The coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on asset managers to accelerate digital growth throughout their businesses, a consultancy has said on the basis of a survey.

Alpha FMC, an asset and wealth management consultancy, surveyed 40 of the largest global asset managers. It found that 79% now considered digital a top or high priority area, compared with 64% in last year’s survey.

More than half (55%) predicted their firms’ digital spending would increase over the next year. Sales enablement activity was the second-ranked area of expenditure on digital for asset managers across the board and the top priority digital spend for institutional firms.

The consultancy also said the coronavirus pandemic had effectively stress-tested the digital estate of many firms, highlighting that some might not be as far along their transformation journey as they previously thought.

The majority of firms (68%) described themselves as ‘getting organised’ on digitisation, a 20% increase on 2019.

According to the survey, less than a quarter of managers thought their existing digital capabilities met client expectations and 75% said less than 5% of their workforce were in roles that focus on the growth of digital.

“Digitisation is now equally relevant across all segments including institutional investors”

Kevin O’Shaughnessy, head of digital and agile transformation at Alpha FMC

Alpha said its research threw up a “stark change in landscape” since 2019 with regard to the obstacles preventing widespread digital adoption.

According to the latest survey, the top three obstacles to good digital delivery in 2020 are seen as a lack of investment, organisational set-ups that are digitally incompatible, and a need for cultural change across businesses.

In last year’s survey, underinvestment was not necessarily considered an obstacle and previously, lack of buy-in from senior leadership proved one of the major barriers to digital change.

“However, this year’s findings indicate that the industry’s key decision makers now recognise the benefits that company-wide digitisation can bring,” said Alpha.

Kevin O’Shaughnessy, head of digital and agile transformation at Alpha FMC, said: “While coronavirus appears to have shocked many firms into taking their digital transitions more seriously, there is still much work to be done across the sector in order to meet increasing client demands.

“Our findings indicate that the importance of digitisation has moved across many aspects of an asset managers business and is now equally relevant across all segments including institutional investors. Asset managers see that their clients have become accustomed to slick digital offerings in lockdown and want to see them rolled out further.”

Alpha’s survey took place between April and May this year.

Looking for IPE’s latest magazine? Read the digital edition here.