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Rebecca Fender: The Future of Finance is a global effort to shape a trustworthy, forward-thinking investment profession that better serves society. Our work focuses on areas that are important for the future of the industry and where we can make an impact. We organize them under three main themes:
- Putting Investors First
- Managing Lifetime Wealth
- Improving Investor Outcomes
Within these areas, we look at such subjects as how to rebuild investor trust or how to increase diversity in the industry in order to deliver the best results possible for clients (beginning with a new Women in Investment Management initiative). We research how those in the industry are motivated and how misaligned incentives can hold us back. We offer best practices on how to better serve clients and write about megatrends, such as fintech and demographics, that will transform our industry. We are interested in how sustainable investing is changing and how the retirement landscape is evolving.
We publish a few papers each year, speak at events, and work with our network of 140+ CFA Institute member societies. Many great ideas come from our members, and a renowned group of industry leaders on the Future of Finance advisory council provide guidance for our work. You can visit our web page for the latest updates.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: You led the coordination of global conferences at CFA Institute prior to assuming your present role as head of the Future of Finance. Please share with us how that experience helped prepare you for the Future of Finance role.
Rebecca Fender: As the director of the CFA Institute Annual Conference, my role was to identify who was doing the most interesting work in our field and who could speak about it well. It provided me with opportunities to meet leaders from around the world, including central bankers, regulators, executives of major pension funds and endowments, influential strategists, best-selling financial authors, and seven Nobel laureates. I also worked on events held in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Africa and got a sense of different practices in these markets.
The topics we cover at the CFA Institute conferences are exactly what our members who want to lead the industry going forward want to know about. I still am in close contact with those colleagues to brainstorm about future offerings.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: The Future of Finance emphasizes the importance of making a difference both individually and collectively. What does that mean?
Rebecca Fender: I encourage those in the investment industry to consider their sphere of influence and how they can have an impact on others. For some, it means embodying the phrase “putting investors first” in how they treat their clients and how they deal with conflicts of interest when they arise. Others may not be client facing, but we remind them they are serving clients whatever their role is, whether doing security analysis or providing transparency in client reports. This is the individual aspect.
The collective part is important when you think about how much we can accomplish together. As CFA Institute has grown in size (with 140,000+ members now in more than 150 countries), we have an increasingly influential voice on behalf of investors. Regulators and standard setters are interested in what we say, and our members work at 30,000 different organizations around the world. We have seen the power of this collective voice in such initiatives as the Putting Investors First Campaign each year, during which we seek to increase awareness of ethical issues. In May 2016 during the third annual Putting Investors First campaign, our members organized activities in 95 cities around this theme.
Ringing the bell at the Nasdaq for the Putting Investors First campaign with NYSSA in 2015
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: How can CFA charterholders, CFA candidates, and investment professionals contribute to the Future of Finance?
Rebecca Fender: Many of our best ideas have come from members, and one of the best parts of my job is talking regularly with CFA Institute members and other investment professionals about how we can do meaningful work to advance the industry. All the Future of Finance content is freely available online, so I encourage you to check it out and send us your thoughts. The best way to volunteer directly, however, is to become involved with your local CFA Institute society.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Do you ever work with other organizations that are like-minded?
Rebecca Fender: Collaboration is a key element in our strategy. Our team is very small, with just a few people, so we have to find ways to amplify our efforts. Having supportive volunteers (like you Sameer!) is a huge benefit, and through those relationships, we learn about opportunities to do projects together.
One new partnership is with the Aspen Institute, where we are the founding sponsor of the Finance Leaders Fellowship Program, which was initiated by Ranji Nagaswami, CFA, as a way to develop the next generation of finance leaders to make a positive impact on society.
We also recently released research done in collaboration with the State Street Center for Applied Research: Discovering Phi: Motivation as the Hidden Variable of Performance. We agreed to do joint research on the subject of motivation in the industry and their team spent 18 months conducting 200 industry interviews as well as commissioning market research. We combined that work with the views of CFA Institute members. Our joint outreach resulted in top-tier media coverage around the world.
All smiles prior to flying with CFA volunteer friend through the Swiss Alps
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: How do you quantify and qualify the success of such an expansive initiative?
Rebecca Fender: In the short term, we look at the effectiveness of the work we produce in terms of whether investment professionals (and especially our members) read it and whether we can increase awareness of issues and our recommendations through the media.
These are helpful metrics, but the longer-term goals are more meaningful. We would like to see increased levels of trust in the financial services industry and help shape an industry that is well-positioned to deliver value. Our 2016 study Trust to Loyalty: A Global Survey of What Investors Want, which garnered more than 185 press mentions, showed that only 61% of retail investors and 57% of institutional investors trust the financial services industry to do what’s right, which puts it in the bottom tier of trusted industries, so we have a ways to go.
One success has been the CFA Institute Statement of Investor Rights, a basic list of things investors should expect when working with a financial services provider. It is now available in 26 languages around the world and serves as the basis for investor education efforts in several markets. It also sparked the Putting Investors First movement, and many companies now distribute it or post it on their website. To show their commitment, however, asset management firms should join the 1,300+ firms that claim compliance with the Asset Manager Code, representing trillions of dollars in assets under management.
Ultimately, in each of our reports, we offer recommendations to investment professionals and seeing those adopted tells us we are making a difference.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: As head of Future of Finance, what milestones are you most excited about achieving in 2017 and beyond?
Rebecca Fender: I am very excited about the coming year, especially because we will be launching our biggest project yet, The Future State of the Investment Profession, in April 2017. Consistent with the CFA Institute mission to lead the investment profession globally, this project involves comprehensive research and analysis to suggest what possible future states lie in store for the investment profession and to identify actions for CFA Institute and the profession to take to influence the actual future state for the best possible outcomes.
We’ll discuss megatrends impacting the world and how they combine to influence the world of finance. The investment profession of tomorrow will face very different conditions from the ones we know today, thanks to such megatrends as technological advances, shifts in customer preferences, new macroeconomic conditions, different regulatory regimes, geopolitical changes, and demographic shifts. Through the use of scenarios, this report will be different from others in the marketplace and challenge even the leaders of our industry to think differently about its future.
This report will be launched on 3 April to kick off the 4th annual Putting Investors First Campaign, which concludes at the 70th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, we continue to see strong interest in the Women in Investment Management initiative, and we will continue to release research in this area.
Visiting the Great Wall of China with colleagues on a work trip
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: When you are not empowering the global CFA Institute investment community, what interests and hobbies do you pursue?
Rebecca Fender: I love spending time with my family—checking out a new restaurant with my husband or doing projects with my young kids. It’s a busy time of life, but it is so much fun to introduce them to new things and see them learn. Together we are making every moment count!
To learn more about the Future of Finance:
Rebecca Fender, CFA
Head, Future of Finance
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