Keeping up with changes in the asset management world has become a full-time pursuit. Between persistent fee pressure and increased competition for assets, fund firms are constantly having to reevaluate their operational strategies to stay current and competitive, writes SS&C’s Nick Wright.
In the battle for client acquisition and retention, asset managers need better data and analytics to understand their client demographics and direct their marketing efforts more effectively. Firms also need to address changing investor expectations in the digital age, including 24/7 access to their accounts, research and trading capabilities.
One would think transfer agents are well-positioned to help asset managers confront these challenges. Unfortunately, many transfer agency providers are stuck in an aging model overly dependent on paper, mail and faxes.
How, then, should the transfer agency model evolve to meet the modern-day needs of asset managers? A fundamental shift in perspective is required. Transfer agents are still largely viewed as transaction processors and recordkeepers rather than what they are – a vital conduit between the asset manager and its end investors. Indeed, the transfer agent is often the fund’s face to investors, answering their calls and responding to inquiries.
Although the asset manager is the “client”, transfer agents need to focus on impeccably servicing the end investor, which ultimately reflects on the asset manager’s brand. That means offering investors (and their advisers) a choice of channels for conducting business, balancing digital with the needs of those who still prefer fax or mail. Transfer agents should also leverage the customer and transaction data flowing through their systems to help asset managers better analyse and understand their client base.
Also, managers need a provider to support all distribution channels and investor types (institutional, wealth, distributors and retail). Whether driven by regulation, technological innovation or changing investor preferences, new requirements are always evolving and need to be catered for.
As asset managers review their transfer agents’ capabilities in these areas, they should also ask whether the provider can and is committed to ongoing investment in the business, including making timely acquisitions to enhance its offering.
Given our clients’ evolving needs, SS&C recently realigned its transfer agency business with a focus on helping clients retain and grow assets. To achieve this goal, we:
- Globally integrated our organisation to reflect the global model of our clients. We rebranded the offering from transfer agency to Global Investor and Distribution Solutions (GIDS) to better reflect our significant investment in the technology to support the transfer agent’s evolving role.
- Delivered robust investor data aggregation and analytics capabilities.
- Adopted a “digital-first” (but not digital only) approach to investor servicing.
In a more competitive and complex global marketplace, asset managers are right to ask if their transfer agents are keeping pace. This question’s answer represents an opportunity for transfer agency providers to increase their value and adapt their models to their clients’ changing needs.
Nick Wright is Head of Global Investor & Distribution Solutions at SS&C
© 2021 funds europe