Since March, a lot has been blamed on COVID-19 as it has impacted most aspects of society, politics, economics and business. However, there is also radical improvement underway as firms pivot how they operate to thrive in this new normal and beyond.
In the transfer agency, firms initially invested heavily in technology tools to smooth any kinks in delivering business-as-usual as offices closed and employees relocated to their homes. While firms may not consider this shift to remote working a long-term strategy, the investments in technology and changes to processes will protect firms from other threats to business continuity, such as weather events, and potentially offer a broader geographic reach for talent acquisition.
The changes in the transfer agency go well beyond supporting business as usual, and in many cases, improvements will be felt long after employees have returned to their offices. There is increased pressure on the regulators to adapt regulations that have long been relied on. While they should offer the same level of investor protection, they also need to reflect how firms operate today. In many cases, this will benefit all parties, including the underlying investor.
In adapting to COVID-19, firms have worked to reduce reliance on paper and implement greater digitization. There has been a focus to combine data that was previously spread across multiple systems onto a single common platform to empower distribution, marketing and sales teams. Holistic use of data will again benefit all, including the underlying investor.
And this is a key goal for most asset managers to improve the client experience. Firms need to provide a compelling reason for an investor to pay for active investment management and to select their firm over the competition. Many investment managers are now looking at their transfer agent as more than a provider of the traditional transfer agency service, and more as a partner in delivering excellent client experiences. This is leading to a greater focus on mobile applications and online advisor tools, increasing self-service capabilities. It has proven possible to relocate a call center to work from home, but when an investor contacts a call center, firms need to ask themselves why they were unable to complete the transaction online as they do in so many other facets of their lives.