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Leading for the Future

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The future is here. It showed up when we weren’t paying close attention — we were busy looking at our social media accounts and sharing pictures of our friends, families, and dinner plates. Big Data is now more than just a headline for a conference session — it’s part of our everyday lives.

Our industry is still catching up, and we’re investing immense amounts of time, money, and intellectual capital into how data is used. From the client experience to the regulatory requirements, we’re rethinking everything. Our industry has been undergoing significant changes to keep pace with the technological advances of our greater society.

We’re applying principles of human centered design and updating the look and feel of our online tools. We’re making it easier for clients to navigate through sites, using more aesthetically pleasing ways to represent data using pictures, and allowing for intricate levels of drill down detail for those who are looking for it. We’re giving clients access to what they want, anywhere and anytime they want it, using mobile technology and customizable, personalized site settings.

The irony is that in order to simplify things for our target audience, there is increasing complexity behind the scenes. To achieve a cleaner, simpler, more streamlined interaction for the end user, the technology behind the scenes is more sophisticated than ever, and is evolving daily.

Regulatory drivers only raise the stakes for data management, reporting, and presentation. In addition to the pure data management capabilities that are required to deliver a user friendly experience, we have the layered complexity of regulatory requirements to consider. We have seen a myriad of new rules over the past few years which have targeted the accessibility of information, the consistency of information, and the delivery of information. Across the globe, rules such as Europe’s Mifid II and the US’s Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule are changing how we do business. Investment Company Reporting Modernization will provide regulators and, ultimately, end investors with access to unprecedented levels of detail on funds.

Transparency of information to investors related to fees, transparency of information to regulators related to portfolio construction and risk, presentation of data on screen — all rely on the accessibility and flexibility of the underlying data. We have to be aware of events around us — regulatory change at home and abroad will continue to impact how we do business. The drive for transparency and the focus on clarity of costs will continue, making efficiency and effective management critical to success.

In the drive for efficiency, robotics process automation and artificial intelligence are changing not only operational processes, but are increasingly being used in other areas of our industry, leveraging a machine’s ability to retrieve and sort through data to present results for review, and even write reports using natural language generation.

The application of these technologies allows us to revisit long standing processes, and in many cases allows us to streamline how we handle information. We can redesign things to ensure stronger controls and more practical, efficient processes. At the same time, we can reenergize our teams. Machines will take over the repetitive processes, allowing people to focus on work that is engaging and invigorating.

Our leaders have to navigate not only the current complexities, but the rapid pace of change. They need to be technically savvy — seeing data and technology as part of a tool kit that will guide processes and procedures. With disruption comes opportunity, and we have to rethink not only the way we work today, but the way we will work tomorrow. In order to move forward, we have to let go of outdated practices while retaining our core values and integrity.

The way we look at recruiting and talent management must evolve significantly. Interestingly, the needs for innovative thinking and creativity in our teams align well with the way that students are being educated today. Gone are the days of rote learning and repetition. Students are encouraged to actively solve problems, and that skill will go far in the workplace. Our management principles need to evolve as well.

We have to recognize that our upcoming leaders will not follow the same paths that we did. It’s not uncommon to hear managers of my generation bemoan how quickly their “new” people want to move from job to job. It’s important that we distinguish between stability and stagnation — creative thinkers who want to be challenged will be the cornerstone for our future success, so it will benefit us to change our approach to make roles more challenging and to encourage and reward innovative thinking.

Flexibility and resiliency are important. We cannot be stuck in our ways, but need to continuously look to the future. The days of a Product Roadmap have evolved to the days of Product GPS, and we must be flexible enough to “recalculate” when we turn a corner.

Our core tenets remain the same — our industry and our regulators share the objectives of mitigating risk and protecting the interests of investors. The clients of the future are not the clients of the past, and we have to anticipate, meet, and exceed their expectations. The leaders of the future must have the ability to create harmony between man and machine, and to leverage the capabilities of both effectively. The leaders of the future will need to continue to invest in sophisticated technology and in talented people. To position ourselves for success, we must deliver leading technical capabilities with maximum data protection to provide an exceptional experience.

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