The business world can take two lessons away from the countries that have been most successful in fighting COVID-19. Data operations, data transparency and clear communications matter. Those are particularly important lessons for asset managers that need trust almost more than anything else right now.

Singapore and data

Singapore’s initial response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been among the better in the world, though they are not out of the woods by any stretch.

Attention has been focused on what decisions Singapore, as well as South Korea and Taiwan, have made, and when they were made. But more attention should be paid to how those decisions became possible, and how they have been communicated. That is true for how these countries and their businesses approach economic contagion as well.

In many cases, efficient data operations have been the “how.” It’s a lesson other governments and businesses can learn in order to try to catch up to what is happening now, what will happen next, and what can happen after that.

Data operations

A review in The Lancet found that Singapore’s data and information handling during the pandemic has been superior relative to the rest of the world. South Korea has admirably rolled out testing and used geolocation data to identify whom to test.

China is faulted for not moving fast enough early enough. Transparency continues to be a concern. But once in motion authorities used mobile apps to support 14-day quarantines and infrared cameras in train stations to quickly identify travelers with fevers. Chinese authorities have to work hard to regain trust. Fears that something is being hidden will turn into more problems.

Contrast that progress with Europe, where cases in Italy have surpassed those in much-bigger China. European authorities have been called bureaucratic and often technophobic.

Transparent communications

It’s not just how data operations have enabled decision-making. It is how information is shared rapidly, clearly, consistently, and in detail.

We’re faced with a public health crisis where well organized and transparent data is crucial. Poorly organized data, shared inconsistently, leaves a vacuum filled by conspiracy and fear.

South Korea quickly deployed a central tracking app that publicly informs citizens of cases within 100 meters of their current location. Koreans have embraced clear and credible access to information. They want to make informed decisions. Citizens want data transparency. They don’t want hidden realities.

Taiwan has shared details quickly and openly with an analysis of COVID-19 mortality rates. These efforts provide every citizen with a war room dashboard that allows them to feel that nothing is being hidden. Singapore releases detailed information on each COVID-19 case.

Lines of communication

There has been a longstanding fear in the asset management world of allowing too much transparency. Nobody wants investors trying to grab the steering wheel. Due diligence to earn investment in the first place is one thing. GPs suffer frustration if the questions keep coming after the money has changed hands.

Allocators have built up their own data teams. They’ve pushed for more data, faster. To keep up funds and fund administrators have learned to build dashboards and to automate. But it hasn’t been with enthusiasm. There is a worry about setting expectations for data sharing that the fund will regret later.

When there’s no good news, there is anxiety over what the LP will believe they see in the data.

Funds will do better when they show trust first, share data, and have established the infrastructure to offer transparency. Asset managers will be in for more trouble than they’ve bargained for if they don’t fight disinformation with reliable data.

Image Credit: Savvas Stavrinow; Pexels

Kevin Walkup

President and COO

Kevin Walkup is President and COO of Harmonate, a data services firm serving private funds.