Print Is Dead
Let's admit it. Our industry is not very good at quickly and meaningfully communicating what we know to investors who need to know it. Sure, we engage in a lot of effort to offer "transparency," but when that information is slow to arrive and difficult to understand, doesn't that make our transparency rather opaque? And many fund managers and administrators still think it's acceptable to take over a month – sometimes two – to typeset, edit, print and snail mail information to investors.
Seriously? When was the last time you relied on the weekly TV Guide to choose a channel, or reached into your glove compartment to find a map?
In today's fast-paced world, data needs to keep pace with decision-making. Stale information provides no real disclosure at all. Investors realize this and are beginning to demand real-time transaction and reporting information.
These are not unreasonable requests. Print is dead. And if you don't proactively invest in automation – if you wait for regulatory requirements to dictate your next move -- then it will drag you into the grave with it.
As leaders, it's our duty to imagine what the future could be and to innovate ahead of the curve rather than reacting with 20/20 hindsight.
Even before driving while on the phone became illegal, auto makers imagined a hands-free future and began building Bluetooth into their consoles and creating a selling advantage. And Apple did more than just respond when they had the audacity to dream of – and help create – a world of all-digital music.
Lack of timely, useful information will drive away investors who want real-time access to make informed decisions. Markets move at the speed of light across time zones and geographies. When fund reporting doesn't keep pace, investors lose confidence and control.
That's a giant failing on our part. And it's one we make over and over, every time a new regulation demands we change and we see it as a burden rather than an opportunity.
We must remember the investor's changing needs and expectations. We must lead through the changes that come at us, treat them as opportunities to innovate for our customers and leapfrog our competitors, and have the audacity to envision true transparency.
We have the technology to start immediately. We must stop physically printing pieces. We must replace tedious typesetting and print processes with new, flexible automated processes that transform data into knowledge instantaneously. We must challenge ourselves, as a community and as a market, to radically reduce the time between data production and delivery.
Unfortunately, asset management regulation and behavior change are typically crisis-driven. Let's not wait for the next crisis to embrace automation and transparency. Let's not hand our responsibilities over to the regulators. Let's do it ourselves first, and do it more sensibly.
Let's just call it. Print is dead.