"Financial Planning ... it's not always about money."

More remote work, less travel, and a new appreciation for work-life balance: Here's how 34 CEOs at top financial firms are thinking about the future of investing, trading and banking.

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David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
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The financial services industry has, for many years, been ripe for disruption. While progress has been made, legacy systems, traditional processes, and regulatory red tape have meant that the rate at which the industry has been disrupted has been relatively slow.

The ongoing pandemic caused by the coronavirus has made it clear that digital innovation is no longer optional, but essential to running a business. 

Business Insider spoke to over 30 CEOs across finance from asset management giants like Invesco and Franklin Templeton, fintechs like Revolut and Robinhood, and insurance stalwarts like Nationwide, on how their business have responded to, and have been changed by the crisis. 

If there's one thing that many of these heads of business agree on, it's that trends that were already in motion have been accelerated. The trends also go beyond bolstering their client offerings, but how they run day-to-day: embracing remote work and taking more of an interest in employees' physical and emotional health. 

The following CEO comments were compiled by Áine Cain, Alex Morrell, Bradley Saacks, Dan DeFrancesco, Joe Williams, Rebecca Ungarino, Shana Lebowitz, Marguerite Ward and Shannen Balogh. They have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm: 'If a platform or product can't help increase sales quickly and safely, it won't have a place in the new retail reality.'

The retail environment will never be the same. Some retailers with a brick and mortar presence will invest, pouring additional resources into creating new, personalized, in-store experiences that don't depend on human interactions. Others will embrace the rapid acceleration of online spending and move to online-only.

Whether a retailer reinvents their brick and mortar presence or moves solely to e-commerce, brands will be reimagined and the best technology partners will rise to the top. If a platform or product can't help increase sales quickly and safely, it won't have a place in the new retail reality.

Catherine Keating, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management: 'Warp speed isn't just for Trekkies anymore: it is the speed at which the crisis has forced us to operate.'

It will be a long time before I take the basics of daily life — family, friends, colleagues, health, proximity, and mobility — for granted again. In fact, I hope I never do.

Today, the questions "How are you?" and "Where are you?" are no longer rhetorical. All conversations now start with those questions, which mean they begin with caring, putting what's most important first. It's the best way to organize our priorities and our activities. 

Our employees' health and safety is our top priority and we have transitioned approximately 95% of our global workforce to working remotely. We announced there will be no layoffs in 2020, enhanced our healthcare offerings and are providing 24/7 support for our staff during this challenging time. We also have increased our community support, including a 2:1 match on employees' charitable donations. 

This will forever change how we work. It already has. We now start our days together with a division-wide morning investment meeting, followed by team check-ins. We end our Mondays with a client webinar and close Tuesdays with internal training on new opportunities created by the CARES Act, markets, and interest rates.

And the whole division ends the week together each Friday, following the markets close, with a 15-minute call that reflects on what the week has meant to us personally and to our clients. We close by promising to log off and rest up over the weekend.

Globally, we have never experienced such rapid change — in markets, economies, policy responses, and our daily lives. Warp speed isn't just for Trekkies anymore: it is the speed at which the crisis has forced us to operate.

In wealth management specifically, the crisis is accelerating the redefinition of client success from simply "beating the benchmark" to "accomplishing goals."

Over the past two decades, the shift from company-funded retirement plans to employee-funded 401(k) plans has meant we have become responsible for our own financial futures.

This requires success in the five disciplines that determine long-term outcomes: investing, borrowing, spending, managing taxes, and protecting legacy. This crisis, and the fluctuating markets that have accompanied it, underscore just how much each of these five disciplines matters to comprehensive wealth management. The wealth managers who can deliver on all five will be the most successful, because their clients will be most successful.

Tim Armour, CEO of Capital Group: 'Times like this are scary – but history tells us that markets will rebound and those who remain invested will benefit.'

We will likely see many changes to the way we live, work, and socialize as a result of this pandemic. While the concern for our family and friends and disruption to economies has been enormous, we've learned we can continue to serve clients, find great investments, and generate superior returns for our clients while working remotely.

Our firm was started in the midst of the Great Depression, nearly nine decades ago. Our founding purpose was to improve people's lives through successful investing. And despite all the changes in the world since — including those of recent months — that remains our mission.

We know from that experience that one of the best ways to successfully invest is to stay focused on the long term – and to help clients do the same. Times like this are scary – but history tells us that markets will rebound and those who remain invested will benefit.

While many things will change, three lessons will endure for those saving and investing for retirement. First, financial decisions made from fear and uncertainty remain the enemies of successful investing. Second, the best course is to have a long-term plan, and stay invested. And finally, find funds and strategies that protect you from the full brunt of market declines and achieve better returns through an entire market cycle.

At our firm, we continue to build and leverage our global research capabilities to find great companies to invest in. Our portfolio managers and analysts are using technology to engage with companies' management teams, boards, and stakeholders. And, our service and sales teams are using digital and video to continue to help financial advisors and those responsible for workplace retirement plans. The importance of human connection – even at a distance – remains vital.

Millions of people are depending on us to protect their savings and retirement dreams. This pandemic and economic fallout has not changed that one bit. Indeed, our resolve has never been stronger to deliver for investors.

Ed Tilly, CEO of Cboe Global Markets: 'We're taking leaps and bounds. What would have taken years on adoption we're doing in weeks and months.'

We'll redesign the way that we interact. We'll redesign our options institute. I think we'll be able to touch many more people in a much more efficient way.

It's really going to be recognizing that the needs of the customer don't change, but the way you touch them and the way you interact will certainly evolve. And like everyone else in the world, I think the speed of change, we've kicked technology solutions into fast forward. We're taking leaps and bounds. What would have taken years on adoption, we're doing in weeks and months. It's exciting in that regard. It's just horrible the catalyst that has made us focus on this.

