When we last attended the ALFI European Asset Management conference, almost exactly a year ago, it was directly after Theresa May had triggered the official Brexit process in a letter to the EU. A year on, and the details surrounding Brexit are still no clearer.
As you might imagine, the topic was discussed at length at this year’s conference, where more than 500 delegates comprised of senior decision-makers from some of the world’s biggest and highest-profile asset management companies.
The lack of progress in talks between the UK and the EU however has not hampered progress in the industry, and the speakers this year were keen to focus on subjects that can drive change across the board, regardless of the impact that Brexit could have in 2019. In fact, the uncertainty and the upcoming deadline is being taken by some as the catalyst to propel change at a faster rate than before.
The head of CSSF, David Hagen, perfectly summarised why the time is now for eShare in the funds industry. The number one priority, he said, is for board data security. Printing board meeting papers or emailing a PDF is no longer acceptable. It simply isn’t secure. Forget the shady world of hackers, it can just simply be a case of getting lost! Secure platforms for board papers exist and the CSSF have reviewed and approved the security around them. Encryption as well as PFS and ISO27001 certification make this choice an easy one, surely. It may be the way it has been done for years but the board find that the paper packs are difficult to carry around and a waste of paper, and the emailed PDFs are difficult to navigate and get lost in their emails.
Security was by no means the only topic covered on the speaking stages. Board diversity and the role of women in the upper echelons of the financial services sector was a topic finally given some attention by a panel of experts. This discussion seemed particularly pertinent in the run up to International Women’s Day, which followed the day after ALFI, and demonstrated that there is much work to do in this area when it comes to the transparency around director appointments. Board level transparency is something that is being demanded more and more in today’s society, and as new generations of employees begin to reach positions of greater responsibility, the demand for transparency and the demolition of the glass ceiling that still exists today will reach a tipping point.
Millennials in the workplace was another topic that drew great debate on the first day especially, as their influence is beginning to be felt more and more in the industry. Technology and the Fintech movement are playing a big part in this as the influence of automation and AI grows. Adoption of technology is increasing in every department; however, there are still barriers to be overcome.
Fintech and the adoption of technology
If there is going to be any resistance to adopting technology to streamline processes, it’s likely to be higher up in the organisation, which is something we know lots about. We create software for board members to use, most of whom may not be the most technology-savvy community. This means it is more important than ever to make an interface that dispels the barriers to them adopting it. When you are a board member, you may sit on several boards. If you have to log out and back in every time you need to switch to another board’s documentation, this could drive you crazy. You want to seamlessly flick between your boards. You also don’t want to spend forever watching a document try to load. You want to have offline access so you can take advantage of the downtime a journey offers if you need.
This ease of use can be boiled down to one subject; user experience, or UX as it’s known. Possibly the most animated speaker at ALFI EAM conference this year was Andrew Keith-Walker who talked about user experience. What the customer wants is not always what you think. He talked about a company who was working to upgrade the Boris bikes in London and rather than wanting a convenient, efficient, eco, time-saving way to travel, they actually just wanted to catch their train on time. While there may be many benefits many companies struggle to focus in on the desire their customers have.
In our business, the B2B SaaS software business, customer experience can often be missed or skimped when building a product. The developers forge ahead to make something that they think the customer may want. However taking time to listen to the people who use or might use the product and their problems is a crucial step to take, and is often the difference between good software and great software. Also considering the other technology they use, technology that they may be using in the rest of their lives, like Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, even Sky or Virgin Media. This is the way to create a design that is simple to use, that they can pick up quickly that will immediately fit into their busy lives.
Being able to demonstrate the benefits that software such as BoardPacks can bring to the financial services industry is always one that we enjoy, and we were able to delight and intrigue visitors to the stand, both new and old with the latest updates and enhancements we have made to our solution. We also invited visitors to our stand to complete a survey offering their insights into the industry, which we will release the results of shortly.
We hope that those of you who attended ALFI had as good a time as we did and found the talks, panel discussions and stand visits as insightful. If you would like to continue the discussion you had with us at our stand, or want to know more about our software and how it can help your organisation, please contact Daniel Tin on firstname.lastname@example.org