Talk to an asset management professional who has been in the business over time, and they’ll tell you about an era where an asset management firm’s brand was rarely discussed. That seems like ancient history now, doesn’t it?
A whopping 99% of asset management firms Accenture surveyed are looking to leverage tools and experiences that enhance and differentiate their firm’s brand and purpose within the next five years. More than a quarter (26%) believe their company’s brand and purpose are not clearly distinct from others. It’s no longer just what you sell that matters—clients have made that very clear. It’s who you are and what you stand for too.
Satisfactory outcomes and returns are expected, of course, but they’re fast becoming table stakes in an investment world that is increasingly driven by artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms and passive products. Many clients are increasingly caring less about who the portfolio team is and more about issues such as a firm’s stance on ESG, from climate change to diversity and inclusion.
Client experience is your brand coming alive
Brand is no longer the purview of Marketing. Rather, it’s embodied by each team that comes in contact with your clients and customers. Do they feel your firm’s purpose and values are brought to life via the interaction? And, going a step further, do those teams—in conjunction with your customer-facing platforms and applications—curate the right experience at the right time, targeted to individual clients’ needs?
This is the new brand. It goes far deeper than any one brand campaign, into each and every customer touchpoint. It’s lived, rather than simply communicated. Accenture research has found that 65% of consumers are influenced to buy a brand, product or service by the words, actions, values and beliefs of a company’s employees—not just the CEO or marketing spokesperson.
Easy to say, harder to implement
It’s usually at this point in a conversation with our clients that we get to the “how.” How does an asset management firm begin to distinguish itself from the sea of competitors in a customer’s eyes? While we can´t do this topic justice in a short blog, here are three key areas of focus that are a good place to begin.
- Perform a brand diagnostic on your organization.
There is always room to better understand your brand. Do a diagnosis by asking simple questions. What is your brand budget? Who is your brand champion? How many resources do they have? Where do they sit in the organization? Do they report to the CEO or is your brand champion buried three levels down? It is also telling if a company employs brand experts in a dedicated role or one in which brand is allotted as just a portion of their time. We see some asset management firms where brand might only get 10% of the time, attention and budget it requires. You have to start from a position of strength—and the scenario I’m describing is not it. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably time to rethink it and make some changes.
- Know your client as if you are a consumer goods or retail company.
Put your client—the investor—first. We’ve never fully understood why in the financial world we seem to not put the same emphasis as other industries on truly understanding our existing clients and prospects. We could take a lesson or two from consumer goods and retail companies in this regard. Executives in those industries can usually answer, in a heartbeat, questions like: What is important to your customer? What drives their purchase decisions? Does your brand mission and values align with your clients’ values? How is your brand experience differentiated and substantive?
- Build your investor insight “muscle”.
With a diverse range of data now available to firms as well as sophisticated analytics platforms that can extract informative insights—there’s no reason for any firm not to understand every aspect of their clients’ profiles and preferences in details. And it feels good when you do. It’s powerful and transformative for your teams to be able to make data-based decisions. This can include a mix of solicited and unsolicited data (with the appropriate permissions, of course), so you are not just relying on what clients tell you, but how they behave in different contexts. In this way, you can develop a 360-degree view of each client.
Trust underpins it all
This brings us to the ever-important issue of trust. Your brand strategy should consider a broad range of elements that contribute to trust—from how data is secured, managed and shared; to how ethical standards are created and enforced; to how reliably the company delivers on its promises.
By 2025, Accenture believes:
- Investors would have increasingly taken charge of the relationship with a firm.
- The majority of firms are likely to be cloud-based and AI-operated.
- Corporate responsibility would have become a global priority. New tools could empower millions to participate globally.
Each of these factors combine to deliver a changed future for asset managers—one that’s either exciting or threatening, depending on how ready your firm is to evolve. Moving towards a brand that is future-ready just makes sense.
We hope you found this an interesting read—please contact us directly if you would like to discuss the potential of brand for your firm in more detail.