Accenture Capital Markets Blog

Asset managers are facing substantial pressures with a changing operating environment and a need for talent that must evolve along with it. In our recent thought leadership publication, The Future of the Asset Management Operating Model, we discussed how growing the asset management business puts an agile operating model change in primary focus.

We are finding that simply incorporating emerging technologies into the traditional operating model will not be enough to move the needle toward the future for asset managers. Instead, they can compete—and succeed—by changing their operating model to embrace new technology while also fully enabling a newly skilled workforce to thrive in that environment.

As asset managers are changing their operating models and technology to compete over the next decade, it is crucial that they think about their employees’ skillsets as well. Our research shows that we are on the verge of a drastic shift in how asset managers are thinking about hiring.

Now is the time for asset managers to be asking targeted questions to address whether they are ahead of, or behind, the curve:

  1. What is the targeted makeup of the asset management workforce in the future?
  2. How can we acquire or develop the workforce skillsets they will need?
  3. How can we manage organization and cultural change in an effective way to ensure a successful transformation?

Shifting to the future workforce

Accenture recently partnered with the Investment Company Institute (ICI) to carry out an in-depth study of the investment operations of some of the industry’s largest asset managers. One of the questions posed to these leaders covered the most sought-after workforce skillsets in the industry, both now and in five years.

Topping the list of employee qualifications most in demand today are: operations domain knowledge, problem solving and leadership. These are not surprising, as the intricacies throughout the front, middle and back offices require nuanced and detail subject matter expertise.

Interestingly, technology development and data science are currently in lesser demand, identified by fewer than a quarter of asset managers. This paints a picture of business-led asset management operations with a lower emphasis on an empowered and high-priority technology counterpart.

QUESTION: Which qualification is most in demand at your firm today? And in five years?

Five years from now is when things will get interesting, at least according to our research. Asset managers showed a complete flip-flop in desired skillsets looking forward. Data science will be the most sought-after qualification in asset management operations five years from now. Technology development will be second. While functional subject matter expertise will continue to be important, it is difficult not to glean insight into how the workforce around it will evolve.

Stepping into new roles for the future  

Three roles that will grow in importance to asset managers in the near future include:

  1. Data Scientists
    Companies will continue to be further challenged to deliver business insights from data sources across the organization. Data science can help drive strategy, build and assess information from multiple sources. It can allow for the translation of that information into well-defined opportunities to unlock competitive advantages across the firm.
  2. Elevated Business Analysts
    The introduction of new and emerging technologies does not eliminate the need for deep subject matter expertise. Instead, it increases the need for people who can deliver value-added context and service to the organization at scale. This is where we see the shift from operational duties to technology driven analysis, yielding intelligence and insights that inform functions across the investment lifecycle.
  3. Change Leaders
    Business and team leadership will be required to sponsor and promote change within the organization. These leaders are ultimately responsible for bringing the organization’s culture along on the transformational journey.

The workforce of the future must support a more dynamic, digital operating model. Asset managers will need their people to be flexible, deeply knowledgeable and service oriented.

Human + Machine Collaboration
The success and evolution of businesses across all industries in the near future will increasingly depend on the collaboration of people and machines—meaning, intelligent technologies. This will be a significant driver of growth and innovation. And the asset management industry is no exception.

The future of the industry will involve obtaining expertise and scaling it through technology. This will include dynamically inventing and altering processes quickly by bringing business expertise and technology much closer together. Doing so would allow for constant, immediate improvements to systems and processes that are not seen today. It would introduce a predictive, proactive and much higher added value environment to investment operations. The concept of business operations resources without technological understanding, or technology-only individuals without business subject matter expertise will likely move toward extinction.

The future is happening now

Future success in the asset management industry partly depends on the engagement of employees and their willingness to embrace the shifts required to achieve a new way of operating. Asset managers should therefore define their vision for the future organizational culture alongside the future operating model if they are to succeed.

Based on our research, this is top of mind for asset management executives. If a strategy to alter your workforce to the inevitable future is not in place, it could be in place for your competitors. Your most important meetings this quarter could come in the form of talent strategy. Staffing the workforce of the future is more than just people; it also requires a look at the full operating and interaction models, detailed process change and a change in firm culture. It’s time to take the first steps to imagine the model workforce of the future, then create a real plan to make it a reality.

To learn more, read: The Future of the Asset Management Operating Model