I live in a very small part of the world in what we think is an important industry. But at the end of the day, there's so many much more important roles and industries that I would have taken for granted a year ago.

My hope is, personally, that I respect and appreciate what it takes to get things done each and every day. The flexibility and the hopefulness of appreciating someone else's role in this very, very complicated world and life is looked at from fresh eyes. I'm certainly going to hold myself to that.

I'm just hopeful that we do look and respect what it takes to get from the Monday to Friday. We wait at the door now for deliveries where we just assumed they would come in the past, and we're greeted with a smile from someone working harder than I could have contemplated working.

Terry Duffy, CEO of CME Group: 'Face-to-face meetings won't go away, but we will be smarter, safer, and more innovative about how we interact in person in the future.'

We were the first exchange to close our trading floor as a precaution and among the first companies to mandate our employees work from home. While always important, the health and well-being of employees will be an increased focus going forward. 

Some of the practices we put in place in the short-term will likely become the norm – telecommuting is just one example. Other changes include reducing employee travel, at least until a vaccine is developed. Social distancing will continue to be a priority, even as staff gradually return to offices. Simple, effective precautions will be expected everywhere, such as increased frequency of deep cleaning public spaces and providing masks and hand sanitizer. 

The way we interact may also change. We are continuing to invest in virtual meeting tools like Webex and Teams for our employees to work together. Webinars and online forums are likely to replace some face-to-face gatherings with employees, our clients and other stakeholders. Face-to-face meetings won't go away, but we will be smarter, safer, and more innovative about how we interact in person in the future. One positive outcome I hope to see is continued high levels of communication overall. 

There is likely to be ongoing economic uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. Clients will need to manage their business risk moving forward – and they will continue to demand greater capital and operational efficiencies along the way. I expect companies, like CME Group, will innovate even more to meet evolving demands.

During this unprecedented crisis, businesses and institutions have had to step up in ways they have not before in order to protect their employees and communities, and, in some instances, take action before government guidance or public expectations. I personally have a great deal of respect for the speed at which many companies, including many of our clients, have responded throughout this unprecedented challenge. 

In the future, I expect to see even greater collaboration between business leaders and government officials on issues of safety and wellbeing as well as how we can best work together in crisis, especially at the state and local levels where, as we have discovered, the greatest impact can be made.

Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma: 'You don't always associate "empathy" with financial services, but we're seeing the industry provide unprecedented support for consumers.'

Credit Karma was launched during the 2008 recession, at a time when profit wasn't a priority. Instead, we focused on building trust with our members by putting them first and I firmly believe that is why we've gotten to where we are today. The current COVID-19 crisis reinforces the importance of investing in the trust of our members. All Americans are being impacted, some more severely than others, and now more than ever it's important to do what's right by our members versus focusing on increasing our bottom line. 

This economic downturn is unlike anything we've experienced. In 2008, we saw major corporations and banks take a hit, yet the crisis was more staggered for consumers. Now, we're seeing record numbers of unemployment and people without steady income in a matter of days and weeks, which is taking a toll on peoples' finances and our economy.

Companies are having to rethink their business models to figure out how they can be successful in the long-term and still help their customers now. As a result, we're seeing businesses, banks and other financial institutions offer programs to alleviate some of the financial burden for Americans. You don't always associate the word "empathy" with financial services institutions, but we're seeing the industry provide an unprecedented amount of support for consumers, which I hope will persist. 

Beyond that, we expect to see lasting changes to the way issuers determine their lending criteria. Right now, there are a lot of unknowns for lenders and, with unemployment fluctuating so much, lenders are finding it difficult to assess risk and are tightening their lending as a result. This is an area where I see an opportunity for banks and issuers to partner more closely with fintechs who can bridge the information gap by providing up-to-date information on consumers in real time.  

My hope is that this experience might be the event needed to change consumer behavior around being more conservative with spending and savings. It is unfortunate it would take a pandemic to finally wake us up to the need for an emergency fund. But if there's a silver lining, it's that we will hopefully pay more attention to improving our money management habits, prioritizing savings, not spending beyond our means and preparing for the unimaginable.

Lawrence Raffone, CEO of Edelman Financial Engines: 'In many ways, this crisis validates the innovation journey we've been on. And we see it as a chance to double down.'

This crisis has forced me to find new ways to connect. Those early video chats were awkward, and I wasn't sure we could replace the power of a hallway conversation or a spirited boardroom debate. Now, the more time I spend in AMAs ( (sessions where participants can "ask me anything"), town halls and virtual happy hours, the more I learn. Meetings that were once routine are now happening in makeshift offices, surrounded by family photos, interrupted by energetic kids and pets, and opening up a much deeper level of personal connection.

There's a level of empathy, vulnerability, compassion and connection that I never would have found if not for this crisis. I grieve what we've lost. Yet I'm grateful for what we're learning. It will change who I am as a leader. If we can nurture that change across our organization, it will have a lasting impact.

Our industry has experienced crisis before. In some ways, this feels familiar. The market will recover. The economy will recover. Yet from my perspective, this is profoundly different. For the first time in our shared history, we are facing crises in financial markets, economies, public health, even mental health, on a global scale. And not one of these challenges can be tackled in isolation. They are deeply interconnected.

The future of our industry will live at this intersection of life and money. The role we play as an investment manager or a financial planner answers only one of the challenges our clients face. Increasingly, we're coaches, counselors and confidants. We're helping our clients plan for life.

We saw this challenge emerging several years ago. As the industry's largest independent RIA, and one with a unique combination of financial technology and human empathy, we saw these patterns shifting in our clients. We began recruiting and developing planners whose EQ was as strong as their IQ.

