Martin Gilbert is the co-founder and former chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management and abrdn. He is now chairman of Revolut and AssetCo.
Upon hearing that William Shatner is preparing to blast into space on a New Shepard rocket, I was reminded of what Mark Twain once said: “Truth is stranger than fiction. But it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
Few who watched Star Trek in the 1960s could have imagined that Captain Kirk would actually one day travel among the stars. But it just goes to show how far the world has come.
We live in a digital world. We can shop online, we can watch films on our computers, we can even see who is ringing our doorbell from our phone.
Many industries have utilised new technologies, enabling them to become more efficient and to meet the evolving needs of customers. Unfortunately, asset management has lagged behind not just the wider world, but, most worryingly, other sectors of financial services over the long-term.
A recent report by Accenture found that 95% of asset managers in North America thought that their IT, data, and digital capabilities will be competitive differentiators by 2025. However, in reality, many remain in the early stages of adopting disruptive technologies, including cloud and artificial intelligence.
Cloud-native technology could be a game changer for asset managers, helping them to scale up their businesses, lower costs, and improve the customer journey. But of those surveyed less than 10% said they had transitioned to cloud.
They are also not embracing AI; less than one-third are experimenting with the technology. If properly employed AI could be critical for product development and the customer experience.
Senior management within investment firms may be confident of achieving their strategic dreams of 2025, but the truth is that much more needs to be done.
Ultimately, firms are behind the curve and are finding that client needs are evolving faster than their ability to adapt their operations and technology.
Legacy operating models and platform architecture need to be reimagined and transformed. For example, mid- and back-office functions can be redesigned. Traditional methods for data processing, in terms of manual entry into spreadsheets, are outdated, time consuming, and prone to error, particularly given the amount of data required to be processed every day.
Cloud and AI technology needs to be embraced as intelligent automation can help improve accuracy and speed, creating more cost effective, agile businesses.
With costs rising and revenues under pressure, management have the opportunity to seize the initiative and future-proof their firms, either by investing in and significantly upgrading their systems or by outsourcing various functions, allowing them to focus on core areas of expertise.
To coin a phrase from Captain James Kirk, they can “boldly go where no asset manager has gone before.”