Videoconferencing will remain the principal form of communication between UK wealth managers and fund providers even after the coronavirus pandemic ends, according to a survey of discretionary fund managers.
UK DFMs surveyed by the FT’s forthcoming Discretionary Fund Image Europe 2021 study said video would account for 31 per cent of their interactions with fund managers on average in future, compared with 27 per cent spent on email communications, 26 per cent on face-to-face meetings, and 15 per cent on the phone.
The split was roughly comparable across all major European nations, though continental fund selectors’ greater preference for phone conversations meant UK respondents came out on top for both video and in-person meetings.
The findings confirm that a hybrid model of working life now being introduced across the investment industry will also prove applicable to fund selection practices.
Advisers have previously said they anticipate holding a significant number of client meetings online even once remote working ends.
Fund selectors are effectively themselves the client when meeting asset managers. Most maintain that face-to-face interactions are important because they make it easier to analyse body language, or assess unfamiliar companies for the first time.
A greater preference for in-person activities is apparent when it comes to large-scale events. Europe-wide, 28 per cent of respondents to the FT study said they were most likely to attend an asset manager's in-person event compared with 21 per cent who said digital.
But with asset managers among those confirmed to be implementing hybrid working models in future, fund selectors acknowledge the scheduling advantages of remote meetings will mean they remain attractive.
The survey also revealed that UK fund selectors’ freedom of choice increasingly resembles that of their European counterparts.
Some selectors on the continent have traditionally been strictly bound by their organisation’s buy-list requirements, with the ability to select funds from outside these lists strictly policed.
In contrast, UK buyers have typically had more freedom. But the study found the gap between domestic and continental practices is now relatively small, with 71 per cent of UK buyers having freedom to go off-list compared with 64 per cent across the continent as a whole.
While that proportion remains sizeable, fewer than one in five of pan-continental wealth managers who do have such flexibility said they often made use of it.