Educating and protecting the clients

There's more to asset management than investment decisions, as Andrew Taylor, Executive Director in J.P. Morgan's Chief Operating Office, explains to Hannah Langworth

What is the Chief Operating Office (COO)?

At J.P. Morgan Asset Management the COO provides functions to support our investment and sales teams as well as managing the day-to-day client experience.

How do those in the COO work with the investment and sales teams?

We work closely with both the investment and sales teams. To give an example, if we have a new fund coming to market, our product and client services people will be involved in deciding, with the sales team, how we can best present that investment product to new and existing clients and what services we need to provide to support it. Meanwhile, our operations people will consider, with the investment team, how we can make sure the fund works as it should.

We often function as a bridge between the investment and sales teams because we work closely with both of them - I'd even describe us as the glue linking the business together. And because what we do is very client-centric, we help to keep everyone's focus on the client's perspective. For example, we make sure that clients understand the products and services they buy from the sales team, and that ongoing product information and support is provided to them.

There's a strong team ethic within the COO and anything we do with the sales or investment teams can touch on the work of a number of functions within other areas of the group. Most of the senior managers here have experience in more than one area, as I do, which is important because when we get faced with a new challenge, like the launch of a new product or new regulation, we're able to look at it holistically across all our areas.

What do you do to make sure you're always meeting your clients' needs?

On the retail side, we get customer feedback every month. On the institutional side, we attend meetings with our clients and have annual reviews. We also benchmark ourselves against our competitors. We then take all this data, and work out what we need to focus our energies on to improve the service we're giving. We always have a busy agenda of new initiatives every year - including everything from looking at how easy it is for clients to understand our pricing, improving our on-line offering, or improving how we handle the complexities of dealing with the assets of a recently deceased client. Our initiatives extend right up to multiyear, million dollar-plus programmes to upgrade our reporting and performance technology.

What's been the biggest new innovation you've introduced for your clients in recent years?

Around five years ago, we were getting feedback from our retail clients that our online services weren't as advanced as they might have been. So we launched an online service to allow our clients to access and manage their investments more easily. We're gradually adding more features - for example, information about various investments and self-assessment risk tools. But we're not trying to force all our clients into the same service model - not everyone wants to use online services, so clients can still speak to us on the phone.

How is the COO protecting clients against the impact of market events?

We have a change team that liaises with groups across the business to manage how we respond to events that could affect our clients' investments.

We're constantly monitoring the regulatory situation, making sure we understand new regulations and what they could mean for our clients. We then draw this complex and sometimes conflicting information into clear formats to share with our clients, which vary depending on what a client needs to know and their level of investment sophistication.

We're also considering high-impact market scenarios on an ongoing basis, for example, if an EU government were to be downgraded, or defaults, or even exits the eurozone. We have teams that assess what the impact on the financial markets could be and what operational impact it might have - for example, sudden surges in trading volume - and most importantly what would that mean for our clients' investments? We focus a lot of time on ensuring that if such an event did occur, we'd be able to communicate with our clients effectively. Essentially, we're always looking for ways to educate and protect our clients now and in the future.

What areas does the Chief Operating Office include?

Client services

Providing day-to-day support, excluding investment advice, to existing and prospective clients. We have a wide spectrum of clients - from individuals with £50 a month to invest in a funds-based savings plan up to sovereign wealth fund managers with multibillion pound bespoke portfolio mandates. We have a number of client groups that specialise in looking after these different kinds of client.

Operations

Providing services to support the investment management teams, such as transaction confirmation, cash management and data management. These people are in the engine room of the firm making things happen, whether that's making sure trades for clients' investments are completed, or producing the accounts the business needs in order to function.

Investment services

Responsible for calculating investment performance and monitoring investment risks. The technical skills of this team support both the investment teams as they manage client money and also the clients by helping them to understand what the investment teams are doing and why.

Product services

Assisting with the development of new investment products and getting them to market. Those working here help design and develop new funds and other products, and also assist in the process of marketing them to clients.

All of these EMEA COO teams are recruiting graduates in 2013.

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