January 22, 2020 | BLOG POST |
Envision Financial Systems has represented the quintessential American success story, growing from lunch meetings in a Newport Beach park to a successful North American company headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif. With client installations representing over 470 fund families with 16,290 CUSIPs representing over 3.8 trillion in assets under administration and 16.6 million shareholder investment positions, Envision has built a successful business challenging the status quo in the shareholder accounting industry.
The Dream of Envision
Though it is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a company, the roots of Envision trace back more than 28 years to 1991 and the intersection of the brains behind Envision: Satnam Gambhir and Tim Kan.
Prior to founding Envision, Mr. Gambhir was Vice President of Information Systems at Analytic Investment Management, where he was responsible for the firm’s investment management systems. At the same time, Mr. Kan was employed by Stockmate Financial as the chief architect of real-time quotation data feeds. The two met in 1988 when Analytic Investment Management became a customer of Stockmate Financial, creating the environment for the spark that created Envision.
Mr. Gambhir and Mr. Kan’s professional relationship grew beyond business into a friendship. They began socializing outside their work environments which ultimately led to discussions of going into business together. After exploring different options, the two decided to focus on mutual fund accounting applications.
Envision Financial Systems was officially founded in October of 1994 by Mr. Gambhir, Mr. Kan and investor Alan Lewis. They chose the name “Envision” to capture their discontent with mainframe-based technologies and the future they saw for contemporary technology in the financial services marketplace. Early meetings in those formative days took place in houses, public parks and eventually a regular meeting at the local Carl’s Jr. In 1995, they opened their first office in Newport Beach.
The early days: 1994 to 1997
At its founding, Envision’s technology was seeded by the shareholder accounting system Mr. Gambhir developed over three years at Analytic Investment Management. It was also heavily influenced by Mr. Kan’s experience at Stockmate Financial, thus the emphasis on contemporary technology that processes data in real-time which permeates Envision’s product line.
During the early years, Mr. Gambhir and Mr. Kan spent their time visiting mutual fund firms and mutual fund service providers gaining a thorough understanding of their needs and how to best approach growing the seed product. They then applied what they learned to create a high-level system design, mapped out required and potential functionality and established the database design.
Five years after they began programming the product, two years after the formation of the company, and following a rigorous battery of tests, the product was ready for general release in December 1996 under the brand name PowerAgent.
Envision’s first business experiences with valued clients formed the basis for principles it embraces to this day: provide personalized experiences and always ensure you are delivering true value so that, if called upon, your clients have no choice but to recommend your products and services.
Rapid growth: 1997 to 2002
The end of the last millennium and beginning of the new one marked a period of growth marked by rapid acceleration of client acquisition and new partnerships. A pattern emerged which would influence Envision’s future growth path. Rather than build new features first, then look for clients, Envision took the approach of building new features tailored to its clients and their real-world challenges for maximum operational impact.
Envision’s clients did not have cookie cutter requirements. Each appreciated the intuitive nature and flexibility of PowerAgent but each had specialized needs. Envision was building a strong reputation for being able to weave unique requirements and reliably enhance PowerAgent because of the inherent flexibility of the underlying technology.
Through a steady stream of new clients, Envision built a reputation for expertise in conversions. This is an important point of distinction as the fear of conversions often presents the biggest barriers to switching transfer agency systems for fund companies.
With the new millennium, Envision recognized a need to expand and identified industry veteran, Tom Wiedecker, as the first formal addition to the executive team. Mr. Wiedecker had first engaged Envision through his role leading the IT support of the retail business segment of T. Rowe Price. In this role during 1998, Mr. Wiedecker undertook a due diligence analysis of transfer agency system alternatives. While at that time Envision was still in its infancy, Mr. Wiedecker recognized the potential. His research brought to light the “refreshing” position of PowerAgent in a marketplace which seemed to have become stale in terms of viable alternatives. A relationship was cultivated from that point and two years later, Mr. Wiedecker eagerly joined Envision as executive vice president and chief client officer.
In 2001, Envision began expansion efforts in response to the mounting demand for PowerAgent and the growing number of employees needed to support its increasing customer base. The corporate headquarters moved to a larger location in Tustin, Calif., and the company launched and staffed a new operational support center Owings Mills, Md. The opening of its Owings Mills office supported the business need for expanded service hours and customer access to additional professionals with mutual fund industry experience.
