Capital market firms have weathered the pandemic much better than other industries.
Despite market volatility, increased transaction volume, higher demand for advisory, and other contributing factors, sub-industries within the capital markets domain have done well. The pandemic has underscored the need for firms to adopt sustainable business practices to withstand COVID-like shocks in the future.
The ability to effectively deal with market volatilities, uncertainties, and other crises is key to retaining customer trust. To accomplish this, capital market firms must embrace future-proof, innovative business models to nimbly adapt and respond to changing client and market contexts. We highlight the key traits of future-ready firms—secure, adaptive, limitless—and discuss what capital market industry players must do for accelerated growth and a profitable, shock-proof sustenance.
GETTING TO THE TOP, AND STAYING THERE
Most large capital market firms have performed well in the past two years and we anticipate a positive outlook for investment banks, asset management firms, and wealth management firms in 2022 as well.
Over the last two years, firms have largely focused on improving business resilience, embracing hybrid and remote operations to reduce real estate and infrastructure cost, launching innovative products like sustainable funds and crypto products, and building agile platforms to support transformation strategies.
To build resilience and drive future growth, capital market firms must embed three traits—secure, adaptive, and limitless—into their organizational DNA. Achieving this will require firms to build trust by adopting a purpose-driven business model, respond swiftly to change by embracing an agile organizational structure and launching differentiated products, and explore new frontiers through collaborative ecosystems and a scalable operating model (see Figure 1). Weaving them into firms’ ethos and culture is imperative to ensure business adaptability for long-term sustainability and growth.
Figure 1: What it takes to be a future-ready capital market firm
Secure is about a firm’s ability to build trust among stakeholders while adaptive pertains to the ability to constantly evolve to the changing industry context. These two foundational pillars are critical to remaining competitive and retaining market position. Being limitless envisages a mindset shift—a shift from traditional business models. It is about forging non-traditional partnerships and harnessing ecosystems to launch breakthrough products, target untapped customer segments, and build innovative business models to disrupt the market and achieve leadership.
TRUST IS PARAMOUNT
A business built on trust is crucial across industries but the implications for capital market firms are significantly higher.
This is because an adverse impact on financial stability has considerable negative impact on individual businesses and the overall financial health of communities. Recent media reports of scams, regulatory breaches, and unlawful marketing and sales practices have not only resulted in heavy penalties for banks but have also created a certain level of distrust and wariness in the investor community.
Firms must exhibit secure behavior and win customer trust by embracing business models founded on socio-economic values, for example, by adopting environment, social and governance (ESG) practices and offering personalized offerings driven by customer purpose. All these measures collectively help improve customer confidence as well as enhance the brand image. Let us examine some measures that are critical to building and retaining customer trust.
Create purpose-driven offerings
A firm’s offerings must align with its customers’ savings and investment goals and address the challenges or pain points within the client’s context. In the case of institutional clients, capital market firms must gain comprehensive understanding of their customers’ digital journey and preferences, adopt digital-first strategies, and leverage partner ecosystems to meet diverse customer requirements. An important tool in this regard is the ecosystem journey map, which helps firms understand the real need or purpose that drives their customers, and design offerings accordingly. For example, wealth management firms must explore life planning frameworks that align to a customer’s values and underlying motivations while defining financial goals, and focus on helping them achieve their objectives. With the increased focus on sustainable investing, capital market firms must develop capabilities to personalize socio-economic themes at the product level, for example, offering personalized ESG funds that better map to individual clients’ values will help gain goodwill and trust.
Deploy risk and compliance mechanisms
Firms must strengthen key businesses and operating parameters to build the resilience needed to weather market volatilities and COVID-like storms and ensure long-term business sustainability.
The capacity to successfully pivot in uncertain times is critical to winning customer trust.
Strengthening risk and compliance mechanisms in areas like capital management, regulatory compliance, climate change, business and operating models, and stakeholder management is key to building resilience. Managing the impact of the Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB) regulation, aAmong others, on capital management, ensuring compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, undertaking modifications to support hybrid work models, modelling risk frameworks to launch new products like crypto funds, and facilitating accurate ESG reporting are some areas that will need special attention.
MATCH THE SPEED OF CHANGE
The ability to adapt business and operational models to changing industry context is a core trait of successful firms, and this was on display during the pandemic.
Firms that were able to quickly adapt to changing client demands and those that built digital capabilities in response to the increasing demand for digital engagement weathered the COVID-19 crisis far better than the others, and witnessed significant growth.
Capital market firms must embed responsiveness and adaptability into their organizational DNA. This will entail adopting agile practices across both business and technology areas such as product management, channel and relationship management, infrastructure, among others.
Here are three ways in which capital market firms can become adaptable and responsive.
Develop capabilities to launch quickly
The ability to launch products swiftly, once a market trend, opportunity, or threat is identified allows firms to gain competitive advantage or retain parity, in turn attracting new clients and retaining existing ones. A swift response, however, will require firms to re-evaluate their product operating models, restructure the people-process-technology triad, and ensure robust data management to improve time-to-market for new products and services.
For example, wealth management firms must quickly launch products that can be personalized to individual clients’ preferences or sustainability values gaining an edge over firms offering standard sustainability products. Integrating ESG strategies, data, and dashboards and regulatory reporting mechanisms into the product operating model is thus a key step for a quick launch.
Infuse agility into processes
Catering to dynamic customer journeys, omni- and opti-channel engagement, hybrid engagement platforms, hyper-personalization, and digital self-service requires a high degree of business agility. The industry is already seeing such trends. Wealth management firms are looking at introducing a hybrid digital advisory platform to enable clients to gain access to advice in an efficient, understandable, convenient, affordable way while also meeting clients’ sustainability objectives. Retail firms are automating the entire onboarding process for better customer experience while some institutional banks are offering open APIs to provide a technical foundation to facilitate digital, cross-organizational business processes. Similarly, some firms are deploying digital assistants to provide self-service facilities to clients and on-demand insights to staff.
Accomplishing all this mandates a high degree of business agility, which in turn necessitates a robust business and operating model underpinned by a digital core, intelligent automation, cloud transformation, and machine-first principles. The industry needs to focus on new paradigms such as:
In this context, the increasing shift to a hybrid workforce model deserves a special callout given unexpected benefits like real estate cost savings and the ability to attract and retain new talent. To adapt to a hybrid workforce model, firms must build the requisite agility and infrastructure to support remote workers.
Manage evolving regulations
Becoming future-ready will entail rapidly adapting to evolving and new regulations, necessitating a robust risk and compliance management framework. To this end, firms must leverage technology to improve overall operational efficiency and at the same time reduce cost. With the increased focus on climate risk today, adopting the right technology platforms can help financial firms model physical and transition risks and factor them into business, operating, and investment models. Key technologies that firms will need to adopt are: