Doyens of the asset management industry gathered last week in Monaco to openly discuss the road ahead for the industry.
The sector’s very own version of Davos provided four days of discussion, viewpoints and chatter from both ‘insiders’ of and ‘foreigners’ to asset management.
The reality is there is a growing acceptance among CEO’s and senior executives that the Golden Days are over – ‘golden’, in the more recent sense of the word as opposed to the days of garishness and excess during the 1980’s.
Don’t get me wrong, the future is bright… very bright in fact – but the winners will be fewer in number and the energy, vision, insight, and processes required for success will far outweigh anything the incumbent group of front runners had to do in order to lead the pack.
It’s clear we’re entering (some may argue… already arrived) an era of enhanced scrutiny for asset managers.
Scrutiny as to the value provided (from an investment perspective), scrutiny of cost, scrutiny of legacy modes of distribution, scrutiny of slow adoption of technology commonplace in other markets and scrutiny of their ability to engage customers and clients in a way that the latter prefer/can understand.
In short, everyone will have to lift their game to compete in the modern era.
Doomsday Preppers hint the end is nigh and the game is up. And it’s merely a matter of time before investment Uber enters the market and utilises technology to change the game completely and making many groups business models obsolete.
However that would be a disservice to the thousands of people in the industry working tirelessly behind the scenes to push traditional asset managers into the new age of instantaneous information and utility.
However at the same time there are plenty of asset managers who remain comfortable in the belief wealthy people with continue to engage with professional financial advisers for dealing with their investments.
The view among this group is that the technology plays and the so-called direct models are really the preserve of the lower asset masses.
Rich and affluent will still engage advisers and even if the pool shrinks, they’re still happy to focus their distribution efforts on these professionals.
Perhaps the reality will be somewhere in between, whereby yes there will be pure tech ‘disruptors’ and they will rightly so dominate a part of the market, but people will still require some guidance and support using these solutions via some kind of web-based advice.
Meanwhile the more affluent segment will continue to engage professionals but will also demand supplementary tech tools to allow them to stay connected, aware and involved.
At the end of the day there is consensus across the industry that real change is imminent, it was therefore apt Monte Carlo should lose its host status for an event that so categorically signalled a ‘changing of the guard’ – given it is a place synonymous with opulence and excess.
Next year the Fund Forum event will relocate to Berlin after almost 20 years on the Cote D’Azur and the CoreData Research team will be there to reveal what investors, advisers, fund selectors and institutions think of our industry as it travels along the road of change.