Building on Sand

By Dan Houlihan,
Chairman of the Board, NICSA
Executive Vice President, Corporate & Institutional Services, Northern Trust

Since our last gathering at the NICSA GMM in September, some big changes have taken place. The political landscape is shifting under our feet as we try to solidify solutions to the oncoming deluge of DOL rule implications. Even if the incoming administration is inclined to repeal proposed regulations, any unwinding would likely be slow and thorny. So, onward and upward we go.

But, this is a bit like trying to build a sandcastle on the shoreline during a rising tide. Speed and solid footings are key. Later, we may just watch some of our good work reverse with the current, and we must be willing to rebuild on terra firma when the time comes.

Forging a consensus on those footings is messy work. There is great diversity in responses and attitudes. Whether and where companies increase capacity is driven by their existing structures and strategic priorities. Internal relationships among departments and intermediaries have long been fluid and evolving – which is why a lack of consistency in approaches shouldn’t be surprising.

As for the speed part: we all know that ambitious timelines tend to undermine the best reform efforts.
But, time is ticking and we must at long last position our businesses to accommodate the new rule, even if temporary.

Community Engagement Matters

Opportunity abounds for industry leaders to increase their impact on short-term and long-term business development in response to the DOL ruling. Practical policy routed in efficiency must start with us.
Associations like NICSA are important in engaging financial community members directly to design and implement programs in ways that work for us and our clients.

Determining how and when to best deploy resources to address profound shifts in process is a challenge that will surely be exacerbated if there is a disinterest in collaboration. Success calls for working together to find fresh approaches to product development, operations, technology systems, and customer engagement.

The opportunity is ours. I look forward to seeing familiar faces (and hopefully some new ones) at the NICSA SLF in January to continue setting the foundation.

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