Strategy, Legal & Operations

How asset management CFOs can win big with digital transformation

Discover how asset management CFOs can take the steps to lead the way with digital transformation at their firms.

As an asset management CFO, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is to manage the investments of your clients – making sure they grow over time while mitigating the risks involved.

However, there are other challenges that are looming large in your industry.

Read this article to learn about the challenges you’re facing and how digital transformation can play a key role to help you and your business tackle the issues at hand.

Four challenges facing asset management CFOs

As a CFO, you’ll have to deal with significant economic, regulatory and client-related challenges in common with many other companies that offer financial-related services. Here’s more on those areas:

Regulatory complexity

You’re dealing with existing and consistently evolving regulations, with investors and clients expecting transparency and confidence in the service you provide. For example, tougher EU market rules known as Mifid II now require fund managers to pay for analyst research and insights separately to trading fees – aimed at curbing inducements and conflicts of interest.

Global market volatility

Economic uncertainty and risk increase during periods of heightened market volatility and stress. Financial markets are typically more volatile with higher risks when it comes to investment, while businesses will often cut back on production, investment and salaries.

Business growth

It is becoming increasingly important to differentiate your service and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

In the past few years, a select group of asset management firms have invested in new digital capabilities and talent. According to banking software company Temenos, 93% of fund administrators see investment in operational systems as essential to reduce efficiency and reduce cost.

Increasing customer expectations

Competition creates pressure on the fees you can charge, with clients expecting better customer experiences and day-to-day service.

Fortunately for you, you can face these and other fundamental shifts in the asset management industry through digital transformation.

Continuous consolidation and multi-dimensional, real-time reporting across multi-entity funds frees up time to focus on customer service and value-add tasks.

Digitising your asset management business

Everything is – or soon will be – digital. Digital will likely control everything, from buying groceries and clothes to the way we consume information and how we change the oil in our car.

It is a radical change over previous methods that is transforming the workforce, job roles and the way we do business.

The asset management industry is just one of many industries being sculpted in preparation for a new tomorrow where companies will be empowered to do business in a different way.

But looking at it from a bottom-line point of view, if you’re facing flat or declining profitability, you can now use innovative digital tools and capabilities that can deliver the right products and new services at rapid speed.

When it comes to digitisation, you need to be thinking about your clients, legacy technology and how digital will affect your business.

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A leading client experience

Faced with unprecedented choice when it comes to asset management competitors that your clients could choose from, what do you need to provide in terms of customer experience, and how can digital technology help?

Seamless, coordinated and real-time access to your services across any kind of device, at any time, will become the norm.

Your clients will expect no less than the sophistication they see from the other digital services they use every day, both at work and at home.

You could well be asked for timely, accurate and visually sophisticated reporting, with data analytics that supports real-time access to portfolio information. You may also be asked to provide interactive access, with a need to keep and develop close relationships with the advisers who are helping them make the most of their assets.

Where there are clients, there will always be challenges.

Connected clients will expect you to be a trusted partner and an extension of their business. And they will expect their financial companion to have a real-time view of their business to have the capability to interact with you almost instantly.

Replacing legacy technology

How is your existing technology working for you? Is it fit for purpose or do you need to turn to more modern architectures? If you want to be innovative, what kind of foundation would work best for you?

To fully meet customer needs and support both investors and advisers, you need to look at digital technology that is fit to task both now and in the future.

You may also need to look at technology that supports superior performance and provides you with the ability to develop new products and services depending on need.

Future-proofing an asset management business could require technology innovation in the form of even more automation.

According to CFO 3.0: Digital transformation beyond financial management, a research report that Sage carried out with CFOs and other financial decision makers, businesses understand the impact that financial management software has in enhancing productivity.

More than nine in 10 (94%) agree that it will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s finance function.

Business leaders like you are already aware of the benefits of cloud through centralisation such as increased cost efficiencies, flexibility, integration and security.

But now you should look at embracing cloud-based financial management technology to empower your business. Provide your teams with the tools to excel.

Beyond the benefit for the finance department, it could also lay the foundation for better use of critical data and insights to help investors and advisers.

Cloud technologies can help to create a nimbler and more cost-effective finance function. They minimise the need for hardware and storage, providing more scalable and easily automated processes.

How digital transformation will affect your business

What’s the role of digital and where do you see it being most effective? Where can you get quick wins? How will you pay for projects and manage them to completion without too much friction when it comes to people and culture?

One thing to consider is how cloud technology fits within your existing business infrastructures. As a financial decision maker, you can enable a connected operating environment that provides greater automation and advances via real-time insights.

When applying digital transformation to risk and compliance processes, you could solve a core need. Automation, for example, could reduce the need for manual effort when it comes to compiling data, while having your technology on a cloud platform could reduce risk and increase control.

Of course, anything you can implement to increase visibility will support better decision-making – data is one of your most valuable assets.

Any digital transformation requires a handle on the culture change brought about by new ways of working that technology will enable and indeed make a requirement.

Many financial services firms are looking at agile working, for example, which could involve:

  • Using minimum viable product approaches
  • Taking iterative approaches to prototyping
  • Having the means to scale up successful pilots and proof of concepts.

Remember that top finance employees are in high demand and difficult to find. And when you add digitisation into the mix, there’s a whole new set of skill requirements that come into play, with technological literacy topping the list.

You may need to rethink your mindset.

Rather than recruiting finance professionals and trying to upskill them with IT and data knowledge, you may need to look at non-traditional avenues.

It may be easier to recruit data scientists and provide them with financial training. The skill-set should be closely aligned to allow an easy transition and may also bring new blood and much-needed diversity into your asset management business.

Your role as an asset management CFO

Digitisation is a versatile tool. From what we’ve seen in asset management, it can provide advanced analytics to improve decision-making, automation to enhance processes, and metrics for improved real-time financial information.

Experts and analysts would advise you to look for accounting software that provides continuous consolidation and multi-dimensional, real-time reporting and dashboards across multi-entity funds. Why would this be helpful?

First of all, it would reduce risk in planning for new investments. But ultimately, it can help you enable more investments and higher returns.

Increased efficiency provides valuable insight into business operations to uncover growth opportunities. But even with all of the obvious benefits, some CFOs remain reluctant to own the digitisation journey.

However, for success, you need to accept your role as both the gatekeeper and leader of digital transformation.

You need to embrace your role as a captain of emerging technology. In the asset management industry, you could witness a surge in progression that reverberates across the business.

Fail to do this and you risk being left behind.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in December 2019 and has been updated for relevance.

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