Deloitte’s Investment Management CFO Symposium
Finance leaders explore opportunities on the horizon
Few periods have proven as challenging to the investment management industry as the present one. Increasingly, chief financial officers (CFO) are being called on to steer the transformation of resources, products, technologies, and organizations required to remain competitive. Our report on Deloitte’s 2017 Investment Management CFO Symposium highlights attendees’ approaches for leading this charge.
- CFOs look beyond the horizon
- Tackling industry pressures
- Changing times, changing role
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CFOs look beyond the horizon
Finance leaders from a wide spectrum of leading and emerging investment management firms gathered at Deloitte’s inaugural Investment Management CFO Symposium last June to share their experiences about navigating the current operating terrain. Absent any change in current trends—a relentless focus on fees, the seismic shift toward passive investments, and cost increases driven by the growing demands of regulators and investors—the industry is almost certainly facing the prospect of further margin declines. But one of the biggest takeaways from the Symposium was the shared belief that change is attainable.
The Symposium also launched the latest Casey Quirk/McLagan Performance Intelligence Survey of investment management firms. Among the survey’s key findings: The pace of margin compression over the next five years depends on the actions of individual firms and the choices they make to realign their resources, products, and organizations.
Increasingly, finance chiefs are being called on to lead this essential transformation.
Tackling industry pressures
Despite the challenges the industry faces, many expressed optimism that investment management firms can find ways to overcome barriers to growth and still compete profitably.
- Active vs. passive: Most actively managed funds have failed to keep pace with the bull market’s performance since the global financial crisis, and many investors are not seeing the merits of paying higher expenses when cheaper index-tracking alternatives abound. The Performance Intelligence Survey showed that pressure on fees is accelerating and asset managers will face increasing demands from investors who are not willing to pay as much for performance as they have in the past.
- Regulatory changes: The Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent move to adopt new and amended liquidity risk management rules governing mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, combined with the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, has turned up the heat on most asset managers in recent years.
- Technology challenges: Discussions on technology and its implications for the investment management industry were front and center at the Symposium. The constant introduction of new technologies—robotics and cognitive automation, dark analytics, and others—is a management challenge and increasing distraction for most firms. Growing cyber risk is chief among CFOs’ top concerns as the issue stretches beyond one of compliance to business continuity and financial and reputational harm.
- The M&A outlook: With organic growth in the industry stalling, it is not surprising that more firms are entertaining potential deals to attract more assets. According to the Performance Intelligence Survey, more than half of asset management M&A activity in 2016 was driven by firms seeking new capabilities, with many seeking bolt-on additions of innovative investment products and technology solutions.
About the Performance Intelligence Survey
Performance Intelligence is a benchmarking study for asset managers to assess their competitiveness. Approximately 90 independent firms—representing more than half of the world’s assets under management and more than two thirds of the assets of the top 40 global managers—participated in the 2017 study.
Changing times, changing role
With so many challenges looming, firms are increasingly looking to the CFO to help drive necessary transformation initiatives. A bigger part of the CFO role is now spent catalyzing behaviors and change to help execute strategic and financial objectives, as well as providing financial leadership in determining strategic business direction.
Despite some pessimism, investment management CFOs attending the Symposium were generally optimistic about growth opportunities for the industry. Success will require a combination of cost-cutting, reinvestment, and truly transformative investments and strategies. It also will require a financial leader who can not only provide analytical support on request, but also challenge the organization to get ahead of these issues and create new platforms for long-term success.