The Coronavirus pandemic has upended normal business practices and placed unprecedented demands on asset owners. J.P. Morgan’s Executive Director, Client Services, TAMSIN BREW, gives an insight into how asset owners and service providers have worked together through the crisis.
I’ve never experienced anything quite this big. It was absolutely unprecedented – markets were going crazy and the entire industry was working from home.
Communication was crucial. J.P. Morgan and our asset owner clients were dealing with multiple issues that we had never come across before. It really was a time when nobody had all the answers. The most important thing was acknowledging this and that the path forward was grounded in collaboration.
Our clients knew that even though our teams didn’t always know what the next step might be, our client service managers were available to help them work through the issues. There is no doubt that this period has brought J.P. Morgan and our clients closer together.
It’s unusual for funds to send such large amounts of money to so many accumulation members under significant time pressures. Funds were required to continuously report to the regulator about how many days it was taking to release funds.
Quick processing of these amounts required multiple controls and procedures to run smoothly but, in this case, with little time to set it up.
Communication played a key role with our operations processing team identifying key moments when moving such large sums of money would often trigger certain controls such as anti-money laundering regulations.
Events such as COVID underpin how crucial it is to have streamlined and well managed processes and protocols in place.
One of our clients required more than 160 assets to be revalued within three days, which they had never done before. They had to move quickly and then instruct us, as their custodian, so we could feed that information through the unit prices.
The decision was made on a Sunday and implemented by Tuesday. It took constant meetings and phone calls to make sure everyone had what they needed and could get the job done. It was an intense time. Responsiveness and transparency was important at every juncture to get these revaluations completed.
Since then, we’ve been returning to normal processes, which has been another challenge that has involved constant engagement with our operations teams and clients.
We’re having more regular communication with our clients now. The majority is through video conferencing which has presented a number of challenges and also many benefits which we have embraced to deliver the best outcomes possible. Interestingly, productivity and efficiency has increased throughout COVID.
We have had to accept that during COVID, no-one has all the answers. It led to deeper discussions with our asset owner clients and jointly finding solutions.
A client service manager can be located anywhere, as long as they’re accessible which is the case for most businesses. Clients don’t really mind where I am, as long as they can get access to me, and I have access to all the services they need. Everyone understands because we are all in the same boat.
This year has broken down a lot of barriers. I feel closer to the client team members that I talk to because of the many issues we have had to work through. We’re all just much more open.
It takes many aspects, but to provide a high-touch, customised service requires transparency and a deep knowledge of your client, their business and sector. With this foundation, we were able to adjust in those crazy first few months because we had a solid understanding of what was driving our client needs and how we could help deliver what they required.
For instance, we understood the pressure asset owners were under with early release super payments and were able to translate that to other areas within J.P. Morgan and ultimately deliver what the client needed.
You have to not be afraid to ask hard questions. If we take an extra day will it deliver a worse or better outcome? Being able to have difficult conversations builds mutual respect.
Before I became a client service manager, I oversaw onboarding, which was very deadline driven and intense. It prepared me well but I really enjoy having a more long term, deeper relationship with the client.