Industry Leaders Tackle Data, Product Development, and Talent Management

Leaders from the asset management industry provided their take on key industry trends and how they will play out during 2019 during a recent #WebinarWednesday event on the topic. Jim Fitzpatrick, President of NICSA, moderated the esteemed panel, which also included experts from Columbia Threadneedle, Morgan Stanley, and Oppenheimer Funds.

“Our goal is to provide you with current perspectives on key issues and specific takeaways or ideas that you can take back to your firms to help change, improve, or evolve your own organizations,” Fitzpatrick said.

Dealing with Data

Scott Brady, Head of US Product Development & Strategy, Columbia Threadneedle, discussed the challenge of utilizing data to drive change in business strategies. Columbia Threadneedle, he said, manages streams of data through a central organization within the firm.

“Taking in the infinite number of data feeds and working across the organization to make sense of them is their primary role,” Brady said. “They make the data more actionable — something that the remainder of the organization can use, whether it’s product development, product management, marketing, or distribution.”

Phil Kolb, Managing Director, Head of Product Group Services at Morgan Stanley, said it’s also important to understand data from a control and risk mitigation perspective. “We’re thinking about the client from both an asset and a liability perspective as they try to achieve their goals — and data aggregation and consolidation plays into this framework,” he said.

Kirk Reid, SVP, Head of Operations, Oppenheimer Funds, said his firm is helping train employees on data science. “We’ve done a great job giving folks who traditionally haven’t been deep into data analytics the training to get them up to speed in terms of a future skill set,” Reid said. “It’s a skill that’s going to be needed for career advancement in the future.”

Product Trends

Fitzpatrick asked the panel to comment on how their firms are reevaluating product lineups to meet investor demands. Reid said clients still invest for absolute and relative return, but it’s much deeper than that. 

“We need to understand the problems that clients have, and how we can help them solve them, and build solutions around that,” he said. “It’s not a product discussion anymore. It’s more of a solutions discussion.”

Brady agreed. “I think that that is the next evolution for the industry; to move … toward something that is much more solutions- and outcome-based,” he said. “And more importantly, it should be done on a personalized basis.”

Talent Management and Diversity

Reid said dialogue about diversity will be a critical differentiator for firms of the future.

“If you take a step back and freeze frame everything we’ve just talked about, we’re all trying to deliver value in a faster, more efficient way — and that’s driven by people,” he said. “We can have the best technology in the world, but we need people who have the ability to ask the hard questions, and that comes from diversity of thought, and diversity of thought comes from the diversity of people.”

Kolb said initiatives like NICSA’s Diversity Project will help promote a diverse and inclusive asset management industry. “The concept of diversity and the way that it’s being embraced, not only by my organization, but clearly everybody on the panel, is game-changing,” he said. “And it’ll be initiatives like the Diversity Project that start to drive the way we do business going forward.”


Note: Although the observations contained in this work represent the best thoughts of the individuals comprising the NICSA panel, they do not necessarily reflect the views of NICSA or any of its member organizations. Matters addressed in this work may touch upon legal or regulatory matters, however nothing herein is intended to be or should be construed as legal advice. You should contact your own counsel in order to obtain legal advice regarding these or any other matters.

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