Lessons Learned at the Strategic Leadership Forum

Allison Lovett, VP, NICSA Content Manager

Allison Lovett, VP, NICSA Content Manager

NICSA gathered over 300 financial services executives at our Strategic Leadership Forum at the end of January to discuss some of the most timely and pertinent topics affecting our industry. We were schooled by some of the most forward thinking minds in asset management and we’re confident that our members came away with some salient points worth taking back to their businesses.

The theme of the event was Disruptors Facing the Asset Management Industry. And our keynote speaker, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, as it turns out, knows a thing or two about facing challenges. Never settling for the status quo and making constant small corrections along the way were clear leadership lessons that seem to be especially relevant for today’s asset management industry.

Here are a few more takeaways that we hope will inspire you and your teams to embrace the changes facing the industry today.

1. Disruption is not a fad.
From the opening remarks at the first general session, Suni Harford of Citigroup, Kristi Mitchem of Wells Fargo Asset Management, and Jennifer McPeek of Janus made sure the audience knew what was coming: disruptors. And throughout the conference—whether at the breakouts, or talking among peers—ideas were exchanged about new technologies, changing investor needs, and the ever-evolving regulatory landscape.

One clear takeaway was the notion that disruption is not a fad. From robo-advisors to data analytics, disruptors are here and they’re encouraging the industry to challenge current processes and procedures. Assessing which disruptors to push to the forefront of business planning can be difficult. Getting together frequently with industry peers certainly helps and the discussions taking place at the #SLFnicsa certainly shed light on these issues.

2. Delayed or altered, DOL rule compliance is a reality.
By now, it seems everyone has pretty much embraced the fact that the DOL fiduciary rule will need to be addressed—in whatever form it may arrive. Whether delayed or altered, the bar has been set for new fiduciary standards and the industry is poised to adjust and move forward. The three DOL sessions offered at the SLF provided a much needed deeper dive into the nitty gritty of the how and when of process development—all from unique perspectives of legal professionals, broker dealers, and asset managers. Given some startling revelations, such as the expectation of thousands of new CUSIPS, these varied and valuable perspectives will help our members solidify their business strategies and rise to meet new challenges.

3. The industry is built on relationships.
Really, this theme should hit home. The asset management industry is one that has been built upon personal client relationships. And, post SLF, we’re more confident than ever that it will remain that way—even in the midst of automation and algorithms. From client servicing to fiduciary standards, what clearly stood out was a dedication to challenging and improving of the status quo; we think Captain Kelly would be proud. Equally evident, as we looked around the exhibit hall and meeting rooms, was the value of networking among industry peers. At the end of the day, it seems relationships will reign.

The wrap-up.
The bottom line is this: collaboration is powerful and can be extremely effective. It seems pretty intuitive, but attending an event like NICSA’s Strategic Leadership Forum highlights the fact that, sometimes, one of the best ways to evaluate a corporate strategy is to take a step back, look at the big picture, and consider how internal decisions on policies, procedures, and business planning fit into the industry as a whole. Effective leaders recognize that learning stems from idea sharing and unique perspectives. We hope to see you at the next NICSA program. As Captain Scott Kelly said, “the sky is not the limit.”

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