"Without data, it simply won’t work": Q&A with Jim Murphy, CEO DST Australia February 2018

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Big changes are happening at DST Systems, not least of which is the ongoing development and growth of the company’s wealth management platform. New CEO DST Australia, Jim Murphy, is excited about being part of this next chapter in the company’s history. In this Q&A he tells us why he moved from the US to take up the role and some of the big opportunities opening up in the financial services industry. He also shares some of the advice he picked up from his mentors along the way.

You moved from the US to take on this role for DST in Australia. What was it about the company and the role that attracted you?

I have known, followed, and worked with DST Systems dating back to the 1990s and respect and admire the impact the company has had on the financial services industry since its inception almost 50 years ago.
A key part of my role is overseeing the ongoing development and growth of the company’s wealth management platform. This platform is the engine that underpins a very important and significant global growth area for DST. Being a part of this next chapter in this company’s history appeals to me and aligns to experience I bring to the role.

You’ve spent the bulk of your career in the US financial services industry, in organisations like State Street, JP Morgan and Fidelity. What are the key similarities and differences between the US and Australian financial services markets?

I see more similarities than differences. Income adequacy, changing demographics, and regulation are dominant topics, challenges, and opportunities across both markets.

One of the common challenges across both markets has been getting consumers to understand and take greater accountability for their retirement savings. Under-insurance is also an issue and one that cuts to the heart of protecting people’s financial wellbeing.

The other is the focus on digital transformation as a means of enabling financial services companies to provide more sophisticated and personalised customer experiences, as well as drive efficiencies across the entire value chain. Globally, the industry is telling us that digital transformation is one of their top priorities, yet I don’t think there are many organisations that have fully leveraged the potential of digital technologies to create sustainable competitive advantage.

What do you consider to be the biggest opportunities for the Australian financial services market over the coming 12-24 months?

Over the last few years, financial services companies have been very focused on customer experience as a means of differentiating, in particular, creating slick digital touchpoints. However, I think there is an increasing realisation that exceptional customer experiences are actually created in the back office. We’re starting to see more and more organisations wanting to talk to us about how they can redesign and automate their operations to create greater efficiencies, improve their ability to deliver fast, personalised service to their customers, and create the agility they need to continue to respond to change.

Robotics and artificial intelligence have been attracting a lot of attention over the past 12 months or so, and I see this only increasing over the coming few years. Robotics has been around for a very long time; however, the new wave of advanced robotics capabilities presents incredible opportunities for financial services especially when combined with machine learning or AI capabilities. To take full advantage of this opportunity though, organisations must have much better data and analytics capabilities: without data, it simply won’t work.

The ageing population is also creating big opportunities, particularly for superannuation funds and life insurers. However, the superannuation industry has been quite slow to act on these opportunities for a number of reasons. The uncertainty around the Government’s MyRetirement reforms is resulting in many funds taking a “wait and see” approach. Also, post-retirement products are much more complex than accumulation products, and many funds may not have the capabilities needed to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

And of course there’s the regulatory agenda. In superannuation, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how the proposed Member Outcomes test will be applied and the shape of MyRetirement reforms will take. And of course RG97 is still creating its fair share of angst. We’re also seeing a lot of focus on insurance in super, which will have impacts across both industries.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I work with a very talented team and we all aspire to do better, both as professionals and as a business. Leading the team and the company through this next chapter is what motivates me. And to do this in Melbourne is not a hardship by any means!

Do you (or have you ever) had a mentor? 

I have had two people in my career that I look back as people that helped me to mature and shaped my business acumen. The lesson that I took from my mentors was personal accountability for my behaviours and outcomes.

What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

A quote from author William H. Johnsen, which is a favourite of mine and one which I feel is relevant for young people (including my three adult children): “if it is to be, it is up to me”. Whatever you choose to do or be, the path you choose and your success is wholly dependent on you.

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