When a company begins the merger and acquisition (M&A) process, the odds are not in its favor — some 70 to 90 percent of all M&A fail.
The entire process, which can last anywhere from a few months to several years, is peppered with challenging steps that can slow the deal to a halt, including determining a fair valuation, running a buyers’ competition, and the time-heavy step of due diligence.
Despite these odds, however, nearly 13,000 deals closed in 2018, many of which received some help from fintech firm SS&C Intralinks, including U.S. refiner Marathon Petroleum’s $23 billion buyout of Andeavor.
Since its 1996 inception, the company has hosted more than $34 trillion financial transactions while averaging 7,600 mergers and acquisitions yearly. Their platform absolves some of the hardships that put M&As in danger by providing a single, secure cloud-based space — a virtual data room — for buyers and sellers to engage in real-time. With this, no signature goes unsigned, no documents are lost, and no information is compromised.
Today, the company is looking to hold its reputation as the tech champion for investment banks that operate in global banking, dealmaking and capital markets by using design-led thinking, AI and other emerging tech to make the process more thorough and seamless for SS&C Intralinks users.
SVP, Design & Product Management Cengiz Satir: Cengiz, a tech veteran and AI connoisseur, joined SS&C Intralinks about seven months ago. A dedicated leader to customer experience, he is also growing SS&C Intralinks’s design thinking culture across the entire company through initiatives — like a product town hall and design hackathon — that invite people into the iteration process.
Director of Cognitive Business Architecture Rajitha Chaparala: Rajitha, who has been at the company for five years, partners with product managers, engineers and analysts to lead SS&C Intralinks AI efforts. By building solutions that support the entire cycle of financial deals, she and her team hope to expedite how quickly their customers close deals.
Senior Product Manager Justin Nowicki: As an investment banker, Justin built out a transaction management tool to help with his work. That tool evolved into his fintech startup BankerBox, which joined SS&C Intralinks earlier this year — using, of course, the SS&C Intralinks platform to wrap the deal. Today, he supports the company by ensuring the technology customers need gets built.
Billions at Stake — and Lots of Red Tape
Those operating in the global banking and capital management space are managing billions of dollars every month. It’s an exorbitant amount of money, which helps to explain why the industry issues so many compliance and security requirements. With stern rules and regulations around every corner, bankers won’t invest in technology from just anyone.
Justin Nowicki: When an M&A goes right, billions of dollars change hands. Many people — sometimes thousands — become millionaires or billionaires overnight. Our software is central to this process. It’s a high-stakes game, and we help make the deal successful. SS&C Intralinks has been working with the banks for over 20 years, and at many major banks, we are the only approved provider of certain types of software.
When an M&A goes right, billions of dollars change hands. Many people — sometimes thousands — become millionaires or billionaires overnight.”
Rajitha Chaparala: Confidentiality and security of data and information are extremely high in these financial processes. We have to walk a very fine line with security and compliance to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Yet, at the same time, there is a lot of opportunity in the financial space to automate those processes. That has a huge impact on all AI efforts, as models need data to learn from, and access to the relevant data is hard to come by.
What Design-Led Truly Looks Like
Despite the high stakes of the M&A market, SS&C Intralinks has not shied away from some impressive product goals. The company emphasizes human-centered problem-solving and a deep understanding of their users throughout the entire product-making process. It’s an approach that companies love to flex but often fall short in their desire to helping businesses realize success by providing users with the right context. Delivering on design-led strategies requires an approach that understands the business flow and balances product design toward desirability, feasibility and viability. Cengiz and his team are ensuring the company truly fosters a true design-first thinking culture.
Cengiz Satir: Organizations often fail in making the design organization the driving force throughout the entire product development lifecycle. Design doesn’t just happen in the early stage of developing a product. Another factor centers on creating an internal culture that supports design in this manner, and that means advocacy and support must come all the way from the top.
When it comes to culture, it’s not just about the design practitioners — it’s about creating an environment where the entire organization can develop a design-led mindset, which we are developing at SS&C Intralinks. My goal is to bring together a cross-functional representation of the roles that are needed to take our products to market in creative and engaging ways for our customers.
It’s about creating an environment where the entire organization can develop a design-led mindset.”
Rajitha: One thing we’re doing that we feel is different than others in our space is understanding that design must take the lead when we think about bringing together the different elements of analytics and AI. By doing so, we’re creating systems that allow for the experience to evolve along with the models and the needs of the customer as new use cases and new data becomes available. Without this kind of an approach, AI and analytics solutions tend to lean toward ad hoc implementations versus evolving learnings that lead to increasing levels of automation.
Straight From the Source
To run on design-led strategies, SS&C Intralinks has to be in constant communication with its clientele from the beginning phases of product development through user testing, kicking off the development process from the customer’s point of view instead of the company’s. From there, the internal cross-collaboration begins, and no two projects are the same.
Cengiz: We are thinking through the lens of our customers, which means we’re working right beside them. It means we’re stepping out into the field to see firsthand how they conduct business and how they execute tasks, and getting direct feedback on current and “next-gen” products. We host a global customer roadshow and other engagement activities with our customers, where we get to know our customers and get rapid but meaningful feedback.
These roadshows often become catalysts for more than feedback: They lead to amazing participation in our design partner programs and timely feedback that informs our product roadmaps. It is also one of the many places where our customers can gain firsthand knowledge of new concepts and products and even get hands-on with our products.
Justin: I have talked to over 100 customers this year about the product we are building to ensure we make the best decisions around it. Recently, a major investment bank was struggling with one aspect of the deal-making process. After listening to their needs, we were able to build solutions specifically for them and their processes. Every bank does things slightly differently, so tailoring the product just a bit can be the difference between a bank not using the product or using it every single day.
I have talked to over 100 customers this year about the product we are building to ensure we make the best decisions around it.”
Rajitha: One of our primary focuses this year is to help customers find and act on the information they need in the due diligence stage. This is a combined effort working with sales, engineering, data science, analytics, product, design and search teams to understand the problem and conceptualizing and validating the proposed solution with customers, who we’re also working with to evaluate the effectiveness of the model. By working closely with the design partner customers, we are able to get an in-depth view of the due diligence process and the complexities involved earlier in the process.
On the Docket
SS&C Intralinks has no shortage of users to connect with: They’ve amassed more than 4 million throughout the world in their 23 years of operation and support 99 percent of Fortune 1000 companies. But the company’s product offerings haven’t gone stale — here’s what those 4 million (and counting) can anticipate seeing in 2020.
Justin: Outside of the virtual data room — which SS&C Intralinks pioneered and perfected — bankers are largely using email and Excel to manage deal processes. The M&A industry has historically been a slow adopter of new technology, but SS&C Intralinks is creating new, industry-specific tools that will give bankers the edge they need in an increasingly digital business world, one of which is deal marketing.
...we are also introducing AI-assisted automation that will help our customers make critical, timely decisions that lead to their success.”
Cengiz: We are not only introducing three new products that span M&A, alternative investments, and banking and securities in early 2020, but we are also introducing AI-assisted automation that will help our customers make critical, timely decisions that lead to their success. From a design perspective, we must strive to provide increasing levels of context from visual insights dashboards to recommendations where users should take action next.