In my experience in this medical crisis, the hardest part is not knowing when things will get back to “normal.” Many of the “normal” dynamics of my job have changed. I am not physically face-to-face with clients and colleagues, it is a delicate balance to keep participants engaged in on-line meetings, and juggling deliverables with increased family needs (home schooling, etc.) have required massive amounts of flexibility.
However, we need to adapt, and we need to have a plan.
The first part of the plan is coming to terms that “normal” will not be the same as it was. There are expectations that social distancing will be in place for some time, even when we go back to the office. In tandem with these workplace changes, we will likely turn to video conferencing more than we have in the past and continue to embrace remote work to varying degrees as we await immunity in one form or another. The safety of personnel and the continuity of business will continue to require flexibility as long as there are questions as to when it will be safe for our economy to reopen. In keeping with this need for flexibility, regular companywide communication will help ensure disinformation is minimized and give everyone assurance that progress is being made—a change that is overdue for many asset managers.
Second, priorities will shift. Business continuity planning (BCP) and disaster recovery plans will be updated based on the myriad of lessons learned during the shutdown phase. Technical debt in the ecosystem likely aired its dirty laundry during the past month, highlighting the need for updating technical operating models to be ready for another crisis. We have heard of firms struggling with reconciliation and collateral management during the shutdown, and now is the opportunity to fine-tune a solution in order to effectively execute a BCP plan. Many firms are also considering how migrating to the cloud can offer the flexibility and scalability needed to operate without disruption if lockdowns persist.
Third, change management will be more critical than ever. Just like having plans for when a crisis begins, having one to get things back on track are just as critical. Ask questions like what will the criteria be to reopen the office? Will we have all staff return at once, or begin to stagger the return? Will changes to the operating model be necessary? How will we manage the safety of our employees as they return to the office?
Communicating a structured plan to “normal” provides confidence at times like this. Having a plan will facilitate the ability for personnel to know what is happening, and what they can expect when coming back to the office. Our industry has weathered this crisis fairly well. We stumbled but did not fall. Time to start dusting ourselves off and be ready for the new “normal.”