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JPMorgan and BlackRock tap AI startup to automate opening custody accounts

JPMorgan and BlackRock tap AI startup to automate opening custody accounts

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LONDON — JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BlackRock Inc. have teamed up with artificial intelligence technology startup Saphyre to automate the opening of custody accounts, the companies said on Tuesday.

The system, which uses AI to remember when an asset manager has already uploaded a specific document needed to open a custody account, has been tested for the past six months and will now be used by the bank with BlackRock and other asset mangers.

The companies believe the system will make new funds get to market quicker by streamlining what is now a heavily manual process involving reams of paperwork, spreadsheets and faxes.

"The custody side, historically, has been a bit of a sleepy very traditional industry operating steadily and reliably with faxes and spreadsheets," said Naveen TV, managing director, product development in securities services at JPMorgan.

"Asset managers are starting to realize that the lack of automation is causing issues, and is actually a missed opportunity to be more efficient."

The partnership comes as large financial institutions increasingly turn to tech-savvy startups to help them automate and digitize some of their burdensome processes.

JPMorgan, which has $27.4 trillion of assets under custody, took on over $1 trillion of BlackRock's assets in 2017. The bank has securities services operations in 30 countries and a custodial network in more than 95 markets.

"We are digitizing this whole pre-trade space," said Gabino Roche, Saphyre's chief executive. "This becomes more important in the post COVID-19 world."

In many cases, COVID-19 lockdowns have further slowed down the process of setting up custody accounts, as a lot of the documents required need to be printed and signed by multiple parties, said JPMorgan's TV.

Many financial institutions do not allow printing of sensitive documents at home and with most people working remotely documents need to be sent to various locations to get signatures, he said.

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