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Case Study

Digital Transformation on Two Fronts

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Woodford’s strategy is to not be just another fund management company but instead create something different and better for its investors as well as provide existing and potential clients an understanding of what is being done with their money. Woodford combines rigorous fundamental analysis of companies with its perspective of the long-term macroeconomic outlook and variables, and how these might impact existing or potential holdings. This approach allows Woodford to construct robust investment rationales and make informed decisions. Woodford focuses on what matters: the long term and the fundamentals. Woodford combines rigorous fundamental analysis of companies with its perspective of the long-term macroeconomic outlook and variables, and how these might impact existing or potential holdings. This approach allows Woodford to construct robust investment rationales and make informed decisions. Woodford focuses on what matters: the long term and the fundamentals

This approach to investing has been employed successfully by Neil Woodford over almost 30 years to identify very attractive long-term investments in the mid- to large-cap space. However, Woodford believes that compelling investment opportunities do not start and end with larger, listed companies.

For more than a decade, Neil Woodford and his team have also recognised the uniquely attractive investment proposition of early-stage companies and have been deploying long-term patient capital to young businesses, which Woodford believes will deliver very attractive returns to investors over the long term. 

Woodford has established what might be typically termed a ‘back office’ function, which has a responsibility to develop new investment products/services as well as integrating and maintaining those that already exist. Complimenting this is a ‘front office’ digital function which is responsible for investor products/services.  To underpin both operations, Woodford strategically selected to leverage IaaS and PaaS on AWS including the use of microservices and containerisation.

In its commitment to create and sustain a differentiated investment capability, Woodford is continuously exploring new ways to deliver a diversified investment portfolio.  To achieve this, Woodford experienced two challenges, the need to always be up to date with new and often ‘cutting edge’ technology releases and secondly when such technologies are adopted Woodford requires a 24x7 operational service to keep systems up and running reliably.

Woodford 400 x 150

  • Prioritises reliability, architecture and security
  • 24/7 Operational Service
  • Adopted an Industrialised Cloud Managed Service Provider 
  • Ensure IaaS and PaaS on AWS

The Challenge

Digital transformation is leading to higher levels of economic volatility on a global basis.  These impact business and investors and demand the careful selection of the right investments and investment strategy.  In addition, tightening regulation such as MiFID II and GDPR are presenting financial services organisations with new demands and requiring business processes to adapt

Traditional hosting approaches, including even Private Cloud, can restrict innovation through high cost and risk of change when developing new digital products.  Public Cloud is a great opportunity for organisations such as Woodford to reduce the cost and risk of change. However, Public Cloud adoption requires expertise to ensure security, compliance and to exploit the maximum value from new programmatically controllable systems.  For example, AWS typically releases hundreds of new features every quarter, this creates a unique challenge for every organisation looking to adopt emerging technologies in a fast-paced market.

The Solution

Woodford identified reliability, architecture and security as the three core principles of its IT strategy that underpin how investment products/services should be built and maintained.

On this basis, a new partner was required to help in two areas. The first requirement was for providing overarching strategy and architecture services to keep abreast of emerging technologies and how to apply them. The second requirement was bolstering architect & build capability by augmenting Woodford IT with a new partner.

With this objective, Woodford approached its existing partner Softcat as a trusted advisor to identify the right capabilities. As a partner with an array of capabilities in software, IT intelligence and hybrid infrastructure depending, Softcat envisaged a new approach was required to fulfil the needs of Woodford, leveraging its AWS practice.

Three applications were modernised leveraging a range of AWS including S3 (serve static content), Fargate with ECS (container provisioning and management), NAT Gateway (security for non-internet facing systems) and RDS (relational database for each application). Collectively each application was entirely from code (AWS CloudFormation), with an automated delivery pipeline (AWS CodeDeploy, AWS CodeBuild) and integrated security (Inspec, SonarCloud, CheckOv). And operationally managed via AWS Config (configuration and drift management), AWS CloudWatch & AWS CloudTrail (monitoring and logging), AWS EC2 Systems Manager (patch management) and AWS Backup (reliability and recovery). 

Dean Gardner, Softcat’s Cloud Strategy Owner, says

“Since its inception in 1993, Softcat has been providing SMB, SME and Large Enterprises with access to best of breed technology capabilities.  Softcat’s thought leadership and strategy has helped customer’s like Woodford with IT services including; software, productivity, workplace and hybrid infrastructure.  However, during the past few years the IT market has seen substantial positive disruption due to Public Cloud.  This is typically why our customers benefit from working with a cloud partner.”

A spokesperson for Woodford says

"Woodford’s digital strategy was reaching an evolution point, where several strategic changes were taking place to enhance the investment capability. At the same time, Woodford required best of breed experience to leverage emerging technology such as data analytics and machine learning as well as have the capability to support and enhance already built products/services. By working with Softcat, we have peace of mind that they are reliably supporting the agile, fast paced nature of the digital business but also provide access to resources who help govern the architecture, service and digital transformation projects which underpins the products/services which we ultimately provide to investors.”

The Benefits

Together with Softcat, the resulting Target Operating Model provides a set architecture principles to govern the use of Cloud services, to ensure continuous reliability all underpinned by a service governance framework to ensure operational responsibility, transparency as well as support tactical and strategic change.

Dean Gardner, Softcat’s Cloud Strategy Owner, says

“The journey with Woodford is fast paced and exciting on multiple levels; we have helped Woodford with multiple agile engagements, including deployment of traditional IaaS solutions on AWS, as well as modern containerised PaaS solutions and the onboarding then transformation of solutions already built on AWS.  The result is a thriving partnership where our teams are enthused in working together.”