InfraRed Capital Partners
Global infrastructure and real estate investment manager InfraRed Capital Partners is a business accustomed to the challenge of change. Acquired by HSBC at the dawn of the new millennium, then rebranded after a management buyout in 2011, it has since grown rapidly across the network, from New York to London to Sydney.
The challenge: Rapid global growth with more regulation, but without the right technology
Laurence Hayes, associate director of systems and operations at InfraRed Capital Partners, summed up the operational challenges facing the organisation: “We have more teams, we’re investing in more jurisdictions, complexity and investor demands are increasing, and new regulations are coming through all the time. We needed to be more agile and cover a greater breadth of deliverables,” Hayes says.
The challenges required the introduction of new technology to assist in meeting ever-increasing demands. “We’re now around 140 people worldwide, working with a number of internal and external parties,” says Hayes. “As businesses grow, silos naturally crop up and frustrate even the most efficient work and restrict agility. We realised that to keep up with the pressure of a growing business, we needed technology that could help us to standardise and improve processes in the most coherent and effective way.”
“We’re making investments all the time, but prior to HighQ, capture of information was via manual circulation of spreadsheets,” explains Hayes. “To effectively process such large amounts of data, we needed to make significant changes to the data collection part of the workflow.”“At the same time, we had around 150 projects in our infrastructure business and wanted a platform for the multiple third parties managing and developing those assets to use.”
Soon after the business started to work with HighQ and a consultancy firm, Ethien, 15 initial workflows were identified – the first of which are now beginning to see results. “One of the immediate advantages is the effective automation of all the processes, which significantly cuts the time otherwise spent on admin tasks and emails,” Hayes says.
“For example, the real estate team sends quarterly compliance questionnaires to internal team members and external parties, such as property managers and accountants – but the number and nature of the questions needing answers depends on role and seniority,” Hayes explains.
Historically, he says, each would receive their email, followed by more emails to chase those who don’t respond, and eventually, they would manually collate the results and put them into a report.
“With HighQ, we can now send the questionnaires automatically, as well as tailor them so people only receive the questions relevant to them,” says Hayes. “There are then automatic reminders and the ability to filter reports and highlight who hasn’t responded or the exceptions reported. We can also automatically create the quarterly report for the compliance team.”
On the other side of the business – infrastructure – a similar process automatically asks parties environmental and social governance questions about the investment project and applies a scoring methodology to the responses.
The result: Improved process, monitoring and compliance, plus time savings
The efficiency gain should be clear, but it’s also measurable. “There were two people in the business who had to pull all these things together before. One has now been completely released to get on with other things,” says Hayes.
With use cases like this already well-proven, the business is now in the process of bringing on some other candidates for improvement, for example, a portal for the annual audit, which also involves InfraRed’s external auditor and accountants.
Hayes explains: “We can track each audit entity – again without email – plus, use the portal to upload draft accounts for review and approval. An audit issue log also alerts people to any queries and answers in a single place.
“Data is clear, current and can be cut into different views for insight into even more possible improvements. The benefit, while less measurable, ought to be faster responses to queries and a smoother process for all concerned,” he says. “There has been a clear benefit in using workflow to standardise approaches and force governance across multiple parties, minimising misinterpretation errors and so on.”
In other examples, workflows can be adapted for another business area or broken down into smaller ones. For example, the team has digitized the due diligence sign-off for buying a new asset. “That was quite simple to bring into HighQ, but we can now separate out stages such as incorporating all the companies or conducting a building survey,” he says. “We won’t create workflow for the sake of it, but there are many steps where it would be useful to track their completion.”
The future: Flexibility to expand into other business areas
“HighQ won’t replace all emails, but it takes some things off that probably shouldn’t be on in the first place,” says Hayes. And although it’s early in their HighQ journey, it could also mean change is in store for both the business intranet and some investor communications in the future.
Indeed, a general benefit HighQ presented as a provider was the fact the company can choose to take it in any new directions – such as project or task management – at its own pace. “A difference compared to some products is that we can develop it ourselves and become self-sufficient with workflows quite quickly. We didn’t want to be reliant on consultants to build out more solutions in future,” says Hayes.
“It’s also particularly good that it’s cloud-based — accessible to anyone in all the countries we’re expanding in – and clearly secure, as lawyers have been using it for years!”
It should even get business functions collaborating more about exactly what they could do with HighQ. “We’re talking to HR, compliance, the company secretary – there are processes to improve in all these business areas,” says Hayes. “And in the years to come, we’ll really try to build it out across the business.”