Mandated working-from-home measures introduced by companies to stem the spread of the coronavirus gave unexpected reassurance to the executives overseeing a reshuffle of teams among BNY Mellon Investment Management affiliates.
While not much will change for the Mellon Investments Corp. teams that will soon be running assets under the Insight Investment, Newton Investment Management and Dreyfus Cash Investment Strategies brands — nor for the teams they are joining — these firms will see changes in terms of location.
"The one change for Newton is (the firm has) historically had all of our (investment staff) in 160 Queen Victoria St." in London, Julian Lyne, chief commercial officer at Newton, said in an interview. "The new Newton will have investors in San Francisco, Boston and in London. And the other part is the Japanese equity team joining us from BNY Investment Management. (We're) genuinely going to have a global presence."
Insight also gains offices in Boston and San Francisco — something that CEO Abdallah Nauphal, under normal circumstances, would not have been too pleased about.
"If we did this a year and a half ago, I would have been grumbling a bit. The reason was I prefer people in one place," he said.
But the enforced working-from-home situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has softened Mr. Nauphal. "I have learned a lot in the last 12 months — how you can operate from ... a distance and still deliver the same esprit de corps, the same approach, the same commitment ... so it allows us to take a slightly more benign view of being a bit more decentralized."
The past 12 months have "been an education ... and one that allows me to feel a lot better about having two new offices," he said.
Hanneke Smits, CEO at BNY Mellon Investment Management, agreed. While completing her own transition into the CEO role in October, taking over from Mitchell Harris, the issue of working from home and separation from teams "was of course a very important topic I discussed with him."
Ms. Smits kept hoping for a physical return to the workplace, saying she "would be parking myself in Boston for a bit to work with the team or New York or London."
To cope with the transitions, BNY Mellon IM has "run lots of workshops with the senior leadership across Newton, Mellon as well as Insight, and it's all been done virtually. Yes, in the beginning people said wouldn't it be nice to all sit in a conference room, but we just all got on with it and got used to it. Yes, it is different and it does take quite a bit of time and effort. But we all learned a lot," Ms. Smits said.