Asset managers are prioritising "quick wins" with regard to data analytics and digitisation to sure-up investment performance after a "tumultuous" end to 2018, which has sharpened firms' focus on protecting returns, Linedata research reveals.
The data firm's ninth Global Asset Management Survey showed maintaining investment performance is the biggest business challenge, cited by 34% of respondents, following a fourth quarter that saw major losses across global equity markets.
As a result, firms are prioritising data and nearer-term digitisation projects, with growing attention to techniques such as machine learning, to "enable [a] quicker response to new digital opportunities and for operational impact that can hit the bottom line this year", the report found.
Longer-term structural tech transformations are a lower priority over "quicker wins" with data and automation, following "significant progress" with regard to cloud adoption over the past two years, it added.
Gary Brackenridge, global head of R&D and North America asset management at Linedata, said: "Asset managers were struck by a tumultuous end to last year that has led them to rapidly refocus on the critical initiatives that can boost operational efficiencies and alpha generation in 2019.
"In this environment, doing more with one of their greatest untapped assets - their data - is essential".
"We expect to see more developments in this area as well as a rise in outsourcing, which can not only facilitate advanced data analysis, but enable managers to focus on delivering investment performance and exceptional client service to retain and attract assets."
Elsewhere, Linedata found that attracting new client assets and sustaining operational efficiency were the second highest priority among asset managers, with 33% each respectively.
With regard to new products, 33% of respondents said ETF houses will see the most growth this year, while only 9% plan to launch passive vehicles compared to 41% who said they plan to expand their active range.
Linedata said this suggests that the "dominance of ETF market leaders continues and managers should focus on what they see as their top differentiating factor", which 24% of respondents cited as their reputation and client trust".
Finally, asset managers reported a less optimistic stance towards the growth of robo-advisers and blockchain. Just 7% of respondents see robo-advisers as the biggest disruptor to the asset management industry over the next five years, down from 22% in 2018, while 12% see blockchain as the biggest disruptor, falling from 16% in 2018.