Why I joined LeapYear – Driving Transformation in Asset Management with Data

Jennifer Grancio

| Strategic Advisor at LeapYear

August 11, 2020

I am excited to share the news that I have joined LeapYear as a strategic advisor. LeapYear’s data privacy software will unlock huge insight and value across financial services.

When I started my career as a young consultant at PwC, I focused on asset management and fell in love with the long-term benefits great investment products and great advisory firms can make on the deeply human need for financial security. I wanted to be at the center of building these great businesses and transitioned from PwC to Barclays Global Investors (BGI.) At BGI, I had the unique opportunity to work with a team of partners and to build out iShares ETFs and accelerate the growth of the ETF industry. BlackRock’s iShares and index business today is $4.7T* and the global ETF industry continues to grow. At BlackRock, I had the chance to lead teams across the globe to deliver new ETF services. I learned to crave and drive innovation and to use data-driven insights to better serve clients and to improve investment products. Today I work with leaders and great emerging firms in the investment, brokerage and advisory industries.

During my journey, I have been amazed not only by how the investment and brokerage industries help our advisors and clients invest, but how much data is generated. The data is fascinating, containing not only information about detailed trades (how much is purchased, and when) but also information about where the trades came from, who was making the trades and a wide variety of other sensitive information. A key element of on-going success is to leverage, as much as possible, this very rich and unique data to accelerate a business’ competitive advantage and profitability.

Some of this work to harness data-driven insights is relatively easy. Investment firms and brokerages build models to determine which investment products to create, and how to promote them in basic ways to the investment community. But many data powered initiatives never get off the ground, due to the sensitive and confidential nature of the underlying information. Not only does our industry have to deal with regulations that protect sensitive information in the financial services sector, but we have to meet the confidentiality expectations of our clients, investors and advisors.

I have found that basic ways to protect information, including role-based controls and anonymization, are simply not good enough to both unlock the value of data and protect each firm’s brand and clients. These techniques can be dangerous to learning and leveraging data. These crude controls can promote a “culture of no” – disallowing access, removing information or tables from use, and constantly creating high barriers for users. These approaches are logical, as firms and leaders must protect clients and their data, but hinder progress that would be good for client service and investment results.

Enter LeapYear. I was introduced to the company by one of their investors, Hans Morris at Nyca Partners, who recommended I take a look at the technology and its applications for asset managers. What I found went beyond what I thought possible. The platform, simply put, allows firms to extract all the value in their data sets, while keeping all the information protected. And financial data is notoriously difficult to deal with, as each and every piece of information is sensitive. For example, it’s not enough to protect the price of a trade, or the age of a client in a data set. You also have to protect the surrounding trade information, such as the entity that made the trade, the regional information about a trade, and so on. Traditional “privacy” techniques simply can not handle this type of data gracefully: they remove too much information (and hence value to the firm) or create too much risk. LeapYear enables asset managers and brokerages to combine and analyze data in ways that were previously impossible, unlocking significant competitive and economic advantages for any firm that adopts their platform.

I am excited to join the team, and further the mission to protect some of the most sensitive data in the world. It’s a topic I am passionate about, and look forward to enabling the firms that have worked so hard to create that data to realize the maximum potential of their information assets.

* $4.7T of 7.3T of BlackRock’s assets under management per June 30, 2020 earnings release were index and iShares.

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