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​Striking the right balance between stability and innovation: the Canadian perspective.

05 June 2020 by Thomas Eikrem
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Recently, Skillfinder have been expanding significantly in Canada.

With regards to projects, change management and, most importantly, getting the right people to manage those transitions, there is an interesting, consistent trend across our clients and prospects (most of them being pension funds managing 100 bn+ of assets): an alignment of the horizon of investments, i.e. the core or the foundation of the business, and the way talent and key employees are being sourced, supported and developed to facilitate that change.

In a world of continuous technological transformation, this may sound like an oxymoron.

The investment horizon of our largest Canadian client is between 60 and 80 years. They are continuing a journey of organisational and technological change to grow assets under management. The aim is to double within a decade, which would make them one of the largest pension funds in the world.

This is done through significant investments in expertise, new technology, cutting edge systems and people with an appetite to drive improvements.

According to a senior executive of the firm, Covid-19 has had zero impact on strategy. Yes, the day to day business, obviously, has changed, but if your cashflow projection exceeds half a century, there are other considerations. Normality, in one shape of form, will return.

We are doing work with regards to obtaining key people who can be part of this. The original specification of one of the key roles was a hybrid of decades of investment management expertise and a strong desire to try new avenues across asset management, capital markets and treasury. It is, of course, a tall order. However, the high bar comes with a pragmatism which is part of the organisation’s DNA. We experience that approach and attitude across the region.

How do you get that right, the mix of experience and innovation, stability and the idea of constant change, long-term dedication, and an openness to new ideas? According to the aforementioned executive, it is consistently working with colleagues to ensure they can experiment but do not lose sight of the long-term goals – or, in his own words, “I am more interested in your first 1.000 days than your first 100. If your goal is to play golf next year, let us not waste our time.”

On the other side of the pond, in London, where I have been living for the last 20 years, I caught up with a CTO of one of the City’s largest and most established asset managers. It was a different conversation. He said: “As we are not managing our own assets, we are in constant competition. Our mandates used to be 2-3 years. Now, it is 6 months. As we are constantly launching new products and discontinuing others, we are changing the talent accordingly.”

Food for thought. A different perspective. The future is unwritten.

Thomas Eikrem, Head of Consulting - SimCorp
TEikrem@skillfindergroup.com