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People Spotlight: Meet Michael, a key contributor to Composer’s innovative technology transformation

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Posted in: Wealth Management Administration
Published: 27/09/2022

 Image of Michael Pugh

Michael Pugh is the Executive Manager for UK Retail Wealth, although he’s based in Sydney, Australia. He’s been at GBST for three years, long enough to play two truths and a lie when he was interviewed for this People Spotlight. So here we go. Number 1: Michael has crashed a boat into a sand bank in a tropical Queensland location. Number 2: Michael has fallen off his mountain bike more times than he’d like to admit to. Number 3: Michael recently discovered sous vide cooking (FYI, that’s a method of cooking food by vacuum-sealing and immersing it in warm water).

Why did you originally join GBST?
I wanted to broaden my experience from working in a larger financial services organisation and gain a deeper understanding of technology where I could deliver direct client products and services. GBST was it. The company had commenced an exciting technology transformation for its wealth management administration platform, Composer, and I wanted to be a part of it. Let’s just say we hit it off immediately, and after a few discussions we were aligned on the future state of the platform which has now become a reality.

What’s kept you at GBST?
I’ve learned so much about new products, technologies, pipeline management, and the operational aspects of the company. I’ve been exposed to end-to-end technology design and delivery… working across multiple projects in multiple countries, with an incredible and diverse group of people who achieve amazing outcomes! GBST has never been short of a challenge or a career stretch for me, which is what I enjoy about working in general – to never stop learning! 

What’s been your favourite project and why? 

It would have to be the transformation of Composer’s underlying technology. We took decades of existing functionality and then invested more than $200 million Australian dollars into the technology transformation of our digital-first wealth management administration platform. We enhanced the underlying technology stack, modernised the user experience, and built out additional new functionality in supports of our clients. The new Composer is a globally accessible, scalable, microservices-based platform, with a modern and responsive web interface that is flexible and adaptable to changing needs. We’ve already rolled out the Composer upgrade to clients, who are seeing the benefits of modern technologies, better user experiences, increased automation, greater flexibility, and improvements to hosting and deployment practices.

What are some of the standout features and functionalities added to Composer in the time you’ve been working on the project? 

I’d have to say the bonds and annuities functionality that we worked on with one of our clients is a standout. It was a greenfield build, in so far as we didn’t have that functionality in Composer’s modern technology stack. The team worked with a new client to understand their requirements, and then how that could be applied across the industry. We were able to meet the client’s needs and extend that functionality to support our future product direction and platform.  

What is so impressive about the bonds and annuities functionality? 

The functionality provides greater flexibility for clients, advisers, and investors to manage the growing demand for bonds in inheritance tax and pensions planning. It allows Composer to provide the administration for onshore bonds, offshore bonds, capital redemption bonds and non-qualifying regular savings plans, alongside GBST’s existing range of tax-wrappers including General Investment Accounts (GIAs), Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), Lifetime ISAs, Junior ISAs, Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) and Annuities. It supports trust planning and caters for the bond to be held under many different trust types and all-in-all, it’s quite impressive.

What happens if there are features or functionality that a client wants but it’s not currently on your technology roadmap? 

Composer is built for our clients, so we work closely with them right across all our teams to understand requirements and align our product strategy and direction. The technology delivery teams work in a scaled agile framework – and when a new client need arises, we reprioritise accordingly. Our workforce is flexible and skilled across the Composer technology stack, meaning we can more rapidly adapt, and resource new client needs as they arise. 

If there are features or functionality not on the immediate roadmap, the flexible and innovative nature of the microservices technology that underpins Composer means we can adapt and deliver outcomes quicker than our competitors. 

At its’ core, Composer is a cloud-ready, API-enabled platform that helps clients manage operating costs and drive process efficiencies. Internally, we use the latest Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment tools that drive automation and efficiencies in build, test, and deployment. The real beauty though is the ability to extend system capabilities as business needs change via microservices, without impacting core system service!

What is a trend that you’re seeing with your UK client base? 

Digital transformation has been on the rise across the industry for several years now. We have major clients in the UK that are midway through their own digital transformations. That means they’re moving a lot of their infrastructure and services into the cloud, and they want a system and a support network that facilitates that move. We’re also seeing an increased requirement for digital front ends, and we’ve built significant delivery capability across our teams in recent times.

What do you like most about working at GBST? 

Three things – innovation, communication, and flexibility.  

Right across GBST, we’re always trying to find better ways to do things, and that’s an exciting way to work. For example, what we have done around our new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based model. 

The second is the communication style at GBST. I can go from a conversation or a meeting with the CEO and Executive team, right through to my team members in a matter of minutes. Everyone is focused on delivering value for both GBST and our clients.

The third is flexibility which is different for each person but needs to work for both the individual and the company. For me, it is about being able to leave work early sometimes for school pickups before client and stakeholder meetings which start in the evening due to UK time zones. It’s an arrangement that works for everyone.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? 

A former wise colleague once told me, put the shoe on the other foot. I always try to grasp situations from another person’s point of view to make sure I drive understanding from their perspective and therefore, can enact the change they need. 

What’s the best advice you’ve given?  

Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. That doesn’t mean you go and do whatever you feel like. It comes with a clear caveat that before you do something, you give the situation adequate forethought prior to committing. But once you do, back yourself and go for it. GBST creates a culture that allows me to take my own advice. 

So, Michael, which was the lie? 

None. It was a trick question. All true. 

 

Read more about GBST’s wealth management administration platform, Composer

 

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