5 Ways for Asset Managers to Improve Fund Factsheet Production

It’s been a very busy start to the year here at Kurtosys. We’ve onboarded many new customers and continued to help ones that have worked with us for years but in case you’re about to switch off, expecting one of those posts in which I tell you what a great company we are, don’t!

As the year has gone by, I’ve been struck by how many of our customers – new or old – are driven to improve their fund factsheet production as a result of the same set of strategic imperatives.

We’ve talked a lot about factsheets before, but we’ve never really joined up the dots between clients to provide a simple snapshot of what asset managers are striving to achieve when it comes to improving fund factsheets. Until now.

Make factsheets live your brand

Unfortunately, very few asset managers think of their factsheets as a brand channel. Yes, most stick their logo somewhere at the top and try their hardest to get general things like colour palettes and fonts to match, but few really leverage the opportunities that exist to make a fund factsheet really embody your brand.

That’s great news for one marketing director we’re working with. He recently held a full day session with Kurtosys designers to see how their factsheets could incorporate their new brand in a way that went much deeper than logos and colour management.
The outcome was dramatic from a visual perspective and the outcome will probably be just as dramatic when it comes to their clients’ response. In a sea of grey, it’s easy to raise your brand above the water — and those that move early will reap the biggest rewards.

Our client used a “designed” template that could accommodate multiple data representations and add all the frills that come with great “publishing standard” designers. Together, we really moved the needle when it came to the aesthetic appeal of their factsheets and it was great to see buy-in at director level.

Reduce production times

Most asset managers take much longer than they need to get factsheets out the door. That’s not meant to be controversial; it’s simply the truth. Sadly, the longer the production timescales get, the lower the inherent value of the document gets. Every day wasted is a day that you could have been connecting with clients.

One very real practical problem, however, is that most clients have to manually or semi-manually populate a formatted spreadsheet for each fund before passing the data on to their vendor or internal publishing team. It’s a messy process at best and completely impractical at worst.

The industry must eliminate manual data workbooks. There’s no compelling reason for them to be part of the production chain since data should be sourced directly from host systems, administrators and easy to use workflows for fund manager commentary.

A simple, flexible database for handling data driven disclaimers and footnotes needs to be embedded into the process and finally, graphical and tabular components need to allow for certain conditions so that they behave properly in adverse or unusual situations, for example when a fund is less than a year old and fund performance needs to be displayed slightly differently.

Manage flexible output

Of course, the best-laid plans… come undone as soon as something needs to change, a template has to be tweaked or a style modified or a new fund comes along to be added.

Historically, this has been the undoing of many a marketing team. I often see teams “not bothering” to make changes because it takes too long or would cost too much to ask their vendor to do it.

This is simply not OK.

While I’m a strong advocate of making the factsheet process fully automated, it needs to be balanced with providing marketing departments with a frictionless process for changing templates and presentation styles on a monthly basis.

Flexibility is vital to overall success. Test your internal departments or suppliers very rigorously on this. Relying on manual processes could end up being very painful indeed.

Speed up distribution

Document Distribution is where planning turns into action — or the results of your hard labour get delayed in stacked boxes that poke fun at your efforts. Factsheets must be out of the door as soon as possible — to delay is foolish and electronic distribution is the simple way to prevent it.

Every document that you produce should have essential “meta data” associated with it which includes the full Fund Name, Codes, Language, Country, Fund Structure, Document Type, etc. Armed with this meta-data distribution becomes a simpler and more scalable exercise accelerating communication with clients, interested parties and service providers like Fundinfo.

Reduce cost

Every day I hear about cost:income ratios and marketing teams that are under pressure to cut costs. So why do so few asset managers know the true cost of their factsheet production and distribution process?

In truth, most don’t want to know.

To even attribute these costs to a fund or even range level is unusual — as if to assign a number is to admit the massive inefficiencies that ramp up costs.
This can’t continue.

Personally, I think expense ratios should start accounting for marketing document production more accurately. That’s the only way that cost reduction drives can start cutting waste rather than cutting the colleagues whose help you rely on.

Negotiating the right business model with your fund factsheet supplier can help you provide the reporting you need to make cost attribution more transparent.

The next question is can those costs be reduced?

I hope you’ve found this a useful walk through what is so often a cumbersome, convoluted process. The oldest processes are often the ones that have evolved and developed over years of complex requirements and tiny tweaks that end up being embedded as business as usual.

Most aspects of our world have changed rapidly over recent years, so how about your fund factsheets? How have they improved? How has technological innovation helped you work smarter and save money? How has electronic communication shaved distribution times and brought you closer to customers?

If the answers are “not much,” perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at your procedures.