ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) considerations are now fundamentally changing the investment landscape. Leading the way on a sustainability agenda has never been more important and ESG principles are now positioned more centrally within a large proportion of the industry. Asset managers can advance this shift towards a more holistic investing style by using their brand and providing enhanced customer experiences to improve how they are seen from within the investment community.
Brand is a representation of everything you do – literally. As we settle into the new norm, there has never been a better time for firms to think carefully about how their brand can be used more powerfully in a permanently altered world. Like many others, the asset management industry has endured a difficult time during the pandemic. Revenues for 2020 will be down in the region of 15-25% for most, markets remain dislocated and trendless and very few firms have made transformational changes through digital. At a time where costs are being scrutinised, the mention of marketing spend may raise an eyebrow, however we would argue there is no better time than now to be investing in your brand. ESG now sits within a complex melting pot of many other macro factors including societal change, the pandemic “effect”, ideological division and the change in the way governments and individuals think about money. There may never be a better time to restate your position and intent through the lens of your brand.
In rethinking brand against such a complex backdrop, the overall strategy has to be about simplicity. Fusing all these complexities of change into a simple message like the strongest brands in other sectors have done. The single-minded idea (SMI) is the emergent gold standard of brand strategy. It is notably the centre of great campaigns from the largest brands in the world like Apple and IBM and core to how customers experience all that you stand for. This is the time for sales, marketing and client services to join forces and have a single-minded connection to a single-minded idea through your brand.
On this note, allow me to talk about our brand and how we at Kurtosys are thinking about our own positioning. Our context is one of a supplier who cares deeply about the asset management industry, see’s each customer as a long term partner and has an internal people culture around the values of fairness, equality and better outcomes for all.
Earlier this year we rebranded and evolved our brand, launching our strap-line – Real growth. Realized. We wanted to capture an authentic connection between what we are experiencing in our own business to what our customers in asset management are also trying to anchor into. Real, can’t be explained any better than what it is, something that is not imagined or supposed, not imitation or artificial; simply, genuine. We are not making any claims about the effectiveness or power of our choice of words but rather trying to suggest our rationale for choosing the words.
As part of our rebrand, understanding how our strapline impacts our customers and living it internally – to make it tangible externally – was important. So “small” ideas such as our own internal sustainability programmes are becoming core to our own identity. In doing so, we feel we are a living and real reflection of what the asset management industry is promoting on a global stage to investors worldwide.
So, what are we trying to say, we could jump on the ESG bandwagon and strew it all over our messaging or even change our strapline to reflect it. However that would have been inauthentic. The opposite of real. We believe that the modern business needs to live its own brand through its internal culture and nurture this culture in a way that reflects how they want their customers and stakeholders to interpret it.
Some four months after our brand launch the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. From our offices across the world we joined our existing remote workers, of which we have many, at home. Home – it doesn’t get any more real than that. So roll forward the 14 weeks of lockdown and we are thrilled that our employees have captured and amplified the spirit of our brand through the lens of their own homes all whilst they continue to help our customers transform how they think about telling their ESG story through their own digital experiences.
Through our own internal initiatives, we are proud to be able to reflect a microcosm of what is happening within our customers and their customers as a whole. We are proud of that.
So, from a small example our own culture and brand, let me try and bring it back to the bigger picture. According to a recent study by Gartner, we know that over 80% of marketers think customer experience will be their primary differentiator. Customer experience surpasses price and product as the most important factor for a B2B strategy, and this importance is only expected to increase. Specifically, with regards to ESG, we also know that there is growing empirical evidence that sustainable investment strategies can increase performance and build trust. The argument go’s that the worlds most trusted brands are the most valued ones.
Investors are judging asset managers on their ability to not only pick performant investments but to pick the ones that reflect their own values. The job of brand management in asset management just got harder but the prize is arguably larger.
We believe that if the asset management industry weaves sustainability into their brand strategy they stand to gain. Whether they do this subtlety, subconsciously or blatantly will be a reflection of their own brand and internal culture.
So how do you focus your long terms growth drivers of ESG to enhance your brand and create a better customer experience:
- Create a single-minded message that aligns your culture of sustainability with your brand in a purposeful way. Think one message, one culture.
- Build trust through disclosing your ESG efforts for better customer engagement and improved customer experiences. Think simple, consistent and real information.
- Communicate your ESG efforts effectively through curated “to the point” content. Think less is more.
- Be real and authentic and ensure that sustainability is aligned with doing business for good not just focused solely on profitability. Think Investor outcomes.
- Work with your clients to build a greater customer experience as your “automated” brand will create a competitive advantage for your future growth. Think digital.
- Outlining your ESG efforts will assist with the market trend of a shared economy as you enable a global vision of growth for all, together. Think community.
Aligning investing with sustainable values is at the heart of what many of our customers are grappling with as the new, dramatically different world emerges. We see an immense opportunity for the asset management industry to build their brands in a positive way, by doing business impactfully. We believe, that by expressing your brand proposition in a way that connects with your investors needs and reflects your own internal culture throughout your organisation will help you achieve your growth aspirations.