Managing key man risk in your investment firm

When chatting to clients and prospective clients in the investment sector, they inevitably want to know what we can do to help them use technology to work smarter and do more with less.

Our custom software development services try and do just that and we often work with clients to understand their business processes and workflows to see if there are systems that could interface, processes that could be automated, or steps that could be streamlined.

Automation and Robotic Process Automation are gaining traction across the sector and EY stated in the 2018 Global Alternatives Fund Survey, that robotics and AI capabilities are being deployed at a fast rate in the front, middle and back offices, of many asset managers. This has resulted in more accurate and speedy data processing, advanced visualisation and reporting capabilities, and the redeployment of resource from low level repetitive tasks to more strategic work.

But many firms are wary of using technology to automate tasks because of the inherent risks around “key man dependency”.

If firms can find someone with the skills they need, which is trick in itself, the developer might build a great automation system, then leave the firm, taking the knowledge with them.

Whilst it might be policy to train the wider operations team on systems and software, in reality specialist IT resources are always stretched and rarely have time to disseminate information or document their development work.

Outsourcing this development work can mitigate the risk of key man dependency if the technology partner employs a team of developers and project managers, already skilled in RPA and automation technology, and cross trains them to ensure that knowledge is shared across a number of individuals. Choose a partner that uses an enterprise grade ticketing system too, as cross client knowledge and learning will be shared across the team to your benefit. Likewise, organisations that use real time messaging solutions like Slack, ensure that queries and ongoing development work are shared and debated across the development team, not siloed in one individual’s email inbox.

When we work on any client project, as standard we provide detailed technical documentation, post-implementation, which outlines the whole development process and allows clients a handle on the systems, should they need to take it back in house, or work with a different provider in the future.

A recent Financial Management article on managing key person risk talks about moving away from the idea of key individuals and start thinking about strategic positions. The developer as an individual becomes less important than the role of software development and with the right documentation, knowledge and support, this role can be filled by someone else, either within the company or by outsourcing to a team of individuals.

By looking at it in this light, a skills shortage or key man dependency risk doesn’t become a blocker to innovation.