Finlab Takes On Industry Giant, PerTrac Isn't Worried

Dec 8 2006 | 1:16pm ET

By Deirdre Brennan 

Asset managers have dozens of options when it comes to choosing a database provider, but when it comes to platforms that aggregate information from multiple sources, there are still only two kids on the block.

PerTrac, the 800-pound gorilla of the fund data aggregation industry, has more or less enjoyed a monopoly on the marketplace for the past decade. However, a small firm led by a big personality has recently begun to make its move.

Each year since 2003, Geneva-based Finlab has doubled both its client roster and its revenue, and the firm has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“Today, we have less than 10% of the market, and they have the rest, but we are eating away at them, and where we are eating away at them are the big accounts,” says Denis de Pentheny O’Kelly, the colorful CEO of Finlab, which is touting its platform, PackHedge, as the most technologically advanced product on the market.

“From day one we had the policy that we will come to market with a new release every three to four months,” says de Pentheny O’Kelly, who grew up in Swaziland and developed a taste for entrepreneurial endeavors at a young age, inventing a light-dimmer switch while he was still in school. He has also served as CEO/COO of Telecel, the largest mobile operator in sub-Sahara Africa, and v.p. of marketing and services for Dell EMEA.

Finlab is indeed gaining some big-name clients, including New England Pension Consultants, Fairfield Greenwich Group and Abria Asset Management.

Jason Elizaitis, IT director at Fairfield, says that the firm uses both products, though he believes that Finlab’s PackHedge is the superior platform.

“Our main issue was stability and support,” says Elizaitis. “We felt that the PerTrac platform was less stable than we would like and the support we received wasn’t quite up to par with the support we receive from Finlab.”

Elizaitis adds that from the technical side, he likes the planned upgrade cycles.

However, PerTrac is also investing heavily in new technology, according to Meredith Jones, managing director of the firm.

“We were bought out by a venture capital firm in July 2005 and have spent the last year heavily investing in the PerTrac platform,” she says. “We have had two major releases in the past year, and there are two more scheduled for next year.” The firm has also recently beefed up its staff from 50 to 90.

According to Kristofer Kelleher, head of U.S. sales for Finlab, “The attraction to PackHedge is that it provides a truly aggregated model. If you are pulling in multiple sources of data from Eurekahedge, Altvest, and Bloomberg, as well as your own proprietary data, the result is a database without duplicate data and without duplicate funds.”

Other features of Finlab’s PackHedge include the functionality to provide shadow accounting for funds of funds, complete with daily, weekly or monthly reports; the ability to import data in multiple currencies; the ability to import and tailor due diligence forms; and fully customizable modules that can easily be manipulated for each user.

“PackHedge is the only tool on the market that allows you to manage NAV prices and returns, and that is critical,” says de Pentheny O’Kelly.

As for PackHedge’s price tag, the basic product starts at $2,900 per user per year. 

“In terms of entry level price, we are so much cheaper (than PerTrac),” says Kelleher. “At a point we start to approach similar price levels as them, but with far more functionality.”

Jones says that PerTrac isn’t worried about losing clients to Finlab, and that their renewal rate is extremely high.

“PerTrac has become like a Xerox or a Kleenex, a lot of people refer to performance reports as send us your PerTrac report,” she says, adding that the firm plans to keep reinvesting heavily in improving its products and adding new functionality not available anywhere else.

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