Trends: COVID, email intelligence, and client coverage in 2021

This thought is a little more tactical, and is specifically about how I see 2021 evolving, three major trends, and how firms need to think about evolving their client coverage strategy.

As 2020 comes to an end, it feels like a year that none of us were planning for, none of us were prepared for, and at the most basic level, none of us saw coming. The story of 2020 ended up being a reaction to an unexpected event that took the world by surprise. Governments, companies, and individuals did the best they could to react and adapt to a whole new set of circumstances which were last seen around a hundred years ago. It was totally fair to be caught off guard.

That being said, 2021 shouldn’t be as much of a surprise – and we now all have the time, experience, and ability to plan for it much more pragmatically than we did the last nine months. Regardless of what happens with COVID – whether the vaccine works as intended or not, whether people take it, whether we can produce enough of it – we can be pretty confident about some things that will be true next year. It’s now up to us to whittle the list down to the most important realities for 2021, and adapt our business strategy accordingly.

1) People are going to stay remote. Sure, some companies might get people back in the office, but even for the most dedicated firms, that likely won’t happen until spring of 2021 (I can’t see anyone mandating a return to office during the winter flu season). Even for those who are planning to return to the office, I have only heard real plans from brokerages – who I believe are a poor predictor of the broader industry and buy side’s plans. Many funds I have talked to see no need to return to the office, and plan on leaving 2021 in employees’ hands (after all, they will just be measured on performance!). As another example, we have made the choice to stay remote through 2021.

2) People are going to communicate much more electronically. The shutdown of all travel has forever impacted many parts of the capital markets. Individuals will default to communicating electronically, whether through the phone, video conference (zoom), chat, or email. Take roadshows: traditionally a grueling journey around the world, from city to city, giving presentations to potential investors. Those roadshows have been moved to digital platforms, changing their scale, experience, and delivery. That is impacting all electronic communications. From our point of view, we’ve seen email usage explode, with the average user sending 80-100% more emails.

3) Asynchronous communication is going to increase. The world of ‘work hours’ is melting away, as people’s work and personal lives overlap in a way that works for each individual, and their competing commitments. Some people can make time in the morning, some people need to work in the evening – individuals are adapting and doing what works. Never mind the fact that people are moving as they work remotely (see above), and shifting time zones. This means that synchronous communication (i.e. real time) is going to drop off, as it’s harder and harder to find that overlapping time, and asynchronous communication (i.e. non real time) is going to increase.

Jeff Bezos is famous for not asking “what will change?” but for asking “what won’t change?”. If you want to know what the future will look like, the answer to that question is largely “very similar to what it looks like today” – the longer things go, the longer they are likely to continue. As you think about your strategy for 2021, you can rest confident that 2021 is probably going to look a lot like the last few months of 2020.

Longer term, what do I think the industry will end up looking like? My guess is that it will never go back to what it was pre-COVID. Some groups and some functions may, but I doubt the entire industry will ever return to that moment in time. That being said, it also likely won’t stay exactly as it is now. The result will probably be somewhere between those two goal posts – which means all the trends I’ve outlined above will continue.

That begs the question, how are you adapting your strategy given the short term and long term changes?

Email Intelligence finally comes to the capital markets

If email wasn’t the main communication channel for the capital markets before COVID, it certainly is now. We’ve seen an explosion in client demand for our solutions to make email more effective and efficient, not just from brokerages, but from asset managers, hedge funds, private equity groups, wealth managers, and everyone in-between. They are all looking for the answer to one question: how do I use email to better understand and cover my clients? Whether those clients be buy side, corporate, LPs, or prospects.

While the death of email has been often shared, COVID has proven to us just how valuable and essential it is. In a world of remote work, electronic communication, and asynchronous communication, there is really only one channel that works: email. We’ve had more inbound over the last six months than our entire eight year existence.

The biggest change we’ve seen though is a shift in the mindset of email intelligence being a nice to have, to a need to have. In the current environment, email simply can’t remain a blind spot. More importantly, how do you operate knowing that your competitors don’t have the same blindspot?

When you are thinking through your 2021 strategy, I encourage you to think about how you’re going to leverage email. How will you turn email into a source of client insight? How will you use email to better service your clients? How will you use email to drive the business forward?

At the very least, I encourage you to reach out, and let us show you what your peers are doing – whether you’re working on the sell side, buy side, for private equity, or in wealth management. In 30 minutes, you’ll understand how email can be a source of intelligence, and how firms are using it to drive their business forward.

For those of you who have been long term subscribers of mine, you’ll know I don’t normally plug our solution, or our space, but as we move into 2021, there has never been a more important time to take a good look at how you intended to empower your team, and turn your email communications into a source of intelligence and insight – and if you aren’t, you can rest assured your competitors are.

So, if you want to chat, we’re here to help – at the very least, we’ll give you an overview of the landscape, and show you what’s possible – but we might also help you add an important pillar to your client coverage strategy in 2021.

We were all surprised this year – but now we know what next year is going to look like, so there is no reason to be caught off guard. React, plan, and move forward.

We’re here to help to make sure everyone has the best 2021 possible.

Have a great holiday, and I look forward to talking more in the new year,

Blair
CEO
Street Contxt

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