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Thursday, May 06, 2021

What Are Voya and William Blair's IM Chiefs Focused On?

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

"I almost view my job as becoming more like a McKinsey consultant."

Christine Hurtsellers
Voya Financial
CEO, Investment Management
So quipped Christine Hurtsellers, CEO of Voya Investment Management, earlier this afternoon during day one of the 2021 online ICI GMM. Hurtsellers was one of three speakers in a general session, entitled "Facing the Future: Leadership Perspectives." The session also featured moderator Yie-Hsin Hung, CEO of New York Life Investment Management (NYLIM), and fellow speaker Stephanie Braming, global head of investment management at William Blair & Company.

Looking ahead, Hurtsellers described the industry's biggest challenge as continuing consolidation, and more specifically how that consolidation ups the game on what is considered "table stakes" to compete in the industry. Braming, in contrast, talked about increasing expectations (from advisors, clients, consultants, employees, regulators, and others) "to do more faster."

On the flip side, when it comes to future opportunities, all three speakers point to diversity and inclusion efforts as one area for firms to shine.

"That's going to be a great success story for the asset managers that get that right," Hurtsellers said.

Hung urged Braming and Hurtsellers to talk about their "strategy has shifted over the past year," in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

"It is an intersting time to be thinking about our strategic plan for the future," Braming said, noting that the William Blair team initiated that process back in 2019. "Our plan hasn't changed in terms of our key goals."

Braming highlighted two key goals in particular: being able to "attract and retain the best and the brightest individuals" and beefing up distribution.

"Human capital is our most precious asset," Braming said.

As for Voya IM, Hurtsellers said that there are several things she's "hyperfocused on."

"Continuing to grow our private market capability," Hurtsellers listed as one such focus. Another was "amplifying [Voya IM's] culture along the lines of ESG."

"It makes great strategic sense," Hurtsellers said of private markets. "All of us are seeing the multiples ... But, it isn't the easiest thing to pivot from the public markets to the private."

The trio also discussed the effects of the heavily WFH world in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"One of the unexpected benefits has been the democratization of voices in some of our largest team meetings," Braming said. "Being entirely virtual has allowed more voices to be heard, just naturally."

Hurtsellers agreed, though she sounds a noted of caution.

"The democratization of the Zoom voices could look very different once people start going back to the office," Hurtsellers said. 

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