Expansion: 2002 to Present
In 2002, to support growth and forecasted demand coupled with the unique nature of our prospective customers business, Envision saw an opportunity to leverage the vast pool of bright young software engineers in India. With the help of Harpreet Kwatra, Envision opened an office in Bangalore, India. The period from 2002 on yielded continued expansion as more fund companies and service providers became Envision clients. The client growth and the unique nature of their businesses, inspired Envision to consider how best to meet create its Bangalore office Jan 2002. With the help of Harpreet Kwatra, Envision expanded its workforce of quality control and business analysis teams, not to mention the coding teams, to handle larger projects and engagements, with aggressive schedules cost effectively. The global presence, coupled with U.S. offices on the east and west coasts also enabled Envision to offer 24×7 services where needed.
As the complexity of PowerAgent expanded, Envision realized that processes and procedures were required in order to continue providing reliable products. At that time, Envision decided to pursue the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 4 designation, which it earned in 2006. CMMI is a rigorous process level improvement training and appraisal program, administered by the CMMI Institute.
Grateful for the past and looking towards the future
With innovative solutions and larger clients came acknowledgement from the industry of Envision’s achievements. In 2004 and 2005, SourceMedia awarded Envision First Place for Innovations in its prestigious Fund Operations Award. Each year 2004 – 2008, Envision earned the Deloitte Technology Orange County Fast 50 Award each and every year. Envision was named to the Software 500, a list of the top 500 software companies in the world 2005 – 2009. In 2017 Envision won Best Clearing and Settlement Technology in the Fund Intelligence Mutual Fund Technology and Service Awards and Technology Solution- Best Client Portal from Wealthmanagement.com. The honors continued in 2018 with an Innovation in Distribution award from the NICSA NOVA Awards. From 2011 to 2018 it has been ranked #1 in the Mutual Fund Service Guide for shareholder system sales or lease providers.
In 2006, Envision expanded its product and services to the College Savings/ 529 plan market space. Since that time, the use of Envision’s technology has grown to support 36 direct-sold, advisor-sold and prepaid 529 plans across 22 program sponsors. Also in 2006, Envision created its Clarity Compliance 22c-2 trade compliance monitoring service in partnership with Celera Systems.
In 2014, expanded its services to include delivering its software products as Software as a Service.
In 2016, Envision expanded to its current location in Costa Mesa, California.
Envision continued to challenge the status quo of the financial services industry with the launch of a revolutionary product and a dedicated push into servicing for alternative investment sponsors.
In October 2018 Envision and U.S. Bank Global Fund Services, LLC, announced the launch of FundKeeper, a new mutual fund account servicing platform. FundKeeper brought financial intermediaries a new approach to supporting mutual-fund-only investor accounts. Traditionally, intermediaries hold these accounts directly with mutual fund families—and suffer business inefficiencies and lack of control. Or, they are forced to “go to traditional brokerage” with accounts unsuited to conventional brokerage fees and complexity. FundKeeper is an alternative to both these options. FundKeeper provides access to more than 16,250 funds with a largely ‘all electronic’ mutual fund experience allowing financial intermediary firms to enhance up front compliance and eliminate the need for back end consolidation of their clients’ mutual fund holdings.
In 2019 Envision began to place a growing emphasis on the alternatives space. In April it added a Head of Alternative Investment Solutions to oversee strategy and product development for Envision’s investor management software that supports alternative investment vehicles. In June it joined the Alternative & Direct Investment Securities Association (ADISA) and the Institute for Portfolio Alternatives (IPA), reflecting the firm’s strategy of bringing its significant expertise in mutual fund processing to bear on the burgeoning alternative investment space.
These changes demonstrate Envision’s ability to react and respond quickly to market changes, including a booming demand for alternative investments among retail investors and the need for greater technological innovation to make the investment and record keeping process more efficient. As alternative assets continue to grow and become increasingly mainstream, Envision continues to expand its alternative investment solutions to serve a broader range of asset managers and alternative investment administrators and support additional alternative investment vehicles.
With four locations worldwide and 22 installations of its products and services around the globe, Envision has come a long way from the meetings in public parks, so many years ago. Along the way, Envision has used its belief in flexible technologies and providing personalized experiences to its customers to shake up an industry looking for alternatives to mainframe stalwarts. With an aggressive focus on improving the client experience, the future looks bright for Envision.
U.S. Bank Global Fund Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Bank, N. A.
Envision Financial Systems, U.S. Bank Global Fund Services and its affiliate Quasar Distributors, LLC together offer FundKeeper.
Investment products and services are:
NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • MAY LOSE VALUE • NOT BANK GUARANTEED • NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY
Quasar Distributors, LLC, Member FINRA, SIPC. To check the background of this firm, visit BrokerCheck by FINRA
U.S. Bank does not guarantee the products, services or performance of its affiliates and third party providers.