Aquila Capital are an award winning and market leading real asset investor based in Hamburg specialising in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure. Aquila manages EUR 14.7 billion on behalf of institutional investors wishing to gain exposure to renewables such as wind, solar, hydro, battery storage and other green infrastructure such as data centres and
A rapidly growing asset manager launching new products and pioneering new investment strategies within the fast evolving real assets space needs to leverage data in novel ways to both gain an edge and to prove the sustainability credentials of portfolios. Aquila needed a best-in-class Data Strategy to develop such a capability across all areas of its business. However unlike traditional asset management strategies trading equities, bonds and other liquid assets equivalent portfolio management, risk management and client reporting blueprints and software tools were not available.
To achieve an industry leading Data Capability Aquila needed support to embrace emerging technologies, develop bespoke software and new analytical techniques. Any approach had to balance the economies of scale and regulatory compliance benefits of standardised processes and systems whilst also embracing the unique approaches of a diverse range of investment teams to drive adoption.
Baselining current capabilities and understanding the current state data architecture of Aquila was essential - this was achieved primarily through stakeholder interviews, maturity assessments and interactive workshops across all areas of the business. Workshops focused on defining what good looked like in terms of equivalent approaches in traditional asset management which could be replicated or adapted. Proven industry best practices and Data Strategy blueprints were assessed for fit with the most promising identified for further exploration.
Once a broad approach to embedding a new Data Strategy was agreed a key initiative to drive adoption was the delivery of a prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in order to demonstrate the value of aligning all teams with a common Data Vision enabling automation and a data centric digital transformation.
The MVP scope was to develop a new bespoke Real Assets Investment Management database and software application to automate key processes within the lifecycle of hydro, wind, solar, forestry and farmland portfolios. This included fund structuring, distribution, risk management, regulatory and client reporting amongst other areas. It was essential to create a canonical data model for harmonising disparate data points which could be used in developing a new operational database and user interface and ultimately serve in the future as an Enterprise Data Model (EDM). The highest possible data quality was ensured through best practice Data Quality Management (DQM) techniques such as aligning metadata rules with software validation rules and data profiling were adopted to ensure and new Business Intelligence tools were deployed to democratise access to data and insights.
The MVP was delivered over a period of 5 weeks such that it could be demonstrated to users for gathering feedback and aiding understanding of the value of a well defined Data Strategy for Aquila. The platform was able to highlight a significant return on investment through implementing effective Master Data Management (MDM) practices thus improving quality and operational efficiency through reducing where fund data could be maintained and sourced.
Leveraging open source technologies meant the application could be supported in the future either in house, or via an outsourced commodity software vendor at a low cost and provided an array of adapters for tasks such as Data Management and utilising Business Intelligence tools.
The MVP has served as a blueprint for what can be achieved through incremental adoption of new technologies and best practices in managing data. It has provided a strong foundation for developing an industry best practice Data Strategy within the Real Assets space highlighting the potential for utilising Big Data, Data Science, Machine Learning and other techniques to optimise portfolios.
“It was a pleasure to personally support Aquila and lead this project working closely with the team in Hamburg. Real Assets is such an exciting and fast growing area of Asset Management with huge potential for leveraging data to enhance returns, reduce risk and cost through adopting the latest data tools and techniques”
James Phare, CEO, Neural Alpha