How much asset management is a creative effort is something many underestimate, and the current COVID-19 crisis has struck a blow against it, says Charles Van Vleet, assistant treasurer and chief investment officer of pension investments at Textron Inc., Providence, R.I.
Mr. Van Vleet said the most important part of being able to manage assets are those moments when you run into someone in the elevator or somewhere else and spontaneous discussions occur.
Citing how "creativity happens at the water cooler," Mr. Van Vleet said "none of that can be replicated through phone calls."
He said it is also important to him to accept the fact that staff members that have to work from home are not going to be able to maintain the same kind of productivity for eight to 10 hours a day they have in the office because of other requirements, such as having children in the house.
Mr. Van Vleet noted that his son works for a firm where he is "tortured" with two or three hours of videoconferences a day. "I promised my teams I would never do that," he said. "I think it's cruel and unusual punishment doing things by video."
They have phone meetings three times a week, but without video. "Personally, I am not a fan," he said. "Cameras are lousy, the background is messy and most of all, like everyone else, I have not been able to get a much-needed haircut."
Mr. Van Vleet said he has tried to inspire his teams in other ways, such as by having them contribute a daily photo he calls the "P.O.L." photo, which stands for "proof of life."
"Something fun like hiking, biking, or playing cards with the kids. Or something not fun like doing dishes, peeling potatoes or taking out the trash," he said. "In my household, I do all the above."
By the same standard, Mr. Van Vleet said, "Don't expect a phone call from me after 3 o'clock in the afternoon," which he says is also cruel and unusual punishment.