In a move that reflects investors' increasing desire to go digital — and their reliance on advisers — T. Rowe Price said Thursday that it is closing its Tampa, Fla., operations center in June 2019 and laying off about 150 workers.
The Baltimore-based fund giant said that many of the 400 workers at the operations center will be reassigned to the company's campuses in Owings Mills, Md., and Colorado Springs, Colo., where the company continues to hire. About 30 associates with assigned client relationships will remain in Tampa, working remotely.
"While our balance sheet has never been stronger and demand for our approach to active management remains robust, we also need to thoughtfully manage our resources in an increasingly competitive environment," T. Rowe Price CEO William Stromberg said in a statement. "Enhancing our operational efficiency so that we can continue investing in our strategic priorities will enable us to further improve the client experience and grow the business for years to come."
T. Rowe's move is part of a larger trend in how mutual fund companies — and businesses generally — interact with customers, said Catherine Seifert, an equity analyst at CFRA.
"Even through T. Rowe Price is producing results at the upper end of its peer group, there are still cost pressures, and operating a call center remains expensive," she said. "And the telephone may not be the preferred touch point of choice. It's an industry trend — more digital touchpoints and fewer human touchpoints."
While fund companies once did business exclusively by mail and telephone, investors now can do many transactions via laptop or cell phone.
And many investors now reach T. Rowe Price though an adviser, which means that the company may not have to answer a customer's questions directly, Ms. Seifert said.
T. Rowe Price spokesman Brian Lewbart, however, noted that the company's individual investor business is growing as well as its adviser business.
"It's not an either/or proposition," he said.
"I don't think it's unique to T. Rowe Price or our industry," Mr. Lewbart added. "It's how many people engage with companies today."
Indeed, the shift to digital interaction is part of a trend throughout business. Just ask Amazon.
T. Rowe Price has $1.02 trillion in assets globally and more than 6,800 employees worldwide.