Australasian firms will need to appoint more tech-savvy senior executives and board directors if they are to stay ahead of the disruption curve, according to new research by UK-headquartered financial technology firm, Calastone.
Sarah Hayward, Calastone Australia and NZ head, said the research, which tallied the number of ‘career technologists’ in top corporate or board roles in the largest ASX and NZX companies, had implications for the local funds management industry.
Hayward said the “first of its kind” study found the proportion of senior executives with credible technological skills had increased considerably in both the NZX and ASX largest firms over the last five years.
However, the research shows just over 40 per cent of the 94 ASX and 45 per cent of the NZX companies surveyed had tech specialists in leadership roles – up from 7.4 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, in 2011.
“While growth is welcome, these findings may not be as significant as they appear,” the Calastone report says, with the results translating into 38 ASX companies with techno-leaders and nine NZX firms. Tellingly, the boardrooms across Australia and NZ are devoid of technology experts, the study says.
An earlier Calastone census of the FTSE 100 found 4 per cent of those UK firms had technology specialists on their boards.
Hayward said the Australasian results served as a “proxy” for technological leadership across industries, including funds management.
The Calastone report says the funds industry should also look to “sectors which have made more significant (albeit not enough) inroads into the technology space, and learn from them”.
“Retail banks have made enormous strides through digitisation of customer-facing functionalities, which has dramatically enhanced the client experience,” the study says.
Calastone says funds management has been largely insulated from technological disruption to date but would inevitably face similar upheavals as experienced by media and music industries.
For example, the study says managers would have to adapt to fund distribution via online platforms if they want “to grow their businesses across generational divides and barriers”.
“Technology is going to change the funds industry. It is critical that market participants are receptive to technological trends, and understand the implications that technology will have on their business and strategy,” the report says. “Those organisations that adopt this mantra are most likely to remain relevant. ‘IT’ or ‘Technology’ must no longer be viewed as a service function within businesses, but instead as a strategic resource.”
Hayward said getting the right tech-minded funds management leadership in place would be crucial in “guiding the culture” of the industry.
Founded in the UK, Calastone claims over 1,000 clients in 29 jurisdictions including New Zealand, where it launched its order routing service with administration firms, such as MMC, and most of the NZ investment platforms last year.
Calastone was also working with fund managers to further embed the order routing standard in NZ, Hayward said.
In Australia, the group provides services to about 85 per cent of the institutional platforms and 65 per cent of fund managers.