With over 16 years in the financial industry, and over six as the Global Marketing Director at Broadmark Asset Management LLC, Rawson Gulick has witnessed the evolution of the asset management industry and distribution. She took time out of her busy schedule to speak with me and share her observations related to the challenges of marketing an asset manager to consultants and individual investors in the 21st century. The conversation covered a wide variety of topics including:
- Marketing innovation
- Content production
- Her favorite tech tools
Here’s what she had to say:
Is there a conflict between trying to innovate and still staying faithful to the brand? How can asset managers overcome this?
What I think is innovation is new to this business. In my opinion, historically, financial services and asset management have lagged in innovation, probably primarily due to regulatory requirements, restrictions based on what we can and can’t’ do. I’m seeing trends start to emerge and I think there are a lot of opportunities for those who can figure out how to innovate, and real branding opportunities that will emerge behind that. Sustainability, ESG, SRI, I think that some asset management firms are figuring out how to capitalize on that, how to brand around that and I think in the future, that’s going to become an important component and I also think that technology is an important component and you’re seeing a lot of trends there that I’m sure we will get into a little bit later.
Would you expand a little more on SRI and ESG?
Sure, that’s Socially Responsible Investing, and Environmental Social & Governance. This is part of the whole theme around giving back, taking care of our planet, making sure that all kinds of people are receiving the benefits of your investment… corporate governance, focusing on employees, focusing on the impact that you’re having on the environment. And so what’s happening is corporations are really starting to look at this, not just from a touchy feely stand point about ‘oh, I’m going to be philanthropic and I’m going to give back,’ but they’re saying ‘hey wait a second, this is really going to impact my bottom line, because if I’m using less energy, it’s not only going to be better for the environment, but I’m also going to be spending less.’
Which channel is best for content marketing? Company website, social media or print?
I think social media is great, LinkedIn is a great way to get stuff out there, but you also have to use your website. Because if you have good content, your audience will seek more of that out, and then they have a great place to go. If you have done email marketing, social media marketing and people like it, they are going to want to click to go straight to your content.
Print, I don’t know, I’m continually surprised how much paper still gets stuck on my desk from external providers be it ETF providers, or other asset management firms and it goes back again to sustainability and incorporating practices that are going to end up not only saving trees, but impacting the bottom line. So, I’ve got several things on my desk right now that I am guessing had to be really expensive (to print) and I’m probably not going to get to them. I usually end up putting it all into the recycle bin.
Where do you normally end up doing your reading?
It’s primarily online, my iPhone, iPad or desktop. About a year and half ago, I went as paperless as I could possibly go. I got for my work an iPad with a Logitech keyboard that I carry around with me everywhere so I don’t have to use paper to take notes, I take notes in Evernote either on my iPad, iPhone or desktop, everything syncs together which makes it easy. I can share folders with co-workers and have separate folders for my personal business. I can clip webpages, I can highlight things I want to go back to later, and I try as much as possible to not print anything.
What tech do you use on a day to day basis?
Evernote, LinkedIn, MarketWatch, Evestment, Google
What do investors like to read most? Do they show a preference for video, text or sound?
The primary thing we see, and this is not only per feedback that we’ve gotten (because we’ve asked), but in my opinion as well, anything that can be quickly consumed. If you put a five page, wordy, white paper in front of someone, they may not have the time to consume it, but if you can give them a short, two paragraph piece that has good content, and then link it to something that is more involved, then that, we have found has been a good thing for our audience.
I think the most important point is that your content is timely as it relates to your audience. If you can get their attention, then they will keep coming back to you. Then you’re staying relevant. It’s hard to do though, to keep as much current content as we’d like, in front of our audience.
Do asset managers need to be thinking of hiring specialists to produce their content marketing?
Yes and no. We’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of deep market knowledge here. And so, it has a lot more to do with time that it takes to get it done. Our team knows more about the markets than anyone I’ve ever met. And a freelance writer is not going to have that depth of information.
We have worked with freelance copy writers in the past, and it’s worked out fine, but for me, the thing that works best, is to identify a theme, and then being able to sit down and interview the experts in that theme. And then it’s a matter of me having enough time to sit down and write it.
What are your views on traditional fund factsheets – crying out for disruption or still an essential tool for investors?
Disruption. But, then we’re going back to the regulatory requirements and restrictions and traditional fact sheets, I don’t think they have enough information to really relay what the strategy is all about. I feel it’s more focused on the fund and the fund expenses and fees, and some of the statistics and performance behind it, but you’re not really going to understand what it’s trying to accomplish, the story. And that’s where the content marketing comes in, and is really the real meat of what the strategies are. Definitely crying out for disruption.
But I don’t know where the balance there is. The regulatory bodies are trying to protect the people that are less sophisticated and give them a certain amount of information that they have decided is the critical.
Where do you see the asset management industry in 5 years? Is it changing much? How so? What is the future for distributors? Are platforms here for the long term?
Millennials and beyond are going to change asset management for sure. However, the Baby Boomers are living longer and they’re stubborn. And so, you’ve got a whole class of advisors that are Boomers themselves, that are servicing Boomers and doing it the way they’ve always done it. A lot of those changes I think that are starting now, but I don’t think we’ll start to see a real change for another 5 to 10 years.
I don’t know exactly how it’s going to change, technology is certainly going to be a part of that. I think that we’re going to see different platforms come and go. I think that change only happens faster and faster. I think any platforms out there that only have cracks in them are going to be overthrown for something new and better. It’s my personal opinion that we may see a new type of product out there.
In the late 90’s ETF’s started to emerge and became really popular into the 2000s, and are very, very popular now and driving the market itself. I think that mutual funds need some disruption and are too expensive, and I think that the younger generations are not going to buy into them. And there may be something else out there that we don’t yet know about.
What does the future “Advisor” look like? A computer or a human?
To some degree a human needs to be involved in the process but computers are definitely going to take more of a role in advisement, in my opinion. There’s so much going on in R&D, acquisition among the banks regarding robos, there’s a lot of activity.
Most banks that I know about are either in development of their own robo or in development of a white label product on the engine of an existing robo. This is definitely a model that the next generation is already on board with, the younger investors that don’t have as much money are getting onto platforms that aren’t charging them anything, up to a certain amount, and only pennies beyond that.
I think that these robos are going to gain the young people’s confidence and loyalty and will grow with them. And I think that that’s a fantastic business model. That said, we’ll have to see how they perform. They haven’t been through a major disruption in the markets yet, so we’ll have to see what happens then.
Rawson Smith Gulick, Managing Director & Global Marketing Director
Ms. Gulick joined Broadmark Asset Management LLC in 2010 and has been in Capital Markets since 1999. She is responsible for strategic marketing planning, marketing content, communications and investor and consultant relations for the firm’s alternative investment portfolios, which include private funds, US mutual funds, UCITS and separate accounts. Prior to Broadmark, she was Vice President at Morgan Stanley having held positions in both Institutional Equities and Prime Brokerage, in Client Service and Business Consulting, where she specialized in start-up and expanding hedge funds on the West Coast. Ms. Gulick is co-president of the Association of Women in Alternative Investing (AWAI), and a past member of the executive committee of the West Coast branch of Hedge Funds Care. Ms. Gulick holds a B.A. from Georgia Southern University.