We broadened our value proposition and transformed our planning process to help our clients navigate every major decision involving a dollar sign. We invested in digital transformation to become more nimble, and to meet our clients where they wanted us to be. This demand for broader life planning fueled the expansion of our brand presence in the marketplace.

In many ways, this crisis validates the innovation journey we've been on. And we see it as a chance to double down — to accelerate the transformation of our business model and the growth of our brand. Some firms will re-invent themselves to meet this challenge. Others will lack the financial resources, the scale, or the agility to adapt. We're ready to lean forward and meet this challenge.  

Penny Pennington, Managing Partner of Edward Jones: 'We have only changed how we're working, not how we're serving [our clients].'

I'll start by talking about what won't change at Edward Jones: our sense of purpose. We're guided by our desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients, their families and our communities. The personal relationships we have with our clients ... are being maintained virtually right now instead of in person, but we have only changed how we're working, not how we're serving them.

Our firm is built for times like these. We've guided our clients through market volatility and uncertainty for nearly a century, and we understand the anxiety our clients are feeling. We're reaching out to them to address their concerns and help them stay on track toward their goals. People need advice and guidance they can rely upon when conditions are unsettling; that's precisely why our human-centered approach, and the services we provide, have withstood the test of time.

While containing COVID-19 has led to a historic shutdown that we think will cause the US economy to fall into a recession in the first half of 2020, we believe a recovery will take shape. We expect this volatility to stay at heightened levels until coronavirus cases begin to ebb, as consensus emerges on the economic toll of social containment, and corporate profits are revised downward to provide a realistic earnings path in 2020.

This is a critical time in our industry. The value we provide as financial advisors is in our knowledge and our empathy. We must continue to proactively reach out to our clients to help them feel understood, informed, secure, and in control.

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest: 'What we're working to do is expand on our mission, which is: How can we help get more money in the hands of women?'

One thing we've been doing since the crisis started is that we have a commitment to our community that we will answer any money question.

It's not something we did before. We're a digital adviser, we're for women, we have financial planning, we have financial advisers. Now it's — You know what? Email us any question, we will answer it. We'll send you a personal answer, we'll anonymize the questions, we'll write them up, we'll post them so you can see what other people are asking.

And I just recently heard from one of our folks that, "Hey, the questions we're getting are mostly not from clients," and I said that's amazing because we have a broader mission here. 

What we're working to do here is expand out even further on our mission, which is: How can we help get more money in the hands of women? And for this period of time, it's: "Can we answer your question?"

On the other side of this, we're finding our way right now, staying in very, very close contact with the women of the Ellevest community for what they're looking for. And it tends to be, right now, more education, more learning.

We're doing Instagram Live two or three times a week, we're doing LinkedIn Live once a week. So we're trying to be there for her and be available for her. 

So the tilt to date, which I would expect would continue in the future, is even more learning, even more coaching, even more help, starting from our base as a digital adviser.

Ralph Schlosstein, CEO of Evercore: 'This is going to be an accelerant of a general, populist, more active government role in our economy.'

We are proving that we can run this business very effectively and maintain connectivity with our clients and with each other operating from 1,800 offices around the world. And if you had asked, I think any of the leadership of the firm prior to this event, whether that could be done, we would have been skeptical.

One of the things that I smile about now is that, one of the leaders of our advisory business always used to say to me that "people aren't working that hard because when I'm here on Saturday or Sunday when I walk around, there aren't many, if any people here." And I've said to him a couple of times since this happened that the walking-around test really doesn't in any way measure whether people are active or not. And that's going to be a real learning lesson for all of us who grew up in a world where your work time was measured almost exclusively by the time that you spent in the office.

Also, clients are going to be significantly more receptive to virtual visits as opposed to face-to- face visits. So that's going to have an effect on the amount of travel we do. It'll have an effect on the amount of relationship-building entertainment that we might do.

I actually think this will have a really interesting and very positive effect — and this is not just for Evercore, but for business broadly — on the whole idea of family leave. I remember instances where we've had really talented professionals say, "Well, my husband or my wife got a job in XYZ where we don't have an office." And we lost them. Today we might consider or certainly think about, if it's a very talented person, could you work remotely? And so I think it opens up broader thinking of how one interacts with one's colleagues and how one interacts with clients. So that I think is a very constructive thing, and ultimately could modestly reduce the costs of doing business in our industry.

What we have gotten in terms of the government response is absolutely unprecedented in size and speed. We haven't even had a quarter of down GDP reported yet, and we have three stimulus bills passed. And then you add to that what the Fed has done. The Fed and the monetary and fiscal authorities deserve a lot of credit for a massive and fast response.
I personally think that this is going to be an accelerant of a general, populist, more active government role in our economy. And inevitably, this is going to be a massive, massive deficit and at some point, we're going to have higher corporate taxes and higher taxes on those most well off.

Jenny Johnson, CEO of Franklin Templeton: 'What was once viewed as a "disruptor" or a "nice to have" is now commonplace for both companies and consumers alike.'

This pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the adoption of digital means of doing business. What was once viewed as a "disruptor" or a "nice to have" is now commonplace for both companies and consumers alike. This gives companies like ours, who have had a strong digital strategy, a distinct advantage. Our vision is to be an industry leader at implementing new technologies to improve outcomes for investors.

As a global organization with offices in over 30 countries and most teams collaborating across regions, we already had a strong existing culture of video meetings which made the move to an almost 100% remote workforce relatively seamless. Even with many offices in emerging markets, we have not had any disruption in our business operations or employee connectivity.

As we are all becoming more comfortable (and accepting) of video, we're recognizing that it can have close to the same connectivity as an in-person meeting with less of a time commitment. During a video meeting, you're also able to read the important non-verbal cues in a client's expressions – something that could never be done over the phone. Since our sales teams and their clients are now both working from home, video calls have naturally become more personal as kids and pets weave in and out of the frame.

