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Evolution of a Crisis Response—Part 1: Introduction and Background

30 March 2020   |  

The recent COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying market volatility have presented unprecedented challenges for firms globally—Artisan Partners is no exception. The crisis’s rapid evolution—from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020, to the virus’s identification as COVID-19 on 11 February, to the WHO’s characterizing the outbreak as a pandemic on 11 March—has given the world little time to prepare. Companies who maintained ready-to-deploy, updated business continuity plans (BCP) have likely had an edge in ensuring relatively uninterrupted and seamless ongoing service.

In late-January, it became clear COVID-19 was a risk beyond China’s borders and could pose a threat to Artisan associates traveling or working in remote locations. Accordingly, our corporate crisis management team met on 29 January to assess the situation and determine our next steps. This team quickly recognized the situation’s seriousness warranted input from additional business partners; it consequently convened the broader business continuity working group—a cross-functional team responsible for the planning and oversight of our business continuity program. The business continuity group began discussing travel recommendations and restrictions and quarantine guidelines. In turn, the group concluded the threat justified a more formalized and continuous focus—so we created a cross-functional pandemic preparedness group, including representation from our human capital, technology, facilities and legal groups. The pandemic preparedness group has met daily to monitor the pandemic’s progress, issue guidelines to associates and ensure our firm can maintain its critical business operations.

In this first piece of a series, I briefly discuss the history of Artisan Partners’ business model and continuity planning—both of which are thoughtfully designed to ensure the firm is able to continue servicing our clients and shareholders at as high a level as if we were operating under more normal circumstances. 

Since its founding 25 years ago, Artisan Partners has approached its business model with a people-first mindset. In terms of investment talent, that has meant providing and maintaining offices and an environment in each team’s preferred location that suits their approach to managing their strategies. As a result, our investment teams operate out of nine primary offices. Given their deep focus on bottom-up, fundamental research, many of our portfolio managers and analysts have historically traveled heavily to meet with company management teams and conduct on-the-ground research into potential and current investments. While international and domestic travel have clearly temporarily halted, our teams’ ability to work remotely has inherently been a cornerstone of our business model.

The case is similar at the senior management level: I typically work from one of our San Francisco offices, as does our CFO. We have multiple senior executives based in our Milwaukee headquarters and two senior executives on the East Coast. Outside the US, we have a meaningful presence in London and a more nascent one in Dublin, as well as small groups based in Singapore and Australia.

This business model has necessitated a commitment to the technology and flexibility to allow employees from around the world to connect and function seamlessly—from our senior management and investment teams to our associates. It has also necessitated a level of continuity planning that would ensure we could extend our capabilities beyond the four walls of our various offices and into employees’ homes, should circumstances warrant—as they currently do.

In future posts, I will discuss the tools we are using to ensure our business operates at full capacity while ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees. I will also share some insights I’ve gained from our clients and shareholders as this global crisis has evolved. In the meantime, I’m proud of our firm’s response to the current, challenging environment, and I look forward to sharing more about our response in the days ahead.

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