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Thursday, October 07, 2021

How Is RM Evolving?

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

"Relationships are more important than ever. We're doing more business with our best relationships, but it's also more challenging to build new relationships."

Kirsten Pickens
FS Investments
Co-Head of U.S. Distribution
So said Joe Sullivan, the incoming CEO of what will soon be Allspring Global Investments (currently known as Wells Fargo Asset Management), in a session at the virtual 2021 Nicsa GMM (general membership meeting). Sullivan was part of a "C-Suite Roundtable," moderated by CNBC's Sharon Epperson, that also featured Paul Dawe, CEO and chief operating officer of HSBC Global Asset Management (USA), and Kevin Mahn, president and chief investment officer of Hennion & Walsh Asset Management.

The pandemic, Sullivan said, is "an opportunity to refine, redefine meaning and purpose in the asset management industry."

"Relationships really matter," agreed Kirsten Pickens, co-head of U.S. distribution at FS Investment, when speaking at the conference. "Our workloads have just increased incredibly ... It is going to get harder and harder to get in front of our clients."

Pickens spoke this morning on a panel, entitled "The Evolution of Relationship Management," that also featured Clint Harris, head of wealth management platforms and global consulting at Invesco, and Stephanie Meadows, director of relationship management and advanced FA education for wealth and investment management (WIM) at Wells Fargo. Lee Kowarski, vice president and head of data science and distribution solutions at SS&C Technologies, moderated the panel.

Kowarski suggested that fundsters move "towards digital-first selling." He cited recent research showing that 20 percent of advisors don't want to meet with wholesalers at all, while another 29 percent of FAs will only meet with wholesalers remotely. (On the flip side, 18 percent of those FAs will only meet wholesalers in-person, not virtually, and 33 percent of advisors will meet either in-person or virtually.

Older, more senior advisors are "still going to want that hand-to-hand combat," Meadows said, but the newer, younger advisors feel differently.

"They appreciate the hybrid. Technology is going to be critical," Meadows said. "You can just do so much more without the plane drain that we're all used to."

"We're going to have to do it all," Pickens said. "Everyone's going to have to do hybrid."

Harris predicted that about 30 percent of meetings that would have been in-person before the pandemic will stay virtual even after the pandemic ends. He sees smaller regional events and experiential events as increasingly important going forward.

"We are open to multiple models of how to handle this," Sullivan said yesterday. "We need a workforce that is agile, flexible, innovative, resilient, because we don't know what's going to come next." 

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