It’s been a little while since I dusted off my own little “Picked-Up Pieces” blog series. Back in May 2020, I was still adjusting to working from home, among other things as our collective lives were being turned upside down. I touched on topics ranging from “unicorn” projects to the service provider arms race to all things outsourcing and its evolution. It is an exciting time in the asset management industry right now, so I figured it was timely to opine on some new (and old) topics. Please read on and comment if you’d like—I love a good debate.
Travel and the Consulting Lifestyle
Dating myself, I know, but I’ve been traveling on a regular basis for close to 30 years. The Monday morning to Thursday evening consulting “schedule” is something I’m quite familiar with—planes, trains, and automobiles have been a big part of my life, not to mention countless hotels of varying quality, weather delays, and sketchy taxi and Uber drivers. It has simply been assumed over the past several decades that consultants knew what they were signing up for and that clients, regardless of industry, expected to see a wave of consultants arrive at their doors mid-morning on Monday, and depart on Thursday. That’s what we all did—wash, rinse, repeat. Well, I’d venture to say that the consulting “lifestyle” and the travel that accompanies it, have been radically altered for the foreseeable future.
Even before the COVID pandemic took hold, the trend towards less travel was apparent. We were all forced in March of last year to abruptly shift to a remote/virtual environment, and the for the most part, we all flipped the switch—candidly, we didn’t have a choice. And yet, our business didn’t skip a beat. Transformational projects with our clients, the lifeblood of our firm, not only didn’t get cancelled or postponed, they increased in frequency. Don’t get me wrong, there is still no substitute for in-person sessions at various stages of a project—current/future state workshops, whiteboarding sessions, weekend war-rooms during a platform conversion, and the like. But it’s plainly clear, we now have options on how to get work done, and it’s not imperative that weekly travel is a requirement. At the risk of upsetting the Marriott Rewards crowd, the travel paradigm has likely changed…forever.
The Race for Talent Continues
I wrote about a flavor of this in the aforementioned blog post from 2020, with a focus on a handful of the larger service providers and software vendors in our industry. I mentioned receiving daily LinkedIn posts informing me of various industry colleagues moving from one firm to another. That certainly hasn’t abated in the past year. It’s still experienced resources that drive the bus in our industry—as we like to say, there is no substitute for experience. If my recent conversations with clients, vendor and service provider partners, and friendly consulting contacts are any indication, the demand for seasoned practitioners in our space is far out-stripping supply. As I mentioned above, projects continued throughout the worst phases of the pandemic, and now, the Delta variant notwithstanding, we are poised for exponential growth within our firm. Our approach hasn’t changed over our 20+ year history—simply put, we follow the current practice of our clients and monitor the trends. We don’t hire junior resources, and place substantial value on those that have been there and done that. While we don’t have the firepower that a Big 4 may provide when asked to source a 50-person team, they don’t have our expertise. We are poised and excited at what the future holds as we enter into a transformational time in the asset management industry, and we will not compromise our approach to talent. We understand that talent acquisition is a critical part of the engine that drives our firm, and it will separate us from our competition as we enter into our next growth phase.
At the risk of providing a bit too much transparency into our current spate of projects and pipeline, suffice it to say that our business is transforming in pace with the asset management industry. The vast majority of our client base and prospects are either contemplating or in the midst of major change programs across their business. Everything is on the table right now—outsourcing, insourcing, cloud deployments, front-to-back, operating model design, and data-centric architectures are just a sampling of what we are seeing right now in our client engagements. It’s become clear that anything that might be considered “legacy” is finally being shown the door, and our industry is poised to move its business, technology, and operations organizations in a new direction.
Thankfully, the days of “like for like” application replacements and deployments have also fallen out of favor. We are working with a host of clients on truly innovative and creative operating model changes, made possible by targeted and meaningful investments by the vendor and service provider industry. In an industry that has often been categorized (often by yours truly) as moving at a glacial pace when it comes to disruption and true innovation, we have reached an inflection point. Asset managers are addressing their challenges in a new way, and to borrow a sometimes-overused buzzword, taking a greenfield approach to solutions. This is exciting for those of us that have chosen consulting as a career choice, and doubly so for those focused on the fairly niche asset management industry. We have the opportunity over the next 5-10 years to continue to influence our clients as they design operating models taking advantage of an increasingly diverse set of options that will set their firms up for success over the next decade and beyond.