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What are the critical success factors of large-scale transitions?

28 April 2022

Keeping up with the fast-changing market conditions require an agile and efficient business approach, something that is driving many investment management firms to review their current operating models. As digital technologies, a challenging financial outlook and fierce competition are reshaping the industry, firms seeking long-term success will need a differentiating and nimble edge.

This article explores the path to adapt to new market conditions through business and technology transformation. We discuss key success factors of a successful value-driven delivery and adoption of large-scale transitions and what benefits this deliver to the business.

It also highlights why it is critical to find a financial services partner that has strong transition capabilities across people, technology and operational processes.

Responding to a market in turmoil

The ability to navigate volatile markets and deliver robust returns will set firms apart in their efforts to diversify their portfolio allocations and build up capabilities to meet the increased demands for ESG and alternative investments. This requires a laser focused business approach.

In addition, regulatory requirements for compliance and reporting are adding to the complexity. Concerns around cybersecurity and data integrity have been further exacerbated by the requirements for remote access in the wake of the pandemic.

On top of this, finding and retaining the right talent has become increasingly hard and expensive, especially for critical roles in technology and specialist roles in operations.

With so much on their plates, it is not surprising that many investment managers are pursuing large-scale change efforts to stay ahead and even capitalise on these trends and challenges. While reviewing their current operating model, leading firms are turning to Apex Group for advice. Together with our clients, we explore avenues to rethink current business and operating models to be set free to deliver more value to the end investors.

Tony Hannay

Tony Hannay

Head of Transformation Management Office, Apex Group NZ

Tony Hannay, Head of Transformation Management Office, Apex Group New Zealand explains:

“How to implement and manage change needs to be an integral part of any evaluation process aimed at delivering an optimised operating model.”

Finding the right operating model

By moving from in-house back-office operations to outsourced fund and wealth administration, investment managers are set free to focus on what matters the most; delivering competitive outcomes to their investors and members. Some firms have already adopted an outsourced model but have ended up with a fragmented view across too many providers, hampering efficiency gains, control, and time to market.

Apex Group’s comprehensive portfolio of services and technology span across fund and wealth administration, digital services, custody, ESG and much more. Our clients value us as a strategic single-source partner that they rely on for their outsourcing needs today as well as in the future. Moreover, our clients leverage our project management and transitioning expertise to ensure a successful execution and delivery of their plans.

The path to a successful delivery of a transformation project

  1. People

Ultimately, it is the people behind a project that determine its success. This includes the skillset, knowledge, experience as well as how well teams work together across different firms. Tony Hannay adds:

“The objectives and vision need to be clear from the outset. Importantly, they also need to inspire and align with all parties’ values. People need to be able to visualise the road to success”. 

Tony continues, “This also includes personal development; an opportunity to learn and be part of the success story. All of this ties into the early establishment of success metrics throughout the transformation journey from onboarding to adoption.”

“We do not steer away from ambitious goals. We are here to help organisations achieve their high aspirations and energize them through transformational change.”

Successful transformation projects start at the top. It is important that our clients have support from board room to C-Suite and down the line.

  1. Experience

As part of the evaluation process, it is critical to attain references of past projects and capability to deliver large, complex, and time-critical transformation projects. “Our long track record of transitioning clients successfully, and our ability to scale quickly when needed set us apart. This was put to the test over the past two years during the Pandemic as we had several demanding transitions and projects running in parallel while working remotely. There were also other external factors thrown into the mix such as the IRD launching a mandatory update of their APIs and other regulatory changes. When multiple things happen at once, it is reassuring to have an experienced team who are not rattled by challenges,” Tony adds.

“We are able to rely on our proven methodologies, processes, and a great teamwork effort to get the jobs done in time and within budgets.”

A continuous improvement of the transformation process is closely aligned with past experiences.  We are able to leverage built-up local knowledge and industry expertise combined with global best practices to fast-track enhancements.

  1. Engagement

An important success factor is continuous engagement across the various teams. With remote working, it is even more vital to have clear, open and honest communication with daily checkpoints. Effective execution needs careful management of milestones and ownership but also a high ceiling where people can express concerns freely and complex problems can be solved jointly by leveraging multiple skillsets.

Technology plays a huge part in our successful delivery as we are set up to collaborate remotely. This includes quality assurance testing of the APIs, any customisation, and data transfers between environments. “Knowledge sharing and a collaborative approach to problem solving is key and this needs to span across all teams – the client, any external consulting firms involved by the client, and our own teams,” Tony elaborates.

“We also like our engagement to be fun and enthusiastic where we have each other’s backs and take ownership together.”

  1. Execution

Transparency on tracking progress and ruthless prioritization are critical to focus the efforts on the “quick wins” that deliver most value fast. Our TMO (transformation management office) provides an overarching view that coordinates the different teams, ensuring that the project remains aligned with its objectives and timelines, and makes timely adjustments where required. The TMO also considers trade-offs between meeting deadlines and assuring quality while meeting objectives.

  1. Quality Assurance

We have locally based teams dedicated to quality assurance, spanning across functionality, integration, and documentation. Any bespoke functionality developed, customised set-ups as well as all interfaces and communication lines to the clients’ own environments and external sources undergo thorough end to end testing. Our technology includes plug-and-play connectivity to major financial services, data vendors and custodians used by the investment market.

  1. Adoption

Going live is a great milestone but the journey does not stop here. This marks the beginning of the adoption program to make sure all users are familiar with new processes, technology, documentation and tasks. As part of our services, we have dedicated teams who interact with and train the users. Prior to transferring a client from our Transformation Management Office to our Operations and Client Success Management teams, we run a parallel hand-over process. In this hyper-care environment, we do regular stand-ups to tackle any issues upfront. We also look for continuous improvements where we can optimise processes and deliver efficiencies that can be passed on to provide better business and investment outcomes.


In the search for a more agile operating model to respond quickly to change it is important not to overlook the transformation piece that ensures a successful outcome. Transitioning to transform needs to harness people and technology; mixing soft management skills with project expertise, technology tools, market knowledge and experience in making the right calls when pressure mounts and deadlines are near.

Investment management firms aspiring to lead need to embrace change and be set up to meet investors’ expectations today and in the future. The time to evolve is now. Laggards risk being left behind hamstrung by their legacy technology stacks, spreadsheets, slow and manual processes that are not fit to meet the needs of investors and members in a digital fast-paced world, and are costly, prone to errors, and cannot scale.

By partnering with Apex Group, fund and wealth management firms gain access to sophisticated operational services along with the latest technology and innovation. We set our clients free from the administrative and complex burdens of managing investments which empowers our clients to accelerate their own success. Our dedicated TMO capability ensures a smooth and collaborative path to maximise the value of change and deliver success within set time frames and budgets. We are here to help.

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