There’s no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently altered the way we do business. Regardless of what the future holds, the financial asset management industry has implemented new policies and procedures that will continue. Obviously, an unprecedented event, the pandemic, has forced firms to activate their business continuity plans. Some have made a smooth transition. Others are discovering that their plans need serious re-evaluation and improvements.
As we moved deeper into the new market environment and explore how we must change the way we do business, several key considerations have risen to the top of the priority list.
Data Security in an Online World
Firms have been doing business using internet technology for some time, but the current environment has served as a real-time stress test for its capabilities. Firms are looking at higher data security measures up and down their business chains, including how clients interact at with them, how firm staff members interact with each other, and how the firm interacts with third-party vendors.
Out of necessity, clients have moved in droves to their online portal and dashboard options in order to review their account performance and business decision-making, or to initiate new requests like opening and closing accounts and shifting their assets from one place to another. With the lack of personal interaction, the threat of identity theft has risen dramatically. Firms are reviewing their permissions and password controls to ensure the highest standard of security. Things like two-factor password access have now become a base-line, but firms are exploring issues around blockchain technology—familiar from its use with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—that offer a higher confidence in protecting data and private information.
Similarly, with work moving primarily online due to staff working remotely, firms are strengthening their inhouse policies and procedures to control staff access via regimented permissions controls. Staff responsibilities are being reviewed for “need to know” protocols that will help them perform while protecting the confidentiality of the data they are seeing. Even hardware issues are being re-evaluated, particularly for positions that previously had no alternatives for remote work environments and now must catch up to their rest of the firm. By ensuring that firm data, information, and procedures are being constrained to firm-only devices and software, businesses are able to maintain control of the flow of data with no loss to personal devices in the home.
Finally, how firms interact with their third-party partners and vendors have also come under scrutiny. Whenever a firm needs to go outside their internal systems, a potential security risk arises. Business are examining the security of these channels for weaknesses that may affect their operations and clients.
The Priority of Workflow Management has Moved Front-and-Center
Practically overnight, the pandemic changed daily routines for virtually everyone. With the abrupt shift to remote work environments, firms have had to scramble in many cases to implement access for their staff members to get their work done with as little business disruption as possible. In the case of fast-moving environments like the stock market, down-time was never an option. As a result, new issues have risen that must be addressed before they cause major issues.
Naturally, different areas of the firm rely on different software and technology for their work. Maintaining oversight of all these processes and the status of work has become a challenge for C-level executives, managers, and supervisors. They have had to find new ways to monitor projects, performance, and results to keep current with the value, quality, and success of their businesses. The answer has been to invest in new workflow management platforms that can aggregate all the various aspects of the firm into one place with easy access and analysis of workflow. These workflow systems must be clear, scalable, and easy-to-use.
For business like asset management, accounting, or banking, which all must abide by strict government statutes and laws and to other regulatory agencies world-wide, workflow management systems are also being seen as a mandatory asset in order to create auditable work trails and a fail-safe for risk control and compliance issues.
Collaboration is Now a Key Person
Remote work has put new demands on staff interactions. Without the ability to interact in an office, staff members have needed to figure out how to work together when they do not have face-to-face access with each other. Firms are exploring collaboration technology tools to facilitate work and, perhaps, even improve it. While utilities like online video conferencing and instant communication software have obvious benefits, firms are finding that with so much of their data and information needing to move online, they can streamline how their staff interacts.
Cloud-based solutions have been the go-to pathway to success in this area. Once the ability to access data any time, anywhere, is put into place, new ways to use that data have grown. Where staff members previously had to spend time seeking out the work product of others, they can now access it directly, in real-time, enabling new-found efficiencies in the online workplace. By opening the ability to see how their work fits into others’ work—and the overall needs of the firm—staff are becoming more invested in their jobs by recognizing their own value more clearly. They also are finding that the pool of creative problem-solving has expanded as more people who use the same information are able to exchange ideas on how to use systems better, improve them, and execute higher performance.
Online Efficiency and Security Are the Future of Asset Management
The recent health crisis has forced everyone to re-evaluate their routines and processes. As the financial industry moves forward, they are meeting the new challenges by responding to market, client, and government demands with more technology solutions. The goal has been to incorporate greater efficiencies through access and collaboration while maintaining and reinforcing security measures that will keep client assets safe and businesses successful.