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Magazine Issues » October 2021

Opinion: What you’re missing

Elizabeth_PfeutiYou never think it will happen to you, do you? You’ll never be the one to fall foul of lady luck, who will then spoil all your best-laid plans. Sadly, the esteemed lady decided I needed an extended holiday this year, so instead of spending just a lazy, long weekend on one of the Spanish islands, I am spending a rather stressed out ten days of quarantine here instead.

I can’t grumble about the accommodation – five star it isn’t, but it’s clean, comfortable an offers a balcony – and we are regularly fed homely Spanish cuisine, so I may end up bringing a few extra kilos back to Blighty. Everyone has been lovely, from the Spanish doctor who issued my “no, you can’t fly home” certificate to the quarantine hotel manager who explained how I would be fined (a lot) if I even thought about breaking the rules. And if I was anything other than a writer who needed to be back at work on Monday morning, I might actually be enjoying this enforced sojourn, just as some of my balcony mates are doing.

However. I am that writer, with duties and deadlines that wait for no one. So, how does this relate to fund management?

Think of a journalist and what you think they need to carry out their role. A notepad, pen, a phone and, most of all, a nose for a story and a knack to write it down. Yes, I have most of those with me... apart from a notepad, which I have made from tearing up the paper bags they bring our meals in each day.

In reality, without even the basic tech (tablet and keyboard, sourced by a remarkably efficient local computer store) and a secure WiFi connection, I would have been pretty much stuck. 

Teams, Zoom, filing by email and secure dropboxes, content management systems and webinar hosting are all part of the day job for the modern journalist. You might not see all this when correspondents report from Kabul or the highest point in the Andes, but the minimum technical requirement has rocketed over the past decade or so.  

Now, what does a fund manager need to carry out their role to a basic minimum standard? A good knowledge of financial markets, a strong head for analysis and conviction to stay the course or cut loose at the right moment. But, if that was all a fund manager needed initially, it is not all they need now.

Aside from the Zooms and Teams meetings that are common to all of our working lives, the tech and support systems in fund management have come on in leaps and bounds since I wrote about the middle and back office during the 2008/09 financial crisis. IBORs, Golden Sources of Data and other solutions can now not only streamline operations but give the fund managers the tools they need to make better decisions and provide clients with the ever-increasing data required for regulatory reporting. 

This is something providers of these technologies could only dream of as Lehman collapsed. All this technology is now available from multiple vendors, but it is not de rigeur across the whole fund management industry. Clearly, there is not as much money sloshing around the sector as there used to be, thanks to margins being squeezed due to the many forces at play. But sat here on a balcony, using a makeshift desk that involves a water bottle and hotel towel, I wonder why anyone would postpone adopting the right tools for what today’s job entails.

We’ve already seen one major crash since 2008 and another will probably be along in a moment. I won’t ever travel without even a rudimentary tech set-up again – it might be wise for fund managers to be similarly equipped.

By Liz Pfeuti

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