Another area that continues to have a profound impact on our business is the importance of financial technology – as the "fourth industrial revolution" has had on so many industries. Artificial intelligence, big data analytics and alternative data and research are revolutionizing how traditional asset managers source and utilize information for a competitive edge. As an asset manager focused on bottom-up, fundamental analysis, we're able to uncover opportunities to "outperform the market". Leveraging massive amounts of data to improve the investment management process was already a priority, but we see that accelerating. While fundamental analysis isn't going away, the types of things we analyze (for example natural language processing) will continue to evolve. 

Finally, we must not forget the essential role that the financial markets will continue to play in the future. Investing in innovative companies will drive the solutions of tomorrow. The effective allocation of capital will have broad impacts, not only for finding cures to emerging diseases, but also for treatment and prevention. The financial markets contribute to the broader recovery by providing capital and directing it to the best ideas – so that well-run companies can provide innovative products and services that will move the world forward.

David Brickman, CEO of Freddie Mac: 'We know technology provides tremendous advantages... but it has not proven to be an effective substitute for a solid balance sheet and financial resiliency.'

In truth, our company and industry were already changing—the current crises will just expedite the process. We have developed tools that automate many aspects of both our business and the mortgage process, including appraisals, inspections, underwriting — even the application itself. COVID-19 will just accelerate the digital transformation of the home buying and financing processes and move it more quickly from forms to phones.   

While the crises have not even subsided, there is likely to be widespread acceptance that this, or something like it, will occur again. As a result, the mortgage finance industry is likely to see changes in its composition and growth that highlight the importance of liquidity and recognize that different parts of the industry rely on different operating models. We know technology provides tremendous advantages and will continue to be a primary area of focus, but it has not proven to be an effective substitute for a solid balance sheet and financial resiliency. 

Just as every major institution is rethinking physical space and the need for co-location — it is also likely we will have a better understanding of where and when it is truly valuable to bring people together. No question about it, streaming video works — but it is not the same; the experience is different, and for certain functions and activities it does not produce the chemistry and energy that a person-to-person interaction does.

While many are concerned about returning to work or school, many others crave more authentic social interaction. We all will be re-thinking travel policies, office layouts, restaurants, retail centers, and accommodating the many who cannot return to work, but, as in other times in our recent history, I believe the rumors of the office's demise and the radical transformation of the urban landscape are somewhat exaggerated.

Marty Flanagan, CEO of Invesco: 'This crisis has completely changed the way Invesco and other global asset managers operate.'

As a global firm, we've been responding to the coronavirus since December, when it was first reported in Asia Pacific. Our response in the region included the relocation of a regional trading center, restrictions on employee travel to and from the region and remote working for the vast majority of our Asia Pacific-based employees. As the virus spread to other parts of the globe, cross-functional teams in each region (Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA) have monitored the situation closely, leveraging our early experience in Asia Pacific to enhance our business continuity planning and execution.

Invesco has a strong business continuity and recovery plan that we update regularly. While this pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances, we were able to build on our business continuity plan to relocate our trading center in Asia. That was a learning situation for us as COVID-19 spread globally.

We have put additional investment forums in place for our investment professionals across the globe to share information, insights and ideas to help them manage client assets during these volatile markets. We will continue to explore new ways of communicating with, and delivering strong outcomes for our clients during this difficult time and beyond.

This crisis has completely changed the way Invesco and other global asset managers operate. We will continue to work diligently to determine how we not only track CDC releases but also how we can continue to best serve our clients globally in what will certainly be a "new normal."

Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital: 'A return to short-term shareholder primacy risks a major social backlash – stakeholder capitalism has to be the way forward.'

Coronavirus has brutally exposed the fault lines of our economy and brought capitalism to a crossroads. 

With an estimated 15-20% unemployment, no social safety net, and trillions of dollars of debt, we can't rebuild with a system that only works for a few. A return to short-term shareholder primacy risks a major social backlash – stakeholder capitalism has to be the way forward. After six years of JUST Capital polling, we know it's what the public wants. Sadly, it's taken COVID-19 to strip away the theories and abstractions to reveal what truly matters: safeguarding people's livelihoods and improving their futures. 

The corporations we are tracking employ some 13 million people and each of them is shifting its operations and strategy, and many are suspending buybacks and dividends. But the real changes are happening to the relationship with workforces.

After a number of workers at Starbucks, for example, signed a petition calling on the company to close stores, citing concerns about their health and safety, its leaders listened and temporarily closed dine-in services while continuing to pay all salaries. Those still working got a raise of $3/hr. And there's Target, meeting the needs of its employees by providing 30 days of paid leave to vulnerable workers and providing free back-up dependent care to all of its team members.  

Investors are responding, too. According to Morningstar, flows to ESG funds netted $10.5 billion dollars during Q1 of 2020, nearly half of the $21.4 billion total dollars put into sustainable funds in 2019. The "S," social, issues are taking center stage. Our JULCD Index – comprising companies that best serve their workers, customers, suppliers, and communities where they operate – outperformed the Russell 1000 by 100 basis points since the top of the bull market. Companies that are well governed, with strong stakeholder ties, are simply more resilient and will rebound faster.

It's also been a defining moment for JUST. The leadership we've shown in tracking corporate responses has been incredible. This crisis has pushed us to the limit and brought the team closer together. As CEO, it's highlighted our strengths and weaknesses and helped me address them. I've never been prouder in my professional career.

Dan Arnold, CEO of LPL Financial: 'We see more companies increasing their use of automation and artificial intelligence to help improve the client experience. '

Whenever there's big disruption in the marketplace, like what we're witnessing now with coronavirus, people often anticipate significant change as a result.

But things typically revert back to the norm, and the change imagined is not as dramatic as the change realized — unless you are purposeful. That's something we're focused on right now at LPL: how do we embrace change purposefully and use it to innovate?

