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Kempen Insights: Speeding up technological change

30 June 2020

We’ve all been forced into new ways of working recently, but what will be the long-term impact of technology on client relationships in the investment sector? Here, Arif Saad, Senior Investment Strategist at Kempen, gives us some personal insights into how technology has had an impact on the way we do business, and how it might change in the future.

The Coronavirus has really tested how we work with each other and how we work with clients. Before the pandemic, I think a lot of organisations claimed they were agile in their way of working, but the reality was that they were lagging behind. In this respect this pandemic has really pushed us forward into the 21st century.
Remote working, has, very quickly become our norm. And I think that is likely to continue for some time.

Bath times and deadlines 
It’s been particularly interesting for me on a personal level. I started at Kempen at the beginning of March and five days into the new job I was told to work from home and I’ve not been back into the office since!

So, I’ve actually spent more time working at home than in the office at Kempen. 

We’ve all now experienced the reality of agile working. Balancing the kids’ breakfast with bath times and client deadlines or trading decisions – we’ve all had to find a way to make it work.

Taking responsibility 
But our role hasn’t changed. I think the key role is to take responsibility for the big decisions that have to be made. 

What we’ve found is that this is where a fiduciary manager earns their salt – when we have to navigate those difficult markets that we’ve had during the pandemic. 

But also, in making those tough decisions, we have to be transparent and communicate clearly to our clients. Above all else, making sure that trustees are comfortable with the decisions we’re making on their behalf. 

Furthermore, what is interesting is that just before we went into lockdown there was a Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) ruling on fiduciary management. It meant there were several schemes, that even before the crisis, were looking to change their governance structure and explore ways they could delegate some aspects of their investments.

Inactivity is a decision
The past couple of months have shown us that the Coronavirus is not something you can just wait out and just hope things get back to normal. And it’s likely that the effects of this period will be long-lasting on the investments and pensions industry.

So, one example is where I was working with a client who was undertaking a fiduciary management selection exercise and at the outset of the outbreak, they decided to pause it.

But the trustees have now implemented that selection exercise virtually because they recognised that inactivity in the current investment climate is a decision in itself. This has provided us with the opportunity to showcase what it’s genuinely like to partner with Kempen.

Hesitancy is fading out
Trustees have important decisions to take and they need to be taken now. At the beginning of the pandemic it was noticeable that there was evidence of hesitancy, almost a reluctance to take decisions. But I think that is easing now. We’ve been involved in a number of virtual pitches. I think for a while it was challenging trying to make a big decision when the pandemic is affecting your loved ones, and the solvency of your operation. 

But now, more than ever, we need to embrace technology and be prepared to make brave decisions in order to protect member benefits. We’re all a lot more used to video calls and virtual meetings, they’re very commonplace now. 

Building a rapport between participants is just as important. And although technology may at first appear to be a barrier to intimacy and developing trust, we’ve actually found that technology can help support and develop relationships and share knowledge efficiently.

Big changes

So has it changed the industry? Well there are signs that we’re now realising that things we’ve done in the past as a matter of habit have had to change. 

Take the simple process of signing papers. The concept of signed, ‘wet-ink’ originals needing signatures has felt antiquated for several years now, and although a seemingly small thing, it has been one of the inhibitors of quick decision making. 

There’s a sense that lockdown has really forced the industry to move forward in this respect. So scanned copies of documents, taken with a smartphone, or signing off with digital signatures feels like a big leap forward. 

I’m sure there will be other changes – the impact of Covid-19 on our way of working will be felt for many years to come. But it doesn’t change the fundamentals of clear consistent communication, by the most appropriate channel. Even if it’s more likely these days to be a digital one. 

Patricia Fernandez, VP Business Marketing interviews Arif Saad, Senior Investment Stategist at Kempen Capital Management

 Read more about our Fiduciary management services 

This document of Kempen Capital Management N.V. (Kempen) is for information purposes only. The information in this document is incomplete without the verbal explanation given by an employee of Kempen.
Kempen is licensed as a manager of AIF’s and UCITS and to provide investment services and is subject to supervision by the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets. No part of this document may be used without prior permission from Kempen.

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