The future of work in a post-Covid investment industry

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021 11:34 AM

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These are articles written by professionals for investment professionals. These are contributions from external subject matter experts who do not work for the CFA Institute, but who may be CFA Charter holders and members of a CFA Society. All are experts in their fields and strive to provide useful information that helps investment professionals make better decisions.

The disruptions resulting from Covid-19 have forced companies to adapt and create new working models. While some industries may revert to something akin to their pre-pandemic operating model, the investment industry has already crossed a threshold.

This is the point of view of Kunal Kapoor, CFA, who participated in a webinar titled “The war for talent and the return to work” September 16.

“The longer it gets, the more it’s not about navigating a period”, said the chief executive of US-based investment research firm Morningstar during the webinar hosted by the CFA Institute. “It’s about constantly changing the style in which you lead your team. “

Also participated in the discussion Carol Geremia, President of MFS Investment Management and Head of Global Distribution; and Lori Heinel, CFA, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Investment Officer at State Street Global Advisors. Rebecca Fender, CFA, Chief of Staff for Research, Advocacy and Standards at the CFA Institute, was moderator.

New paradigm for productivity

Companies will need to adopt a hybrid model that combines flexibility and virtual working with the need for in-person interaction, all panelists agreed. “It’s not about going back to the office. It’s the future of work. Heinel said, stressing the need for a forward-looking approach to leadership.

Even though the focus is on the emergence of a new model, some roles may not change much. Professionals dealing with clients who tend to travel and be away from the office often, for example, have a long history of their own hybrid working model, while some other functions must be performed on-site in an office most of the time. (eg, for example, traders may need to be in an office to access the right technology platform).

For Heinel, the conversation must begin with a fundamental question: How can people work more efficiently? Because different functions will have different responses, a model based on flexibility and adaptability will result in greater complexity for businesses to manage.

Many companies, including those of the panelists, have reported an increase in employee engagement during the pandemic. But situations correlated with higher engagement can also come with trade-offs. Regardless of the degree of employee motivation and engagement, a hybrid model will pose challenges in connecting individual professionals within and between teams and fostering the development of meaningful relationships.

Ultimately, any working model will be measured by productivity, which turns out to be an area with a significant perception gap between management and employees. When webinar audience members were asked to agree or disagree with the statement “Investment teams will experience significant productivity gains from moving to a hybrid model,” 83% expected an increase in productivity.

This did not surprise the panelists. In general, employees seem to perceive themselves as having been more productive during the pandemic, but from a management perspective, these professionals may have been more accomplished simply because they worked more hours rather than being longer. productive or efficient.

“I’m not sure if you actually looked at how much time they spend doing things versus going out, that would actually translate into” Heinel said. “I think it’s just that the work-life balance got a bit out of hand.”

The issue of productivity also raises what Geremia called “the biggest challenge of the hybrid model” for management. She described a scenario in which more empowered employees may thrive with less supervision, while those who need more management support may not receive enough guidance or help. Personality differences are another important factor to consider, she added.

From Geremia’s perspective, the overall challenge for leadership can be presented as another kind of inclusiveness – how to run businesses in a way that includes and integrates a wider variety of workers with different characteristics and circumstances.

Impact on investment careers

While a hybrid work model increases complexity for businesses, it will also add new considerations for the career planning of investment professionals.

One of the advantages of a hybrid model based on flexibility is that reducing geographic barriers will increase opportunities.

A global talent pool means global competition between professionals vying for positions. Building strong professional networks will become more important, but the challenge of trying to form meaningful relationships will be more difficult.

The bottom line is that investment professionals will need to be more active in building and maintaining effective networks. When webinar audience members were asked their feedback, 71% agreed with the statement Less face-to-face interactions will make it more difficult to build and maintain professional relationships, and networks will become more fragile.

A hybrid work model will also pose varying challenges for professionals at different stages of their careers, and some of the issues may challenge stereotypes across generations. Consider the impact of technology. While younger generations are often seen as more comfortable with technology, panelists found that younger employees can be the ones who most want to work in an office environment.

Morningstar’s young workers said they learned a lot by observing in the office, Kapoor said “But they don’t see the people who supervise them and supervise them here as often”. In addition, there may be concerns about the possibilities for advancement. “It is an imbalance which we must remedy”, Kapoor added.

The impact on individual professionals can go beyond conventional notions of career planning. Highlighting the issue of mental health, Geremia noted that “The level of burn-out” has become a concern, and the problem is not limited to employees lower in the hierarchy who feel more under pressure. “Even CEOs are exhausted” Kapoor added.

Is the stress associated with adapting to the pandemic only temporary? Mental health could be of increased concern, as a hybrid work model will pursue some of the changes that started as short-term adjustments. More than ever, the work model may need to consider team members in a more holistic way, and not just in quantifiable aspects of performance, such as productivity.

Organizational cultures will have to change

The new working model in the investment industry will have important implications for organizational cultures.

Within companies, leaders will have to find ways to develop cultures with a common goal. A hybrid work model will provide opportunities to increase diversity in several ways (not only in the conventional sense of race, gender, etc., but also in terms of work arrangements and other factors). But greater diversity will also add to the challenge of developing a cohesive and unifying corporate culture.

“Managers will simply have to find a whole new level of team building” Geremia said. “The foundation of it all is the trust and willingness to share information, the willingness to believe that my job is to make someone else better, to make someone else smarter, to tell someone more. ‘one so that we can collectively have a better conviction. “

“Flexibility is here to stay” Kapoor said. “We have to prove that we can create businesses and cultures that can endure with this flexibility. “


CFA Institute will deepen the examination of the new working parameters for the investment industry in a multi-part research series that will explore what, where and how work is done. The first in the series (CONTEXT) is now available. You can access all the results by registering on this page.


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Through Roger mitchell.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CFA Institute or the author’s employer.


Image credit: © Getty Images / Peter Dazeley

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