This June, Lisa Conner, Head of North American Client Services at RIMES, participated in a panel discussion hosted by Cutter Associates. The session brought together RIMES, MackeyRMS and SS&C Eze to discuss the new normal emerging in the asset management vendor ecosystem as a result of COVID-19-enforced remote working. What follows is a summary of the points raised during the discussion.
Adapting to remote servicing
Vendors with global service models have adapted well to the remote operating model imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. Such vendors are already used to working remotely and had put the required technology and processes in place before global lockdowns came into force. Vendors that have focused on building close partnerships with their clients have also responded well to the crisis as they’ve been better able to adapt to shifting client requirements.
The impact on end-user firms of the new operating model has been significant and is reflected in vastly increased client support transactions and call volumes. Concurrently, there have been a number of important changes in how client organizations use vendor services. Demand has shown an uptick in two particular areas: mobile tools and service automation; both of which are being deployed by asset managers to boost productivity for home workers. Where these tools are being introduced for the first time, vendors have had to adapt to remote training and onboarding sessions to help get workers at client organizations up to speed.
Given the significant market volatility experienced over the past few months, client organizations have also shown a strong demand for transparency. The best vendors have been able to offer proactive updates to clients around content and services as well as real-time process audit tools to help them weather volatility.
There’s also been a big spike in demand for pure-play collaboration tools as workers look to share, alert and communicate around market challenges. Similarly, there’s been increasing interest in integrating operational systems with collaboration tools including Teams, Symphony and Slack.
The impact on vendor roadmaps
The new operating model is changing end user expectations of technology, which will impact vendor product roadmaps. Mobility is now seen as a right rather than a privilege, and users demand enterprise-grade solutions where they have exactly the same levels of functionality as with desktop alternatives. Vendors that fail to deliver risk losing out to third party providers.
Offline tools are also going to be important for some use cases. For example, while cloud-based streaming connectivity will be important to accelerate data analysis and boost productivity, many traders will also want to the ability to cache research data for use as back up in case they lose connectivity in the run up to a trade.
More broadly, clients are increasingly less interested in discussions around products and instead want to hear about service propositions. Vendors that can show end user organizations how they can meet their internal needs while at the same time anticipating and mitigating external change will be in a strong position.
The changing vendor landscape
In the long-term, the pandemic will probably lead to an increase in vendor consolidation. The winners of this round of consolidation will likely be the vendors that stood up well during the crisis and provided value-add to their clients’ businesses.
The challenge facing vendors today is that home workers now only have one or two screens to work from, compared to the eight or so found on the trading floor or the multiple screens stationed in offices. Vendors therefore need to compete for a smaller total volume of screen real estate, and that means they must prove their value to end users every single day.
It’s also likely that vendors that have long been reliant on face-to-face engagements will struggle unless they can adapt fast. Those that are well positioned to deploy, support and onboard remotely will have the most traction for the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 will accelerate the adoption of technology with asset managers. On the research side of things, analysts are already collaborating much more widely than in the past, drawing on the capabilities of messaging and sharing tools. Data management teams, meanwhile, have seen the advantage of working with service providers that can offer rock-solid stability even in the most challenging market conditions.
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