Hope or horror

Friday 9 June 2017

The future of the investment industry is important for the functioning of the global economy.


The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached…it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery’. That’s how Dickens described Scrooge’s third and final visitor.

At CFA UK’s 2017 Professionalism conference, Roger Urwin, FSIP, didn’t necessarily leave attendees with the same sense of uncertain horror, but his report on the Future State of the Investment Profession certainly makes bracing reading. It paints scenarios that might come to pass depending on our behaviours today – will we be professional and respected or disliked, disrupted and irrelevant?

To test some of the report’s findings, Urwin put some of the report’s key questions to the audience. Their responses indicate that the report has hit its mark.

72% of attendees feel that the pace of change in the industry is quickening, with close to 30% of participants conceding that their job is unlikely to exist in 10 years’ time.

46% of those at the conference feel that investment management has been unsuccessful in introducing new technologies, with just 26% believing the opposite to be true. There was widespread agreement that the investment sector needs to do more to mimic the experiences that consumers typically have from tech companies – speed, personalisation and simplicity are not watchwords for us yet, but they need to be.

Technology will also change the nature of professionalism. Many of our ethical codes and standards relate to security selection, asset allocation and portfolio construction. How are we going to safeguard and support ethical behaviour when many of these functions are driven by algorithms?

The Future State of the Investment Profession may be a little disturbing to make good bedtime reading, but it throws out key questions that engage us all and to which we must respond if we want to ‘sponge away the writing on this stone’.

About Roger Urwin, FSIP
Global Head of Investment Content, Willis Towers Watson 

Roger assumed the post of Global Head of Investment Content at Towers Watson in July 2008 after acting as the Global Head of the investment practice from 1995 to 2008. His current role includes work for some of the firm’s major investment clients both in the UK and internationally. He leads the firm’s work on transformational change and has conducted major strategic reviews at a number of global leading funds. He is also involved with the Willis Towers Watson thought leadership group (Thinking Ahead Group) and co-founder of the Thinking Ahead Institute.

Roger is also Advisory Director at MSCI Inc and Chair of the Advisory Council to the CFA Institute Future of Finance initiative.
Mark Zinkula