Funds Europe – What are the main priorities on the agenda for the year ahead, and has the pandemic had any influence on them? Can tech play even more of a role in 2021, which yet again looks set to be marked by uncertainty?
Fessey – The pandemic has dominated our lives, both personally and professionally, but it hasn’t disrupted our business; we didn’t miss a beat. We pushed the firm from an office-working model to a working-from-home model in fewer than three days, with very little technical adjustment needed.
We spent the year accelerating operational and technological change and made significant progress with projects like completing the integration of Investran, and we expect to do a lot more of that in the coming year. We’ll put in new internal and also client-oriented workflow, and we’ll also make significant investments in our core administration systems and improve the degree of automation in shareholder servicing systems.
Mas – Investment in technology will continue to be very important with further development and investment of our LP servicing and PERA operating model as well as developing our ESG offering, for which we will roll out a solution for the private markets and public markets. As a direct result of the pandemic, being able to work from home securely is here to stay.
Smith – ESG is going to be the biggest priority for us because it’s relatively new to the alternatives space, not so much in Europe but in the US. Covid-19 has had an impact on that; it’s given people time to think and be more attuned to the planet. Social issues are gathering momentum as well, and certainly with the rise of populism, politically.
Brimeyer – We should all be very grateful that our industry hasn’t really been impacted by the pandemic. It has been very resilient. The pandemic has also given us a significant push forward in terms of digitalisation, so things that were just impossible to conceive about a year ago – such as something as ‘exotic’ as an electronic signature being accepted by a bank – are happening now. I hope that as an industry, we continue to move in that direction, because we clearly see that digitalisation is a solution, but it hasn’t been used as widely as it should have been. So, that will continue to be a strong priority for us.
I also think ESG is moving up the agenda. In the past it was all about performance and if we can deliver ESG alongside performance, that’s OK. But performance was always the number-one priority. It’s more of a level playing field for both factors now, and the industry is trying to find out how to make a meaningful contribution to the ESG discussion, so it’s an interesting topic.
Godfrey – The accessibility of real-time performance information and cyber security are priorities. So, providing sensitive information in real time, in manageable chunks but in a very secure and reliable way is going to be key.
Heinen – What we want to ensure is that customers get what they are looking for, via digitalisation or through efficiencies we can make available.
While our industry has been very resilient through the pandemic, we must continue to work through our priorities based on what our clients are sharing with us as feedback and what our staff are telling us. That defines our roadmap for 2021 and beyond.
A clear approach to digitalisation is also needed to remain an employer of choice. People increasingly consider technology when choosing where they want to work. The new generation wants to work for a company that has the latest technology.
Pesch – When the pandemic started, we had no other choice but to really rethink our operations, so we digitalised all our activities, including all the events and roadshows, webinars and even training, as well as the flagship conference at the end of the year. We are very happy with the results, which proved that this is a viable model which we can certainly use further in the future.
We still hope that in Q4 this year, we might be able to have some in-person events again, but have Plan B in place, including the studio we’ve invested in, meaning we’re well equipped to continue with virtual events if need be.
As for other priorities, some of the big topics we will work on with our different committees will include the AIFMD review, SFDR/ESG and MiFID and cross-border fund distribution. Talent attraction and development is a priority too.
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