We see two main structural changes as a result of this disruption event that we think will impact our business moving forward: a more distributed workforce, and a significant increase in automation.

Starting with the workforce, we think there will be a trend toward increased video engagement, and an acceleration of 5G technology adoption.

This trend will have applications for how and where our employees work, and how we engage and interact with one another. This holds true for our advisors as well, and how they engage with and serve millions of families across the United States.

Regarding automation, we see more companies — ourselves included — increasing their use of automation and artificial intelligence to help improve the client experience. 

For example, robotics and AI allow for instantaneous and around-the-clock processing, which are important in our industry, and are more cost-effective and scalable. As a result, we could see a significant transformation in how companies think about offshoring.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group: 'The crisis has shown clear gaps between the successful firms in our industry and the rest.'

The firm's proven ability to not just survive but thrive and operate at close to full productivity with everyone working from home, including myself, means that in a post-pandemic world I think we will have significantly more of our team working either full-time or part-time from home. This means adapting some of the office structure to help this way of working succeed, with even more video facilities and more flexible group spaces for brainstorming sessions.

I think there will be more selectivity around which meetings require travel and which can be done via video – both internally and with clients and companies, and also who needs to travel.

The crisis has shown clear gaps between the successful firms in our industry and the rest, and I think it will lead to more concentration in client demand for the best firms and significant issues for the rest due to lower assets under management from market moves and client redemptions.

Overall I think however the world comes out of this, governments will have too much debt and will need to raise taxes (there is no chance of austerity as the solution). At the same time, companies will run with less leverage on their balance sheets and will have to run with more inventory, shorter supply lines, and less just-in-time production. And as we have all seen the incredible dependency we all have on "critical workers" and how many of those are paid minimum wages, I think it is inevitable that there will be higher wages for these groups, likely through higher minimum wages. All of this means that companies will be challenged to maintain profit margins seen as normal before the crisis.

Henry Fernandez, CEO of MSCI: 'The question is what is the level of innovation and change that comes out of this crisis?'

In a conversation with Business Insider, Henry Fernandez, the CEO of MSCI, ran through how the pandemic has affected his company, the world-at-large, and his family. 

"We're a mission critical company, meaning we are critical to the mission many investment managers have," he said. The firm is used widely for its indices of the fixed-income and equity worlds, as well as for the company's risk management tools for portfolios. 

Fernandez says the firm, like many others, had a disaster plan in place in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack where the firm could work remotely, but now has 3,400 of the firm's 3,500 workers in 22 different countries working from their homes. 

Personally, though, Fernandez has been surprised at how much time he is saving. He estimated he spends 70 to 80% of his time traveling, which has now been halted indefinitely. Clients, he says, are also dealing with more free time, but also more stress as they struggle to stay on-top of the news. 

"The return to work will be gradual," he said, and he expects companies to look like hybrids of what they were before pandemic — some conferences may stay online, cross-country meetings may stay on Zoom, real-estate footprints may grow smaller. 

Fernandez expects bolder changes to come of this. He referenced biographies of Isaac Newton that stated that he created calculus while he was sent home from Cambridge because of the Black Plague.

"These are periods of extreme innovation, extreme change," he said. "The question is what is the level of innovation and change that comes out of this crisis?"

For this crisis, Fernandez is bunkered down in his home in Long Island with his family, where he said boundaries had to be set so everyone could get their work done.

"I had to let them know "Hey, you can't just walk into my office and start talking about whatever.' If I'm in there, I'm working."

As much as he enjoys the extra time he has working from home, he offers a warning for workaholics.

"You've got to pace yourself. You've got to create a structure where you can say 'Hey, I'm going to eat with my family now,'" Fernandez said.  "If you don't, it will overwhelm you."

Kirt Walker, CEO of Nationwide: 'People would've thought I was crazy if it weren't for this opportunity and said, "Hey, everybody for the next week, why don't we just start working from home?"'

We have had basically 27,500 of our 28,000 associates working from home. The focus word there is working from home. We didn't just tell people to go home. We said to take your laptop, take your monitor, take the other things you need. We're going to send people home over a five day period. And at the end of five days when I was driving home and I said to myself: "We did it, we sent 28,000 people to work from home."

We have not missed a service level agreement number or a key performance indicator in four weeks. Plato says necessity is the mother of invention. People would've thought I was crazy if it weren't for this opportunity and said, "Hey, everybody for the next week, why don't we just start working from home?" But think about the opportunity that we picked up. We had the opportunity to do exactly that.

I can see in the very near future that Nationwide will have nearly, if not more than, half of our associates working from home full time as we move into the future.

Stacey Cunningham, president of NYSE: 'This experience has redoubled the NYSE's commitment to our floor-based trading model.'

Across our global offices there are a number of changes we will likely adopt, including obvious ones such as the increased use of video in meetings, both internal and external. What is perhaps more interesting is what will not change. The NYSE temporarily moved to all-electronic trading in late March as the COVID-19 spread intensified in the New York City area. Rather than driving a long-term shift in the way we operate, this experience has redoubled the NYSE's commitment to our floor-based trading model.

The coronavirus crisis represents the first time in the NYSE's history that we have kept our market open while our trading floor is closed. This created the first live test of how our market functions without the floor in operation. Data gathered during this period underscore the fact that stocks trade better with the combination of human oversight and cutting-edge technology that the NYSE uniquely provides. The data show that while our market quality has remained quite good overall and better than competing models, it has not been as strong as when our floor is in operation.

We plan to reopen the trading floor and return to our full level of service as soon as that is possible.

Our US capital markets infrastructure has performed extremely well in the face of historic coronavirus-driven volatility. Three of the five biggest volume days in equity market history occurred between the end of February and today. Our market-wide circuit breakers were triggered four times within eight trading sessions from March 9-18. These represented the first-ever tests of the modernized circuit-breaker system.

