ASSET MANAGEMENT IN FOCUS: Brexit Means Back to Basics

March 16, 2017

- Stephen Fishleigh

This week London played host to The Summit for Asset Management - or TSAM as it’s better known. This series of conferences, which have been running since 2001, bring together over 100 speakers and 500 delegates to discuss all operational aspects of asset management, from marketing and communications through to performance measurement and investment risk looking at what’s now and next for the industry.

"While the Brexit negotiations are out of an individual company’s hands, they can prepare for the worst and focus on their fundamentals. There will always be demand for well-run companies that lead the way in innovation and service delivery regardless of the regulatory framework."


It’s an ambitious undertaking for a one-day event and, with so much ground to cover after two initial keynote panels, the conference splits into six co-located streams each with their own dedicated programme and chairperson. In total there were somewhere in the region of 60 panel discussions, fireside chats and presentations over the course of the day.

BackBay was pleased to once again provide the event’s organisers, Osney Media, with PR support using our expertise in the asset management and financial technology space to raise awareness of the conference among the press and to secure their participation. There was significant media interest in the event with the likes of The Economist, FX Week and Waters Technology all represented.

This level of interest speaks to the quality of the content and roster of speakers assembled by the organisers - to mention nothing of our efforts - but also to the growing prominence of operational considerations to the prospects and the overall health of the sector.

I was particularly struck by the remarks of Richard Lacaille, State Street Global Advisor’s Chief Investment Officer, in the opening session, What can the industry do to stabilise the tide of uncertainty brought about by Brexit? He spoke about the UK sector’s need to focus on qualitative improvements to safeguard its position as a financial centre.

The uncertainty caused by Brexit looms large over the UK; indeed there was some speculation that Article 50 - the official notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU that starts a two-year negotiation process - would be triggered the day before TSAM took place. In the event it wasn’t, but it just serves to illustrate the level of uncertainty around the whole process.

The point that Richard was making was that the eventual agreement for asset managers, for the whole financial services industry, and its relationship with Europe cannot be known and, that even two years down the line, it still may not be resolved. Instead of watching from the side lines as the negotiating teams slug it out, asset managers need to focus on the basics of running a business; providing the best possible service in order to meet the needs of their clients. While the Brexit negotiations are out of an individual company’s hands, they can prepare for the worst and focus on their fundamentals. There will always be demand for well-run companies that lead the way in innovation and service delivery regardless of the regulatory framework.

This is what TSAM is all about and why now, more than ever, it is so relevant. In a pre-conference co-branded research study we conducted with TSAM, we found that investing in technology systems improvements is a key priority for 75% of the 108 asset managers we surveyed. This suggests the industry is doing just that; investing in transformation projects that make them more efficient, competitive and client-oriented. This was echoed in the conversations I had with the delegates at TSAM and from the panels I managed to get to. Another finding from the survey was that the number of respondents saying their company had been negatively affected by Brexit had fallen from 29% in September 2016 to 11% now. There’s nothing to suggest the eventual outcome for the asset management industry has changed in between times; perhaps instead it reflects a greater realisation that the fate of their company is in their own hands and the quality of their operations.

You can read the full report on the survey here.