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Max Heppleston shares some insights into the future of Investment Management sales.
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to evolve so do businesses around the world in ways we did not expect, and the winners have been those that can adapt to the new landscape quickly. Despite this all Investors still need to invest, and lenders still need to lend.
People have been talking about how COVID may impact sales and the sales process across every industry you can think of, but Investment Management has always traditionally been a very face to face environment, when you are investing that much money clients want to at the least put a face to the name and shake your hand. But with lockdowns, restrictions, and everything this year has brought with it meeting face to face has become increasingly difficult if not impossible.
So, Sales and Relationship Management teams have been left with a problem, how do we maintain our high level of services to our discerning clients when we cannot see them. Traditionally a lot of the salespeople I speak with live on planes and at airports almost constantly flying from one client’s office to the next, but with the rapid and widespread adoption of Zoom and other video calling services people have (perhaps begrudgingly so) made do with what they have got. The investment business, particularly prospects, consultants and clients have been somewhat reluctant in the past, a senior distribution executive told me “I can think of very few times when they thought it sufficient to do a video call and almost always expected an in-person meeting or phone call. No longer do we need a $250,000 video conferencing room setup to operate. We can all log in from our homes. “
This seems to have led to a realisation, a lot of the senior stakeholders I speak to have realised that perhaps the entire sales team does not have to be on an almost endless journey between offices, perhaps they do not even need to be based in a traditional financial hub at all like New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.
Now video calls will never replace face to face interaction, but it could mean you need to travel a lot less, instead of seeing your clients on a quarterly basis or more, you can see them twice a year and have a video call the other times. Instead of traveling to a new prospects office half a dozen times you only need to go once or twice; and if this is the case, why do you need to base your whole sales team in New York, or another expensive financial hub with high tax rates? Or your team could be based in their territory, i.e., Southeast, Midwest, West, Mid Atlantic or Northeast allows them to drive, take the train or fly to meetings. In today’s environment being able to drive to meetings and then home within the day can be very useful. Another thought is that if you have great sales/ relationship people they should be extraordinary at connecting. If they do not live/office at headquarters the time they spend at headquarters should be spent making sure those connections are strong and top tier operators never have a problem making that happen. They recognize the importance of these internal relationships.
If your staff have the right equipment you could move them to a cheaper, more business-friendly place where both you and your staff can benefit from a lower operating cost and a lower cost of living. Also, with the advancement of technology everyone has Wi-Fi and home office setups pretty much comparable to an office. People also no longer need to be down the street from an actual market anymore. You need to be where your clients & prospects are and many of them are not based in those cities, but rather suburbs and other various locations around the country.
We have seen some of the large Silicon Valley companies move to Texas, and Investment management firms seem to be following with Florida and Texas being the current favourites. One senior distribution executive who has worked in Boston and NYC commented, “Since I have been in Dallas, I have seen countless firms moving either entirely or massive % of their workforce to the DFW area. The airport, infrastructure, business & personal tax environment, cost of living and weather are much better than the likes of NYC, Boston or Chicago.”
Not only can moving out of these traditional financial hubs help to save money, but it can also improve your team’s quality of life, broadens your talent pool, and helps foster a more diverse work environment. “For years I have struggled hiring the best, diverse talent for my distribution team. Often, the top tier candidates are not willing to move their family and prefer to remain wherever they are based. I have found new hires are much more productive if you leave them in their territory and allow them to take on the stress of a new job without that of an entire family relocation.” Alongside the added benefit of your sales team having more time to sell, than sitting on a plane or driving.
The future seems remote, or at least semi remote, and some of the firms that have embraced this already have taken Covid in their stride, but I think 2021 will hold the decentralisation of sales teams, and with it, a massive broadening of the talent pool.