Across equities and options, the NYSE Group's systems have been able to handle enormous amounts of activity, processing a peak of more than 300 billion electronic messages in a single day.

Our industry does a fantastic job of coming together after major market events to identify what lessons were learned and where we might further enhance market resiliency. We will, of course, go through that same retrospective following this crisis.

Sunil Chandra, CEO of OakNorth: 'Now more than ever, we need to work together to find solutions to support small and medium-sized businesses.'

Now more than ever, we need to work together to find solutions to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) — the backbones of communities and economies globally — and ensure they can emerge from this crisis intact.

At OakNorth, we've always been of the view that how financial institutions underwrite loans and monitor them really matters, particularly for loans in the $1 million to $25 million segment. Our platform leverages credit science and big data to enable lenders to effectively lend to these businesses, even in periods of unprecedented uncertainty such as the one we're in now.

In the last few weeks, we've moved quickly to support US lenders participating in the Paycheck Protection and Main Street Lending Programs. We're proud to be working with lenders such as Customers Bank and Modern Bank which have been incredibly proactive and leading the charge in ensuring SMBs get access to the funding lifelines they need.

No one knows the long-term effects of COVID-19, so all of us need to band together to support businesses, the community, and one another.

Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal: 'There has never been a greater need for digital payments and we're not going to be using cash nearly as much in the future.'

This is an unprecedented situation for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our business, the way we work, how we live – really everything. It's also shined a light on how truly interconnected our world is and increased use of all things digital. Now, more than ever, it is paramount that we work together to take care of each other, support our communities and help those who are most vulnerable. 

Our industry is undergoing a tremendous test on an expedited timeline, and we don't take that responsibility lightly. There has never been a greater need for digital payments and we're not going to be using cash nearly as much in the future. 

People want to use QR codes so they don't handle cash, or pick up a pen or sign on a touchscreen at checkout. They're also shopping more online in verticals like groceries, gaming, electronics, and home and gardening.

PayPal's products and services are perhaps more critical than ever before. Over the last couple of weeks, the number of new customers that have signed up for PayPal or Venmo has increased dramatically and the amount of spontaneous peer-to-peer giving has skyrocketed. We're seeing people use our platforms to donate to first responders and grocery store cashiers, send money to loved ones, and give to charities electronically. People need us to be there for them – and we feel fortunate to be in a position to help during this difficult time.

Charles Lowrey, CEO of Prudential Financial: 'The physical and financial security of our employees is our number one priority right now.'

There are three themes emerging in our view. First, COVID-19 will have lasting implications on the financial security and spending behavior of individuals across the economic spectrum, especially mass and middle-market consumers. We're focused on making sure we create and deliver the right types of products and services, such as emergency savings tools, to support the critical needs of these customers. Providing ways to strengthen our customers' financial resilience is what we do at Prudential. It is our purpose. Social responsibility is what led to Prudential's foundation 145 years ago.

Second, we see the role of the workplace and the employer evolving, as companies adapt to widescale remote work and develop policies to address new childcare, healthcare and other needs faced by employees today. This trend is apparent to us as a company that serves employers, and especially as an employer ourselves. The physical and financial security of our employees is our number one priority right now.  If we can provide our people with that kind of stability, then we know they can help provide stability and support for our customers.

Lastly, one unique thing about this crisis is that the virus has affected everyone, everywhere. There is no villain to blame, other than the virus itself. We are all leaning on each other and you can expect to see the private sector playing a major role in the economic recovery, working hand-in-hand with government, non-profit organizations and with other companies in new ways. As an industry, if you think about what we do as insurers is we invest for the long term, and that's something we will continue to do through this recovery.

David Hunt, CEO of PGIM, Prudential's investment management arm: 'The model we are in now is faster, more efficient, lower cost, and has a lower impact on the environment.'

If you had asked most leaders in investment management to predict the environment when asset owners, investors, and clearing firms were all working from home, the answer would likely have been some form of chaos. In one of the happy surprises of this crisis, that has not been the case.

Most firms and processes are working effectively thanks to investments in technology across the industry. Even with heightened volatility and volumes, trades are clearing and money is moving. Indeed, at PGIM, we have found that client interaction has gone up dramatically. The turnaround speed of requests have increased. Investment committee decision making have been done on video with increased frequency. Interactions on Webex meeting on our market views and investment perspectives have resulted in terrific engagement.

While we will certainly need to go back to servicing and seeing clients in person, for many types of interactions, we expect parts of the current environment will remain. The model we are in now is faster, more efficient, lower cost, and has a lower impact on the environment. There is a lot that is attractive about technology-enhanced interactions.

Like so many others, my early days of working from home were driven by adrenaline. The seemingly constant changes in the markets and across our business kept the energy up. But now as we settle in to working from home for a longer stretch, the lines between work and home have blurred even more, and it is important that we all find a more sustainable balance between our professional and personal lives. For me, this balance has meant sitting down to meals with family, and finding time to get outdoors in between calls.

Tim Ryan, US Chairman of PwC: 'We should resist the urge to go back to "business as usual".'

Businesses have had to make tremendous shifts very quickly to stay relevant (and in some cases afloat) during the coronavirus crisis. As we look to rebuild, we should resist the urge to "go back to business as usual" and seize the opportunity we now have to build on what is working well and assess how we can improve the future of our businesses, our communities, and our infrastructure and public systems.

One thing we've seen work well through the pandemic for us is digital enablement and remote capabilities at scale: Our peoples' ability to seamlessly move from office and on-site with clients to working at home was key to helping our clients manage the coronavirus themselves. Coronavirus proved to business leaders that the technology that enables things like remote working – and training our people to use this technology - is absolutely critical, and I see businesses already looking to invest in their digital capabilities and their people as they think about the months and years ahead.

