COVID the Disruptor: Reinventing Asset Management

Empty conference room

In my last blog, Secrets to Crisis-Readiness, I spoke about the steps you should take to build a resilient technology and operations infrastructure able to withstand the level of disruption we’ve seen due to the pandemic. Fast-forward five months and we see the picture of “life as we knew it” fading further into the rear-view mirror. Life has changed, the way we work has changed, and we need to further adapt our businesses to this new reality.

To use a medical analogy, given the circumstances, asset management companies spent March and April stabilizing the patient.

  • Ironing out the bugs and adjusting to new technologies including Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  • Replacing physical signatures with electronic signatures using tools like DocuSign.
  • Developing tactical solutions and workarounds to challenges brought on by having a 100% remote workforce.
  • Finding ways to maintain or grow their revenue stream while containing costs.

As we head into the fall, it’s time to start thinking bigger and longer term. It’s time to think not only about changing how we think about the “office” but, more importantly, evolve the way we work.

Below are a set of recommended areas to evaluate as you embark on this journey:

Evaluate your real estate needs

Some firms (see Principal and Nationwide) are closing major offices as they shift to remote work on a more permanent basis. This scale of downsizing might not be right for every company and the path forward requires a thorough evaluation of target occupancy densities, workstation layouts, use of enclosed offices, rationalization of collaboration space e.g. meeting rooms, lunchrooms, brainstorming areas, etc. The biggest question to answer is: What will office space be used for and by whom? The next big question is determining the size of the space you will need and this requires understanding your post-pandemic business and operating model.

Evaluate your business model and product line

Certain markets (see emerging markets) have been hit exceptionally hard during the pandemic and have yet to fully recover. Others, including technology and “stay at home” stocks, saw huge gains from the pandemic and shift in consumer behavior. As some fund managers faced record outflows, others benefited from the market volatility as investors lowered their risk tolerances and swarmed ETFs and stable value funds. Are your products in-line with market demands in the face of the market volatility, possibility of prolonged recessionary times, and generalized global financial instability? Are the services you offer in line with the changing needs of your clients? Are there new services you could expand into to diversify your revenue sources?

Evaluate your operating model

Operating models were put to the test as companies made decisions, in early March, to keep all their employees safe and at home. Workflows that rely on printed reports, fax machines, physical signatures, all took a hit as workers found themselves without access to equipment and/or the essential people needed to keep a process moving forward. Popping your head into a colleague’s office to ask a quick question was no longer possible. Getting quick input from a subject-matter-expert on a problem you were trying to solve became much more challenging. With all these challenges, some of which are here to stay, do your workflows still make sense given the new mix of people working remotely versus in the office? What workflows have become onerous or inefficient? Are there opportunities to partner with service providers to ease some of those newly created pain points in your processes? Are your staffing levels adequate to support the new operating model? Do you have training needs to address a skills gap created by the new tools and workflows that are now required as part of someone’s job responsibilities?

Evaluate if your company culture is a fit for a remote working environment

The early 2000s are full of case studies on companies that failed to successfully transition to a remote working environment. A Google search will bring up at least a dozen examples of why these programs have failed in the past—and company culture regularly ranks at the top of that list. Does your organization value face-to-face interactions to get things accomplished quicker? Do your employees struggle to collaborate in a virtual environment? Is it difficult to find answers (or people) when you need them?

The time to react to our new reality is upon us. No one has a crystal ball that tells them what is coming nor how bad it will get—so all we can do is get ourselves ready. Citisoft has the industry expertise and the seasoned resources needed to assist in your transformation. Give us a shout, we’re happy to help!