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Future-proofing business continuity

11 December 2020

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Jonathan White of Intertrust reflects on the opportunity the pandemic presents in reassessing business continuity plans.

Most businesses have business continuity plans (BCPs), but most of those plans don’t consider things like family members fighting for bandwidth or the distraction of make-shift home offices doubling as classrooms. We’re fortunate the coronavirus pandemic struck at a time when we have nimble technology allowing a quick shift to work from home, and now employees are able to point out what their companies’ BCPs fail to encompass. It’s in moments like these managers may start to rethink their operating model for the future.

The theme of ‘digital transformation’ isn’t a new one. Over the past decade, hedge funds have raced to accelerate tech capabilities to get an edge on competitors, attract more assets and produce greater returns, using services like artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow for alpha-centric investments, prioritising big data and analytics. The implementation of bots has allowed for an extremely efficient data collection rate compared to what a human is capable of and 24/7 analysis is now possible. But when we go through events that trigger BCPs, how we define themes like ‘digital transformation’ shift. Fund managers have a lot to consider.

The combination of work from home and a rapid increase in automation hitting the industry at the same time is unprecedented. Questions that many have seemed inconceivable are at the top of mind for managers. Is an office presence even necessary anymore? How do we switch to cloud-based data storage versus the in-office server room? It all comes back to bringing down fixed costs, but the answers to these difficult questions have yet to be answered by seemingly any fund and may be worrisome to some.

There is one thing managers can do right now when planning for the future, considering new BCPs, operating models and cost-efficiencies: don’t write off the human element. How do we retain connections, collaboration and creativity when grabbing coffee with a client is no longer possible and many job duties as we knew them are co-sourced or out-sourced? Some of the very technologies that are making working from home in this pandemic possible, like video conferencing, webinars and e-signatures, may make managers, clients and employees alike feel alienated. Trust is harder to establish via strictly remote communications.

There is one thing managers can do right now when planning for the future: don’t write off the human element

For now, most organisations have retained their physical offices and automation means the burden of fundamental yet tedious tasks is alleviated for employees. We’ve gotten through the pandemic so far with these accommodations. But when or if we decide to return to our old normal or continue with the new normal, don’t stop considering the human element. Think about employees and clients in these important next decisions. Markets were in turmoil when we shifted to work from home, and it’s because of managers’ fast-thinking and problem-solving mentalities that our industry is afloat and growing. This mentality should be carried over to the people too. Maybe soon we can ask each other if we’re comfortable meeting outdoors for lunch or a round of golf, but until then, keep the people involved in your fund at front of mind.

 

Originally published in November 2020 in HFM.Global. 

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