I'm also inspired by how many companies we've seen work across competitive lines to be part of the solution - from creating PPE to the development of tracing technologies to get people back to work and reopen the economy. I expect to see much more of this kind of collaboration that goes way beyond high-level talk and extends to the day-to-day work of addressing our biggest societal challenges in a proactive way.

In particular, I hope that we can continue to see collaboration from organizations on driving diversity and inclusion forward. COVID-19 has shown how vulnerable our minority communities continue to be, and we miss out on tremendous societal and economic opportunities if we leave them out as we rebuild.

Paul Reilly, CEO of Raymond James: 'Companies will reexamine the value in having a percentage of their associates working remotely going forward, which now seems particularly prudent.'

I've told our associates in our firm-wide, virtual town hall meetings that I have a renewed appreciation for just how powerful the culture is at Raymond James. We were able to grow coming out of the great recession and have tested business continuity plans with Hurricane Irma and other weather events, so we were battle-tested in challenging economic and operational scenarios.

However, witnessing 95% of our associates move to remote working situations in a very short period of time without major disruptions to our retail and institutional stakeholders is a testament to our associates' and advisers' commitment to clients.

With regard to the firm, I honestly don't see changes for our strategy or focus. We are a conservative company that is always prepared for difficult times, and we look to our values to inform decisions. 

While this is likely going to be judged as the most severe and devastating economic and business environment since the Great Depression, I remain confident that as long as we take care of our associates, and they take care of their clients, we will get through this in position to continue growing.

I expect we will take a hard look at our approach to remote work arrangements.  In response to a crisis, we have proven that we can successfully operate almost completely from remote sites. In some functions, we have seen pockets of improved productivity but there are areas where we know we are missing in-person collaboration. We are already studying what this will mean to near-term plans as well as to longer-term real estate strategies.

That likely means at some point we will be looking at split operations with a premium on creating a safe and healthy workplace, as well as acknowledging that peoples' home lives have been dramatically altered by closed schools and family needs.

Companies similar to ours will reexamine the value in having a percentage of their associates working remotely going forward, which now seems particularly prudent. More broadly, I'm optimistic in our collective ability to overcome adversity and adjust to whatever circumstances we will encounter in the coming months.

Nik Storonsky, CEO of Revolut: 'We see this event accelerating demand for more transparent, convenient, and flexible banking that gives customers more control.'

This pandemic demonstrates how people turn to technology when they need a truly flexible service that can meet their needs in a crisis.  We see this event accelerating demand for more transparent, convenient, and flexible banking that gives customers more control. 

Revolut has seen new interest in our gold and cryptocurrency trading services as consumers look for alternative investment opportunities. Those sorts of investment options used to be only available to large scale investors but apps like Revolut are democratizing investment opportunities.

People increasingly value instant updates on spending, secure transactions and transfers, and access to virtual and disposable cards as they rely more on online shopping.

Vlad Tenev, CEO of Robinhood: 'Antiquated practices, like processing paper transactions, will likely become obsolete.'

The economic impact of COVID-19 has been widespread and spurred historic activity and participation in the financial markets and on our platform. With customers trading at record volumes, operational efficiency during quarantine will be critical for businesses in the consumer finance and brokerage industry.

Antiquated practices, like processing paper transactions, will likely become obsolete.

At Robinhood, we're investing significantly in our customer support and informational resources to meet our customers' needs as they navigate volatile market conditions. We started Robinhood to democratize finance, and that goal drives us now more than ever.

Greg Fleming, CEO of Rockefeller Capital Management: 'These are moments that matter. Clients will absolutely remember who helped them navigate the pandemic.'

As we've seen in all societal shockwaves, there are extreme predictions for what will change "forever."

Following the devastation of 9/11, many said that no one would want to work or live downtown, or even New York City. Almost 20 years later, we've seen a great resurgence in lower Manhattan and an expansion into Brooklyn, so I remain optimistic about the resiliency of humanity. I don't think this spells the 'end of the handshake' or the 'end of the workplace,' but I'm also humble about my ability to predict the future. All we can do is be diligent about sharing our insights and life experiences.

While every financial crisis tends to trigger investors to engage more frequently with their advisors, we believe crises also serve to remind clients that receiving quality, trusted advice is a high priority. The shock to financial markets, and subsequent dislocation of individuals, has already had a material effect on investors; our ability to provide guidance and stewardship, alongside calm, dispassionate counsel has greater value than ever before.

These are moments that matter. Clients will absolutely remember who helped them navigate the pandemic. 

The rise of cloud computing, and improvements in technology more broadly, will also change our industry and our world, forever. In just 24 hours, our engineering team managed to scale our cloud infrastructure to enable our entire workforce to work remotely.

Similarly, we've seen a substantial increase in transparent dialogue, intimacy, and enhanced depth of relationships enabled by our adoption of video conferencing. Even after the pandemic passes, I believe some of the technology practices we relied on during COVID-19 will endure.

Michael Tipsord, CEO of State Farm: 'We're going to have a fundamental societal reset and that's going to impact what our customer's expectations and what their behaviors prove to be.'

We are a customer-facing organization. And so how their expectations change will be reflected in how we operate.

We're going to have a fundamental societal reset and that's going to impact what our customer's expectations and what their behaviors prove to be.

The magnitude of that and the permanency are questions I do not know the answers to. And anytime I'm in a situation where there are big questions and I don't know the answers, I try to create optionality.

We've had to be a bit innovative and minimize some of the face-to-face interactions where we can. There's some [areas] where we can't. So there we have to provide protection for our people and our customers.  

At a high level, what we're doing is we're creating a means by which our agents can have more seamless, trusted, connected experiences with our customers anytime, any place. And doing it in a way that is secure, in a way that's compliant.

