August 18, 2020 | by M. Robert Weidner, III

The Future MSCI

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker

The Wall Street Journal is tracking COVID-19’s impact on U.S. small businesses in every state and major metro area. The picture is sobering. In MSCI’s home state of Illinois, more than half a million small businesses are at risk. The hard truth is that some of these firms will not survive.

Those that adapt, however, have a shot.

The same is true for American trade associations. The coronavirus health threat and the resulting economic fallout have required member companies to restrict travel and non-essential expenses. That means a traditional association model, built around conferences and in-person networking, faces an existential threat.

Like the local retailer that quickly built an e-commerce site to serve its customers during the lockdown, trade associations must reimagine their business model.

At MSCI, that reinvention was underway before COVID-19. The pandemic just kicked it into overdrive. Our mantra as we move forward: content is king, and delivery is virtual. If we cannot bring our members together for chapter scholarship golf outings or product conferences, we will find new, relevant, and interactive ways to deliver education and networking opportunities, industry insight, and data.

This modern model will cost less, but it will provide more value. And, importantly, it will bring more individuals into our community of industrial metals companies.

Take our virtual 2020 Economic Summit, for example. Set to take place Sept. 14-16, this event will still bring together North America’s top end market experts. The level of intellectual capital MSCI will offer will not change. With a registration fee of just $495 and no travel required, more individuals within a company, from sales to executive leadership and those based internationally, can participate. The virtual platform also will allow registrants to access each session for a certain period of time after the Summit’s conclusion.

At least in the near term, where COVID is the world’s primary disruptor, MSCI’s conferences will meet their audiences right where they sit, whether that’s in Stockholm or Saskatchewan. As a result, MSCI’s outreach now is limitless, and we hope you will spread the word by sharing our Economic Summit video with colleagues and customers by email or on social media.

Broadly, this shift will benefit the industry by making our sector more inclusive and by enhancing its already formidable knowledge base. MSCI’s executive leadership and educational offerings, from Battle Tested Leadership Principles for Metals Executives to MetalLearn®, will be more affordable in a virtual setting but will continue to help member companies build a workforce that is more informed, and therefore, more productive.

MSCI recently launched a new product line: a virtual CEO fireside chat named the CEO Huddle: In the Moment. Each month, members will hear from two industry leaders, one from a mill and one from a service center, who will discuss our sector’s future. Jim Hoffman from Reliance Steel and Aluminum Co. and Keith Harvey from Kaiser Aluminum joined me for the first huddle. Our next conversation will be September 24 and will feature Eddie Lehner, president and CEO of Ryerson, Bernardo Velázquez Herreros, CEO of Acerinox, and Cristóbal Fuentes, CEO of North American Stainless. Following that, on October 20, we will welcome Charles Schmitt, President of SSAB Americas and Rick Marabito, CEO of Olympic Steel.

For member companies craving the connection our chapters provide, MSCI will host regular virtual meet-ups starting in October. Every MSCI member, regardless of region or chapter, will be welcome at every event. Stay tuned for more information. We’ll also introduce other new products in the coming months, along with continuing our data programs (Metals Activity Report, Metals Tendencies Reports, and Momentum Monitors).

Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, a digital learning and online textbook company, has said, “[Y]ou’ve got to get ahead of the curve, don’t try to deny it or put your head in the sand, and wish for the best.” Over the last five years, I have talked about the five disruptive forces facing our industry. These forces required MSCI to start thinking about how to modernize its operations as it entered its second century of existence. We already were making changes, but the coronavirus pandemic cemented our efforts.

When this pandemic is over, and hopefully that will be soon, many of our society’s institutions will be forever altered. The small retail business that started as an e-commerce site will not abandon it. It will open its physical doors, but still will meet consumers where they are … online. MSCI will do the same. Our mission — to foster an engaged, inclusive community of industrial metals companies — remains. But, our tactics have shifted. There’s an old adage once found in a fortune cookie: “Many a false step was made by standing still.”

At MSCI, we are not standing still. And the way we will transform will allow us to bring more value to more companies than we ever have before.