition and adapt throughout its 20-year history, on the base of building a successful software business. It built an outsourcing business 17 years ago that is now the largest provider of services in its market across Sub Saharan Africa, servicing nearly R2 trillion worth of investments. It has managed to expand the business to provide services into the United Kingdom & Channel Islands, this business today services over R500bn worth of investments.

Once Silica had its outsource administrative service business in place, it looked to reinvent itself, asking: ‘how can we do things more efficiently?’ The answer to this was its integration capability and most recently, Graphite.

Throughout its journey, Silica has never stopped trying to improve, and in doing so it has returned to its roots as an IT business, which is where its true specialist expertise lies. “This, together with our track record in delivering world-class solutions to our clients, is what will keep us relevant and competitive in a continually changing market,” adds Garth.

Being a Silican

At Silica, the management believes that its success is intricately tied to its people. Without a people-focused culture, Silica would be just another IT company. This thought process reflects in the way Silica treats its staff, in its transparent leadership style, and in the small rituals it has created to help itself build a more human-centric working environment.

The management describes the culture statement as, “At Silica, we are excited, we are a team and there is a vibe! Being Silican means that we support each other to achieve excellence and reject mediocrity. As Silicans, we are curious learners who continuously challenge ourselves and each other to collectively deliver better outcomes for our clients and our people. We celebrate the part that every Silican plays and is accountable for, in making investments accessible.”

The company also encourages a culture of lifelong learning, with 60+% of its staff engaged in some form of continuous education, favouring online learning.

Making New In-roads

Silica believes that the digitisation of many of the interactions of its customers with their investors and financial advisors will continue, and the adoption rate will increase. Silica is successfully driving automation and service improvement through the implementation of robotics and machine learning within the organisation. A key strategy of Silica is the adoption of cloud technologies. It has successfully implemented many key projects within the cloud which has allowed it to improve its agility in meeting customer demands.

Silica’s focus on the Investment Management Industry is driven by their purpose of “Making Investments Accessible”. With its services in the digital and investment platform areas and with new products such as Graphite, Silica believes it can help its clients grow their businesses. The company will also be looking to expand its offering into new geographies over the next few years.

Silica’s Values:

  • Quality Through Simplicity: adapting to simpler, more streamlined processes
  • Being a Trusted Partner: building respectful relationships that ensure everyone benefits
  • Being Curious: going beyond the impossible, challenging today, creating tomorrow
  • We’re In It To Win It: continuous growth through collaboration and development
  • Work Smart, Play Hard: finding the balance, never compromising on excellence, and sharing the fun
  • Own It: being responsible and accountableExplore more on connect@silica.net
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