The landscape prior to/during COVID-19:

The first challenge posed by COVID-19 to the asset management industry was business continuity – maintaining operations and communications in the virtual environment that the pandemic made a necessity.

  • Entire workforces had to move to a remote working model, with some operational issues around establishing VPN capacity and ensuring that the workforce had the hardware needed. Offshore centres in particular were disrupted, with many lacking the ability to transfer operations off-site. Zoom, MS Teams and Skype became corporate lifelines, for asset managers as for business sectors across the board
  • Overall, the industry proved its operational resilience as firms stepped up. Capacity and connectivity issues were quickly resolved; a strong emphasis was placed on communications both internally and with clients
  • However, the need to operate in a more decentralized environment during lockdown has accentuated the realization of the need for change as a new future of work emerges

What will the New Reality look like?

New ways of working will become commonplace as it seems unlikely that we will see a complete ‘return to the office’. Hybrid – and more digital – models of working will predominate, meaning that firms will have to step up their technological enablement.

  • Asset managers will need to rethink how, when and where they operate. Customers expect more digital and seamless interactions – and at the same time, the coronavirus experience has led to changed employee expectations about flexible working patterns, connectivity and communications
  • Attitudes to working in the office could be altered for several years to come; future offices will need to be re-designed to incorporate new health and wellbeing features. 
  • At the same time, along with many other corporates, asset managers are likely to re-evaluate and potentially downsize their leased office space; working from home will become a permanent feature for at least some of the week for most staff, with hybrid working arrangements (Team A, Team B) also likely to become common 
  • This is an opportunity – offering employees greater flexibility is seen as a positive – but also a challenge –Firms have concerns over diminished team building and a dilution of culture due to decentralised working
  • Many other factors will also be significant. Employees are increasingly looking for a sense of corporate purpose and want to work for businesses that have a positive impact on communities; this is particularly prevalent amongst today’s young talent
  • Firms will need to ensure that they have compelling value propositions in order to attract and retain the best staff: quality of work, reward & recognition, learning & development, corporate purpose and values, connected communities and seamless interfaces – all of these will be critical
  • Alongside this, firms will need to embed AI ever more integrally into their operations, which will change the nature of work for many. Achieving the right balance between people and technology will be key. In the cognitive era, continuously retraining employees and redeploying them into new roles will be the new normal
  • AI ethical governance will become an increasingly topical subject. Investing in talent and frameworks to drive greater trust and transparency is critical as is the need to embed cyber security and privacy principles – and ensure that the entire workforce understands and adheres to them

What do organizations need to consider?

  • Are you building a brand that has purpose beyond making profit to inspire and engage the workforce and attract new talent?
  • Create models of working that facilitate multiple life choices through flexibility and connectivity. Continuously reconfigure career paths to be richer and cater to varying / emerging needs. Provide workplace choices such as WFH, flex days, flex hours, to facilitate satisfaction and purpose
  • Certain working from home policies are likely to become BAU. What are the implications, not only for the employee experience, but for operations, IT networks and real estate?
  • Consider whether you are delivering a designed and digitally augmented experience for staff – what aspects need to be upgraded and improved? Think also about what communications and messaging protocols need to be in place in the new environment
  • Reassess your people development, performance management and oversight frameworks for the future model of working; consider also the tax implications of more remote working
  • Assess the cyber security and compliance risk implications of adopting a more remote working model and develop a route map to address these promptly, with regular stress testing and review
  • Do you have a clear strategy for the scaling of AI within the business, and what are the implications for people’s roles, (re)training needs and opportunity to add value?

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