That's part of the work that we're undertaking right now to make all of that happens.

Margaret Keane, CEO of Synchrony Financial: 'We will be even more focused on digital innovation, accelerating our analytics capabilities, and creating best-in-class, frictionless customer experiences.'

As we change how we work and where we work, we are infusing an agile mindset at every level, accelerating decision-making, and pivoting quickly to adapt to changing needs. 

The impacts will be profound across all industries. There will be changes in how consumers shop and pay for goods. The digital retail transformation will continue to intensify. Consumers will continue to benefit from increased personalization and more integrated offers while retailers will benefit from new levels of data and consumer insights.

I anticipate we will be even more focused on digital innovation, accelerating our analytics capabilities, and creating best-in-class, frictionless customer experiences. We're also helping many of our small business partners establish or upgrade their online presence. Amidst the consumer uncertainty during the first quarter of 2020, our total digital credit applications have increased.

As a member of both the Business Roundtable and Banking Policy Institute, I've been fortunate to have been an active participant in how the public and private sectors have come together. I believe our world will emerge stronger on the other side if we can continue this spirit of collaboration. As a business that supports the medical industry, and as a mom to a scientist, this crisis has shone a light on the importance of our health and science industries and the global work happening in hospitals, labs, and doctor's offices.

Lee Olesky, CEO of Tradeweb: 'Everything is on the table: where we all work, how the ideal week should look, how our office space is designed to accommodate our teams safely, and what technology allows us to best collaborate.'

Tradeweb at its core is a technology company, and so we've always made sure we were prepared to go virtual at any time without missing a beat. Now we've proven we can do that and so we're really exploring what works best for our team — now and in the future. Everything is on the table: where we all work, how the ideal week should look, how our office space is designed to accommodate our teams safely, and what technology allows us to best collaborate. Ultimately, I want our approach to be really flexible and creative, and focused on what works best for our people and our clients.

We were already seeing a long-term trend towards more electronic trading, but this crisis has clearly accelerated these changes. The most difficult thing about this environment for traders has been navigating these historically rocky markets when they're removed from their desk, their teams, and their data feeds. Companies like Tradeweb have played a critical role in keeping markets moving, and when this is over I believe our customers will continue to look to us for help in understanding where the market is, what the price should be, and who is the best counterparty for a trade.

It's difficult to draw many positives from a crisis that has had such a significant human cost, and that has created such dire economic circumstances for so many families. I hope we'll use it as an opportunity to ask some tough questions: do we need to adjust the work-life balance? How can we make sure the most vulnerable are better protected? Are we really getting healthcare right? And while technology in certain respects will play an even more important role in our lives than before, I'd hope we also see more of the humanity in each other. This has been incredibly isolating on one hand, and very tough on all of us, but social distancing has also been one of the greatest acts of cooperation for the common good I've seen in my lifetime.

David Siegel, Co-Chairman of Two Sigma: 'I've found it somewhat surprising that remote working can be so effective—better than I expected.'

The coronavirus pandemic unfolded with shocking speed and severity. While we face immense near-term challenges to public health and the normal functioning of the global economy, I don't think the world is going to be fundamentally different once the crisis has passed. We'll get through this. Our needs as human beings will not change, so the shape of the world around us will remain familiar.

I am lucky to work in a technology-infused business environment. I've found it somewhat surprising that remote working can be so effective—better than I expected. This grand lockdown experiment will no doubt spawn a new series of innovations to better fill the gaps between being physically together and working remotely. While Zooming is working pretty well, we're missing the informal creative encounters that we get in an office. Until that technology is invented, I believe being physically together helps to promote creativity in a way that will make most of us yearn for a return to our offices sometime soon.

This crisis has proven that investment in remote working capabilities is more important than ever. Not only will they make us more resilient in the next crisis, but they'll help us build a more flexible and inclusive workforce going forward.

Igor Tulchinsky, CEO of WorldQuant: 'We have long believed that in industries like ours, location of talent should become secondary.'

The coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the nature of work in many industries, including ours.

At WorldQuant, we view obstacles as information. That is true of the current situation. Embedding what we learn into all aspects of our work will benefit employees and make us stronger.

Adjustments made today, like remote work at scale, validate the potential for technology to enhance human opportunity and productivity. 

Tele-everything will be the new normal. We have long believed that in industries like ours, location of talent should become secondary. Ability, creativity, and collaboration across borders will be the priorities.

Organizations will need to create adaptable platforms that equip distributed employees with the tools to thrive. Empowering talent around the world will enhance outcomes, increase opportunity, and enable everyone to accomplish more.

Al Kelly, CEO of Visa: 'Consumers will demand more ways to pay that are safer and avoid physical contact, such as contactless payments.'

Visa's history is a story of transformation. We always have focused on the road ahead and we try to continually look around corners. That said, this crisis is clearly an opportunity for leaders to assess their business model and their allocation of resources.

As we think about how we operate our business, our employees are - and will continue to be - our most critical asset. Their safety is of paramount importance. In the short-and medium-term we are looking at a set of changes we need to make to ensure our employees' health and wellbeing. At the same time, a number of fundamental practices and beliefs in our company will not change. We will remain committed to our clients and we will continue to strive to be centrally involved in the movement of money everywhere to everyone so individuals, businesses and economies around the world thrive.

The new global consciousness about the migration of germs – not just within a household or workplace, but within a local community, state, country and across the world, will continue to impact the way societies at large go about their daily lives. We are adjusting how we shop for groceries, greet a family member or friend, or ride public transportation.

As the payments industry thinks about how to collectively move forward, I expect consumers will demand more ways to pay that are safer and avoid physical contact, such as contactless payments. Whether it's with your car, phone, fridge, or with your card, contactless is not only an easier experience, it's safer, too.

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David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
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