Asset & Wealth Managers Should Stop Creating Digital Strategies

Kevin O'Shaughnessy, Joe Brown, Thomas Goldwater

Digitisation has been working its way across the Asset Management industry over the last 5+ years, and Alpha’s research has consistently shown that over 80% of managers rate it as one of their top three priorities. This trend has been accelerated in 2020 by the pandemic, and findings from our latest study showed that many managers want to go back to the drawing board on what digital means for their firms, where to place their efforts, and how to execute their digital agenda.

Firms are increasingly starting afresh or dusting off their digital strategies; and we are often asked:

“Do I actually need a digital strategy?”

Our response?


Instead, we encourage firms to turn the question around to develop a “Strategy for Digital”. This is not a verbal “sleight of hand” – it’s a way to think about how to respond to the opportunities digitisation presents and, importantly, where those opportunities support the firm’s business strategy rather than discrete activities. We believe that strategy should be developed at the organisational level, enabling firms to work towards a vision which delivers on its mission, with a focus on product development, operating models, and delivering exceptional client experiences.

We also encourage firms to foster a Digital First culture, supporting the delivery of their business strategy. In this, Digital becomes a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

Firms must also identify their own definition of “digital”, which we see as the..

  • Route to provide offerings, content, data, and services to clients via internet enabled channels
  • Automation & digitisation of operational processes
  • Suite of supporting technologies
  • Delivery methodologies promoting Agile ways of working and creating “end-user” value

Set a vision and plot a path

As the pace of change in the industry increases, the time horizon for a firm’s vision should be shorter and reassessed more frequently. An aspirational vision allows organisations to start in the future, then work back to the present to establish a route grounded in the existing structures and capabilities of today.

  • Define a vision which focuses your change agenda, revisit often, and iterate or pivot as needed

Understand where digitisation has most impact along your value chain

Look along the value chain (i.e. developing investment solutions through to the way they are operationally delivered) and pinpoint where digitisation can have the greatest impact. Doing this allows you to understand the economics of digitisation and highlight the opportunities impacting multiple areas of the business.

  • Understand your value chain and target where to focus your digitisation efforts

Re-evaluate your change portfolio

Assess the initiatives within the change portfolio, understanding that everything is up for discussion. We recommend firms Think Big about their digital ambitions. An organisation’s change agenda is often dominated by client-facing initiatives, but don’t discount the value of operational transformation; these often yield significant savings, whilst the streamlined business processes still benefit the client.

  • Build a digital roadmap for change which helps to deliver your firm’s business ambitions

Identify / Hire Digital Leader(s)

The right person for the job will vary by role and firm, however one thing is undeniable: you need leadership and someone to take accountability for the digital agenda, bring key stakeholders on the journey and inspire the firm to embrace this cultural shift. Without one, we see clients fall into the trap of developing capabilities in silos, often with contradicting intended outcomes. In the pursuit of a visionary, be careful to avoid a knee-jerk appointment from outside the firm in a ceremonial search for inspiration.

  • Find a visionary who can act as a change agent and galvanise a coalition of the willing

 Start Small, Scale Fast

With the digital roadmap anchored by the firm’s business drivers, the next step is simple; start with the most important thing first and be iterative in your approach. Effective initiatives are scalable, delivering incremental value across an integrated estate. Avoid big bang solutions – throwing a big technical capability at a problem is rarely the solution – becoming a digital first organisation is more nuanced; don’t automate a broken process or digitise a redundant customer channel.

  • Identify quick wins to build trust and momentum towards the ‘digital first’ culture shift

We believe it is vitally important that firms think strategically about how they become a Digital First business and what this means for all aspects of how they operate and deliver services to clients. This must be complimentary to the overall strategy and reflective of a mix of client, market, technology, and operational needs.

Firms who think this way have a greater chance of making their digital transformation a success whilst bringing their organisations along on the journey.

To hear more on maturing your firm’s digital capabilities, please reach out to Kevin O’Shaughnessy or Joe Brown.

About the Authors

Kevin O'Shaughnessy Alpha FMC
Kevin O'Shaughnessy
Executive Director, Head of Digital & Agile Transformation

Kevin is an Executive Director at Alpha and leads our Digital & Agile Transformation practice. He has over 20 years’ experience of driving digital & client centric transformation across the Financial Services Sector and in particular in the Wealth and Asset Management space. His experience covers the full range of digital topics from strategy to execution which have deployed with a range of asset managers supporting a mix of Institutional, Wholesale, Retail and End Investor audiences.

Joe Brown
Senior Manager

Joe is a Senior Manager in the Digital and Agile practice at Alpha with a focus on CX, Digital Strategy, and Digital Transformation in the Asset and Wealth Management industry. Over the last twelve years, Joe has led engagements ranging across Service Design and Client Experience projects, Digital Strategy and Operating Model redesigns, and large scale digital transformation programmes.

Thomas Goldwater

Tom is a Manager in the Digital Practice at Alpha with over six years' experience working on Digital and Agile consulting projects. He has helped clients design and implement digital programmes of work, as well as holding roles within agile delivery teams.