There’s no shortage of media analysis of trends affecting asset management firms and face-to-face conversation is the best way to really understand how firms are managing the challenges and opportunities they have in common. With clients across the spectrum of asset and wealth management, SS&C Advent is well positioned to be a broker of those conversations.
We recently hosted a networking event attended by Bay Area clients representing 20+ firms to discuss and share thought leadership around current opportunities and challenges impacting the industry. Our panel was comprised of three local clients from cache asset management, alternative and advisory firms and one industry analyst. The conversation was lively, wide ranging and definitely well-received by the audience, with insightful discussion around common firm priorities and challenges. While our discussion was full of dynamic conversation, we’ve selected a few highlights that resonated with the group, and were of particular interest to our audience:
The challenges of growth: The industry is enjoying a sustained period of growth, and that’s a good thing – but growth brings its own challenges and therefore needs to be smart growth vs. growth for growth’s sake. Angela Osborne, COO with Aperio Group, made the distinction between simply chasing revenue and “good, healthy” growth, which includes targeting clients selectively and thinking long-term in their technology decisions. She clarified it’s not building just for the here and now, but for the ability to scale into the future. Angela suggested evaluating what technology partners (like SS&C Advent) and service providers are doing, and leverage their solutions and expertise before committing big dollars to build solutions. Jake Schutt, CTO of Parallel Advisors, added that it’s important to ensure that “technology is serving clients” and adding value to the overall relationship.
Keys to M&A success: With mergers and acquisitions among asset managers at record levels, many combined firms feel pressure to integrate systems as quickly as possible. Not so fast, said our panel. Gabriel Schofield, CTO of Symphony Asset Management, and Angela both spoke from the experience of overseeing multiple consolidations at previous firms. Both agreed it is essential to get people on board with the merger before diving into integration. “Having a cohesive culture first allows the joined organization to figure out the best technology solutions for its clients,” Angela said. There are best practices each firm can offer and a culture that can collaborate and embrace changes vs. siloed resistance to change.
Retaining and attracting talent: The panel noted that a full-employment economy has created a talent shortage, particularly in technology and operations. The challenge is especially acute for these Bay Area firms that are competing with Silicon Valley for tech hires. Investment firms need to differentiate on such factors as flexibility and work/life balance, and creating a collaborative environment where employees feel heard.
Emerging technologies: With all the buzz surrounding artificial intelligence and machine learning, many firms fear falling behind as they try to figure out how these technologies fit into their firms. Our panel’s advice: take a deep breath. Most firms need to be more focused on data governance, Gabriel pointed out, since data quality is the foundation for effective automation and ultimately the successful implementation of AI. Angela likened AI offerings to a “candy store” – firms need to be selective and educated about what they’re buying. Panelist David Easthope, SVP of Research at financial technology consulting firm Celent, expects it will be two or more years before these technologies have a real impact on the business.
Movement to the cloud: The panelists expect the trend toward cloud-based solutions and services to accelerate. As outsourcing has become more flexible, firms need to be thoughtful about what makes sense to move and what to retain on premise. Where firms were previously motivated to gain operating leverage from outsourcing, firms are now being more strategic about their use of the cloud, particularly for managing and leveraging the growing volumes of data their business depends on.
We are grateful to our panel for taking the time to share their perspectives and to the attentive audience who joined us. SS&C Advent and SS&C Eze are excited to host more thought leadership panels across the country in the year ahead. Stay in touch with your Relationship Manager to find out when we might be in a city near you. And for a truly immersive peer-to-peer networking experience, save the date for SS&C Deliver, our annual client conference, September 15-17, 2020 in Orlando.