Posted In: Wealth Management Administration
Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on businesses across the world and the financial services industry is no exception. David Simpson, Head of EMEA at GBST, looks at how wealth management firms have coped with the operational challenges of the pandemic and the positive long-term changes it may bring about.
The coronavirus crisis has forced financial services firms to make many operational adjustments to ensure that business can be conducted as usual, as far as possible. Many of the changes have been on the to do list for some time, but were put off for being too difficult, expensive or high risk.
The need to keep business coming in during lockdown, however, has provided the incentive to implement change at speed. A prime example is the much-publicised adoption of e-signatures across platforms. Demand from advisers and end investors and the pressure to maintain business flows through-out the Covid-19 crisis, forced a swift implementation of the functionality. But this technology isn’t new. Introducing e-signatures is not really a major achievement, other parts of financial services have been doing it for years! The move to digital in wealth management was already happening, but at a glacial pace and Covid-19 has really accelerated change. Lockdown left businesses with no choice but to overcome any barriers and embrace digitalisation.
The pandemic has led customers to reconsider how they engage with their service providers too. Remote working has created the need for more flexibility and forced us all to find new ways to communicate, both personally and professionally; it’s no surprise that Zoom was the most downloaded iPhone app this year. That increased digital experience has made both advisers and end investors more comfortable operating online and receiving advice virtually. Behavioural change that may otherwise have taken ten years or more, has, through necessity, been compressed into the last six months. Now the door has been opened, it’s difficult to see us going back completely to how things were before.
However, the speed of the pandemic forced many providers to seek tactical solutions to ‘keep the lights on’. For those who dealt with high volumes of paper-based instructions and manual administration, the unexpected move to whole workforces working from home in March presented a significant challenge. Even the ability to access systems remotely initially proved a struggle for those without the processes in place to do so.
Financial services businesses are often hampered by unnecessary complexity, such as multiple systems that can’t talk to each other, requiring workarounds to be performed manually, which is far more difficult to achieve from home. Unfortunately, such problems do not always have a quick fix. While the initial priority has been to deal with the immediate operational problems triggered by Covid-19, we believe the crisis has created a better understanding of the need for longer-term strategic change. It has highlighted the necessity for greater integration between legacy systems and modern technology to provide a joined up, engaging customer experience that can be operated from anywhere, at any time.
Covid-19 has given organisations a wake-up call and it is critical that they harness the mentality that has carried them through the last nine months. By continuing to standardise, automate and streamline systems and processes through integration, firms will deliver resilient operations that can compete successfully in the new post-pandemic world. Embracing digitalisation will improve efficiency, productivity and security and create a better experience for all users.
The crisis forced us all to adopt new ways of working. There’s no going back, but instead firms can seize the opportunity it has presented to transform their business and gain a clear advantage over competitors.