Agility, ESG and better client relations - three lockdown lessons worth learning
Aileen Mathieson, Global Head of Clients at Aberdeen Standard Investments (UK) examines how firms can embrace positive changes made as a result of the pandemic and continue to stay agile in the future
Sara Benwell POSTED ON 8/17/2020 4:00:28 PM
Sara Benwell: How has the recent market volatility impacted your business?
Aileen Mathieson: As we have significant amount of assets with institutional and insurance clients, there was definitely a focus on the quality of the credit portfolios and understanding the risk of downgrades under a number of different economic scenarios.
Clients particularly wanted to understand our control environment and how we were continuing to deploy these controls whilst people were working from home.
"There was definitely a focus on the quality of the credit portfolios"
Certainly across our insurance client base, the Covid-19 situation has created an acceleration of enquiries and work that we were already doing with clients on their ESG integration, which has been very positive.
Sara: What lessons from lockdown will help you strengthen the resilience of your operating environment?
Aileen: The lesson around flexible working and how it can be very effective and not impact productivity is one that we will all carry forward.
There is a part of ESG in this which makes it feel like it is the right way to go but again, we need to get the data to make sure that it does prove the case.
It has helped us to consider how we approach change. Some companies have their entire workforce working from home much more rapidly because it was necessary.
"Learning about working in a much more agile way is something that we want to ensure we do not lose."
If this challenge was given to the same teams before this pandemic, they may not have been as quick to make the change.
Learning about working in a much more agile way is something that we want to ensure we do not lose. This will impact how we look at new initiatives and projects going forward.
A lot of my job is working with clients and one of the big benefits of working through this period of isolation is that it has created a much more common bond across teams, clients and suppliers beyond just a business agenda.
Sometimes you can be so much in work mode that you think of people in terms of their roles, but you can have a much deeper connection if you think of them beyond their role and try to understand more about them as a person.
"The traditional ways of interacting with clients, and new clients in particular, are put to one side."
Often, we don’t take enough time to do this, and one of the benefits that has come out of this crisis is that there has been much more personal interaction.
We have had some fantastic sessions with our customers during this Covid-19 switch, which has been great as it is always about creating an enduring relationship and this has helped in some way.
The traditional ways of interacting with clients, and new clients in particular, are put to one side as you can’t go and do a pitch in the way that you would have before.
Equally, we have found other ways around this and actually have had some very good conversations, so it just feels that it is more inclusive.
When you take people out of their normal structures, it does create an opportunity to let everyone participate and not be too caught up in the hierarchy or the traditional position of a normal client or customer or supplier etc.
Sara: Will the pandemic be a catalyst to implementing the lessons learnt in the industry?
Aileen: It will be a catalyst for change in terms of what work life looks like, how people work and how we engage with each other which will be a positive change.
Also, if the data proves right then it will also be a change for ESG being much more centre stage in how we invest, particularly on the social aspect.
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