The Strategic Marketing Function in Asset Management - Your Time Has Come.

The Marketing function in the Asset Management sector has historically been the "poor relation" in the Distribution business. Traditional Asset Managers have often looked to Marketing to provide general support to asset gathering activity, working on specific sales or investment led initiatives, rather than co-creating an overarching business development strategy for the firm.

Traditional, investment led, asset management firms have historically taken a product focus to driving asset growth. Often, this focus has been on high performing funds or those that have seen recent asset growth. Whilst this "product push" approach still retains tactical value, a move to a more "solutions oriented" approach to business development means investment houses need to think much more strategically about their existing investment waterfront and how it meets client demand. This, in turn, means a more structured, professional, pro-active Marketing function.

As a consequence, we have seen a significant shift in the importance now placed by leaders in the industry on having a best in class marketing function. Our hiring activity in the UK and Continental Europe in this space has seen a real spike during this time.

What is driving this change?

1. A more Demanding Client:
Historically, fund buying processes have looked very different per client channel. As this process now becomes much more blended (Wholesale & Institutional), the amount of information required by Fund Buyers about specific Solutions - their investment process, risk profiles, outcomes - has risen significantly and so the way Investment Firms communicate with their clients becomes ever more important.

When an Investment Firm's pitch team walk into a client's office, the assumption is that the buyer has already done their research. The B2B buying process is often as much as 60% advanced before the sales person sits in front of the client. This has a massive impact on the need for partnership between sales and marketing. As such, facilitation is needed to bring sales and marketing closer together in the overall client service value chain.

The need for "pre-business development" marketing support - collateral, branding, and product information - has risen dramatically. This involves investment in fund flows, client demand, thought leadership, competitor analysis and market insight activities.

2. Changing Customer Relationships:
Changing regulations have also led to investment firms seeking to own end customer relationships, in particular in the retail space. This "D2C" channel is made up of self-directed, mass affluent customers who seek real time information on their investments, demand proper detail around the strategies on offer and have a variety of choices as to with whom to invest.

To ensure this group is targeted appropriately - and cost effectively - getting the marketing pitch right is critical in driving customer acquisition. In an age of increasing investment strategy homogeneity, brand differentiation and ease of user experience take on a much greater significance. Skills required here are about being able to target your approach to a very different customer base, in terms of tone, style and simplicity of communications.

The role technology ("digital") plays in this, is of course also critical.

As individual investors demand more customized outcomes based on each of their individual cash flow needs, customer satisfaction about outcome delivery becomes as important as relative benchmark performance. Asset Managers need to be fully committed to building trust, innovation of product and customer experience, fair pricing and transparency.

3. Regulatory Pressure:
As regulators point their laser at the investment industry, issues around transparency of process, fees and outcomes have all risen in importance. Asset Managers need to ensure their communication with all stakeholders in their relevant industry is on point.

4. Technology as a Distribution Disrupter:
Investing in technology enabling increasing connectivity with non-intermediated clients will enable Asset Managers to possibly control more of the value chain.

Digital Marketing, Field Management, Investment Information Delivery and Data Acquisition are all set to be areas of key focus and growth.

The Marketing Process now is as much about "clicks to leads" and data management collateral, PR and events.

Marketing Culture in Investment Management - Where to Start

The key to a best in class marketing function is the firm's culture - where does the conversation start?

A "Marketing led" firm asks questions like:

* Where is Client Demand? Where are the fund flows?
* What is the competitive landscape? What are our investment capabilities?
* How do we align client demand with our investment capabilities to ensure marketing spend is best allocated to our likely winner?

An Investment led firm asks questions like:

* Which of our funds is selling well?
* Which PM is delivering alpha?
* Who can we sell these funds to and how can Marketing help?

An ideal scenario of course is a firm where the debate can be combined:

* Sales, Marketing, Product and Investment leaders take thought leadership, fund flow information, competitor analysis and client demand information.
* They overlay this with a strong understanding of the firm's own investment capability and blending the 2 together come up with a strategic plan to take to market.

Attributes of a Best-In-Class Marketing Leader

Strategic Marketing Development & Delivery:
* Alignment of Marketing Strategy to Sales Strategy and Investment Capability.
* A view on pricing, product and client reporting processes.
* A strong technology bias - Managing Technology relationships to extract value from IT transformation and a stronger focus on people, process balanced against the pure technology component of the equation.
* Competitor analysis, market intelligence, thought leadership.
* Brand and Value Proposition development. PR, Events, Digital engagement.

Firm-Wide Engagement:
* Work closely with Sales and Investment Teams to ensure Marketing Strategy is aligned to overall business development strategy.
* Work closely with peers in Technology, Digital, Sales, Product and Investment to ensure consistency of message to external market.

Functional Leadership:
* Ensure current Marketing function structure is best fit for future. Get the balance between Central Marketing and local delivery.
* Work closely with Technology teams to ensure development and implementation of key deliverables - Marketing cannot function now without technology and Marketing Leaders need to have this front of mind.
* Identify existing capabilities and fill gaps where required. Ensure that the Marketing function can drive consistency of offering across the firm whilst also recognising local or regional differences in approach.

Conclusion

In the last 24 months, AMC has made a number of marketing leadership hires for firms headquartered in the UK and Continental Europe.

When talking to our clients we ask them questions around

* Appetite for Strategic Marketing vs ongoing tactical support of sales initiatives.
* The perception of the function currently held within the firm.
* How advance their digital offering is - and how connected Marketing and Technology functions currently are.
* How they currently structure marketing - the blend of central vs local resource required, thought leadership, market insight, competitor analysis - and where their digital function sits in this matrix.
* What feedback they have taken from existing clients on brand perception, marketing collateral, PR and events.

The challenge for the industry from a talent perspective is that given strategic marketing is a recent development, the talent pools within Asset Management are not as strong as in other sectors.
Equally, some of the challenges the industry face - D2C engagement being one - are new and not ones that have been faced before. The importance, therefore, of looking for talent outside of the investment industry for this competence has never been higher.

These are exciting times for marketers in the investment industry, The move towards more strategic marketing functions is here to stay and the impact credible leaders with the approach can have has never been higher.

For further information, please contact Navin Raina on 0207 397 3773 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.