Rezco: Uniting man and machine learning for higher returns with Google Cloud

About Rezco

Formed in 1981, Rezco is a specialized investment boutique managed by a team of dedicated investment professionals who handle in excess of ZAR7 billion in assets.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: South Africa

About Siatik Systems

Founded in 2008, South Africa-based Siatik Systems is a leading Google Cloud solutions provider with a focus on cloud integration services and bespoke software engineering solutions.

Rezco leveraged Google serverless products and machine learning tools to automate administrative tasks and built a financial trading platform with AI.

Google Cloud Results

  • Built an AI trading platform with Google Cloud Machine Learning and TensorFlow models
  • Used Google Cloud Functions to schedule and execute repetitive administrative tasks, letting staff concentrate on business-critical work
  • Empowered workers to innovate and take control of data with Google BigQuery

Cut days of work to minutes with Google Cloud Functions

South Africa-based Rezco, a boutique asset management company, knows that the best way of maintaining its award-winning performance lies with cutting edge technology. "We're a small company so we have to innovate to stay ahead," says Jann Krynauw, Director and Actuary at Rezco. For him, evolving with new technology is key, but it should not detract from the core business.

"Our business is investment management and delivering risk-adjusted returns, not servers and DevOps" says Jann. "What we want from technology is a focus on efficiencies in the business, and we saw Google Cloud Platform as a way to achieve that."

Moving toward a frictionless environment with Google Cloud

As a boutique asset management company with limited staff, Rezco and its workers put a premium on time. "We're obsessed with friction. We want to have as little of it as possible," says Jann. To that end, back in 2011, the company moved its productivity and email platforms to G Suite, freeing its staff from the burden of maintaining email servers and managing complex software licenses. Soon after, Jann and his team saw the potential to automate some of its repeatable, administrative tasks such as managing file attachments with Google Apps Script. Over time, Rezco's workers began to see for themselves the efficiencies that could come from automation and the company began looking for new ways to innovate on and improve its workflows.

"Our business is investment management and delivering risk-adjusted returns, not servers and DevOps. What we want from technology is a focus on efficiencies in the business, and we saw Google Cloud Platform as a way to achieve that."

Jann Krynauw, Director and Actuary, Rezco Asset Management

In 2016, after attending Google Next and exploring best practices with the Google community, Rezco began to look at using Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to optimize its workflow. To implement a solution that would exploit the power of GCP, the company wanted to make sure it had the best advice close at hand so turned to Google Cloud Partner Siatik. "We're good at what we do, but in terms of the underlying technology, we wanted to know that we were using the optimal setup for our business," says Jann. "Siatik's engineers live in this world 24/7 so we really looked to them to provide the guidance and expertise to make sure we're in line with best practices."

The first stage of the move to GCP began with BigQuery. After running a demo at Rezco in December 2016, according to Jann, staff were impressed. Without any servers or complex setup required, the company could move quickly. "Within a month, we had people using BigQuery to make quarterly reports and generate the data for our client feeds," he says. Rezco used Cloud Storage to increase its storage capacity without sinking costs into an on-premises infrastructure, as well as simplifying access for its employees and clients with domain names assigned to specific folders. The more Rezco explored GCP, the more ways it found to complement and improve its existing work processes.

"There is a high level of elegance in the way Google integrates its products, staff can easily send a message to a Cloud Pub/Sub topic. Google Cloud Function handles the logic and runs a BigQuery job, spins up Cloud Dataflow, or whatever else is needed."

Jann Krynauw, Director and Actuary, Rezco Asset Management

As Rezco became more familiar with GCP and its toolset, it started to examine with Siatik the potential to improve its workflow even further with a system built around an event-based API. Using Cloud Pub/Sub and Cloud Functions, Rezco could automate many more tasks for its workers than before such as data processing with Cloud Dataflow or running tasks in BigQuery.

"There is a high level of elegance in the way Google integrates its products," says Jann. "Staff can easily send a message to a Cloud Pub/Sub topic. Cloud Function handles the logic and runs a BigQuery job, spins up Cloud Dataflow, or whatever else is needed."

Unlocking new potential with Cloud Machine Learning

By 2018, Rezco's drive for automation had evolved into something far more ambitious. Using TensorFlow and Cloud Machine Learning to create models trained on data from BigQuery, the company built a deep learning platform known as alis_ OS, an acronym for Autonomous Learning Investment Strategy. Built on top of Rezco's collection of over 170 separate Cloud Functions, alis_ OS became a fully integrated part of the asset management investment team, offering recommendations and advice on the internal ideas boards. In June, alis_ OS started making trades, operating its own legally separate fund that makes its own trades.

"We've tightly integrated alis_ OS into our team as if it's just another analyst," says Jann. "It helps ensure that there's a solid feedback loop between man and machine."

Freeing up resources, building worker's skills

Since it started its journey with Google, Rezco has increased the size of its assets from ZAR300 million up to around ZAR7 billion, without having to recruit additional IT or DevOps staff. Google Cloud enabled Rezco to make some dramatic time savings for its staff. According to Jann, quarterly reports used to take five days to collate the data and put together. With Google, these reports are all automated and analysts only have to spend an hour checking their accuracy. Similarly, by creating automatically updated client data feeds, instead of sending out hundreds of emails every month, Rezco has made things easier for its workers and more convenient for its customers. "It would have taken perhaps a day every month to send those emails out," says Jann. "Now, it's automatic, we have more than four hundred customer data feeds, and it costs us less than a dollar a month. These small wins with Google Cloud add up to a cumulative gain that's been very good for us."

"Once the penny dropped about what we could achieve with Google Cloud Platform, it just spread. People from all parts of the company — analysts, operations, marketing — they all started trying to find new ways to innovate."

Jann Krynauw, Director and Actuary, Rezco Asset Management

One of the most significant impacts from Google Cloud has been on Rezco's employees themselves. According to Jann, ten years ago an analyst would typically need to know how to use spreadsheets. Now, everyone should know how to use Structured Query Language (SQL) and code. Google Cloud has empowered Rezco's non-technical workers to query data and automate tasks on their own, without having to raise tickets with an IT department.

"Once the penny dropped about what we could achieve with Google Cloud Platform, it just spread," says Jan. "People from all parts of the company — analysts, operations, marketing — they all started trying to find new ways to innovate."

With the alis_ OS fund up and running, Rezco is keeping a close eye on forthcoming Google Cloud products to optimize its platform and remove even more friction from its processes. The company is keeping a close eye on Cloud Firestore in particular, to help visualize alis_ OS in real time.

"We have worked with a top visual designer to visualize activity data from the Firestore events API," says Jann. "Serverless technology is a big focus for us. We really like the current momentum behind Google Cloud."

About Rezco

Formed in 1981, Rezco is a specialized investment boutique managed by a team of dedicated investment professionals who handle in excess of ZAR7 billion in assets.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: South Africa

About Siatik Systems

Founded in 2008, South Africa-based Siatik Systems is a leading Google Cloud solutions provider with a focus on cloud integration services and bespoke software engineering solutions.

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