Institutional marketing teams at asset management firms are being asked to adapt quickly to digital marketing strategies. But a perfect storm of poor resourcing, insufficient training and a general lack of appreciation for their efforts is encouraging more and more marketing managers to jump ship in search of a brighter, more rewarding future at a hedge fund.
Those are the headline findings from a recent FundFire survey (login req’d) conducted anonymously via 71 asset management marketers at nearly 50 firms.
The drive to digital is gathering pace but still lacks real urgency
This year’s survey repeats a similar study conducted last year and, when it comes to adopting digital marketing strategies, there are clear signs of progress.
Last year, one in three respondents said that their firm lacked a digital marketing strategy. This year, just one in six admitted they were in the digital dark ages. That’s progress in the right direction, but is it quick enough?
Kurtosys CEO Jeff Hendren doesn’t think so. In a recent interview with Clear Path Analytics, Jeff reflected on the slow pace of change:
“Asset managers aren’t adapting to how the global business world is changing the way that products are marketed now. The very process of buying and selling is changing for everything — from a pair of shoes, to a car, to a home.
For some reason, asset managers seem reluctant to accept and adapt to these changes, and that means that fund industry is reacting to consumer demands far more slowly than many other sectors.
Asset managers still don’t want to disclose what is going on in their fund and how they invest. In many ways they want to stick with the status quo, but that causes problems because the way they use data isn’t keeping pace with customers’ buying behaviors.
What a client sees and experiences in one sector is what they will come to expect from everyone. If fund managers don’t deliver, customers will look elsewhere.”
Adapt or die — firms needs a comprehensive communications strategy
The idea that asset managers are still too reticent when it comes to sharing information is a theme echoed by Christine Rostvold, president of strategy consultancy Charnley & Rostvold who believes that a successful digital strategy “requires a comprehensive approach to developing content at a frequency that demonstrates credibility and then [an effort] to disseminate that content as broadly as possible.
Rostvold appreciates that sharing information for free is a concept that is alien to many industry stalwarts and accepts that a fundamental shift is attitudes is required at the very top of the firm:
“It requires a serious cultural change for a lot of asset managers who have always kept [their recruiting strategies and investment philosophies] under wraps. Now, they’re giving out detail that only their best customers were once privy to. So much information is available online that asset managers who don’t add their voices are going to miss out on opportunities.”
Opportunities there for the taking… but get the right resource in place
There are rich pickings up for grabs whilst so many asset managers continue to drag their feet but the time and effort required to seize hold of opportunities should not be underestimated.
FundFire’s survey found many institutional marketers struggling with the implementation of digital activity, even when a clear strategy was in place.
39% of participants said the challenge of adapting to digital was “severe”. Whilst one respondent blamed a lack of training in new technology and digital tools, others were simply crumbling under the relentless pressure to do more.
61% of those answering FundFire’s questions said their marketing team was understaffed, up from 49% last year. On the one hand, the number of marketing channels, products, and differentiated messages are growing exponentially whilst on the other, asset managers continue to hold back from adding more support staff to deliver campaigns, preferring instead to focus on roles with a more direct and transparent link to revenue generation.
That’s a decision that might prove short-sighted as increasing numbers of junior staff decide to leave asset management firms to ply their trade at hedge funds who are keen to embrace marketing as the route to long term relationship building in a post crisis world.
Understand the scale of the challenge and rise to it
So what should asset management firms be doing? Kurtosys founder and executive chairman Mash Patel shared his own predictions for the key trends that will shape the asset management industry in 2014.
His four hot tips to focus on were:
If you’ve not caught up with his post read it in full to understand why these are the areas to concentrate on. But while you’re reaching for your reading glasses, pick up the phone to a recruitment advisor too because none of these things can be delivered without the right resource in place.
Digital tools and technology present so many opportunities to engage investors, attract new assets and service existing clients more efficiently… but those very same tools need people to manage them, brains to analyze the analytics that should inform campaigns and a steady flow of content to sustain client conversations.
If that sounds too difficult, be honest and hire some outside help, but please — don’t place the whole burden on the staff you’ve already got. If you do, you just might find less of them returning for work in 2014.