The pandemic ushered in a new age of technology in the investment management industry. Even firms that had been resistant to digitalization became suddenly, and acutely, aware of existential business risks that could be managed only through digital means. Investment management marketing teams began taking a hard look at their tech stack. A surge of quick pivots followed as firms scrambled to adopt new tools, change processes, and streamline operations to ensure business continuity.
These adaptations are particularly crucial for preserving relationships between advisors and wholesalers. According to research from Broadridge, 22% of advisors found wholesalers to be less helpful during the pandemic, and 32% have decreased their reliance on wholesalers over the past two years.
If your firm is like most, you recently made a series of one-off changes to your communications strategies. These include the ways you engage with your prospects, serve your clients, and even how you communicate with one another. Now, each individual decision may have been exactly the right response to an immediate need. Together, though, they may have resulted in a technology stack that has both wasteful redundancies and some significant gaps, and that doesn’t exactly align with your current business priorities.
So, how do you make sure you have the combination of technology tools your business needs to succeed going forward? Start by revisiting your strategy.
Make it About Experience
“Before considering the tools or technology you will need, it is worthwhile creating a strategy around the client experience you want to achieve, providing a ‘North Star’ for business & technology teams to aim towards,” advises Brett Nielsen, a Director at Alpha FMC, a consulting firm that specializes in the investment and wealth management industry.
Many investment management firms still envision their business development process as a funnel. This means the target audience progresses linearly through stages — from awareness to consideration to product purchase. A more effective model may be a flywheel, with the client at the center. “With the increase in margin pressures and greater client expectations, we have seen a shift in the industry focus from being purely product-centric to becoming client-centric in order to attract and retain clients,” explained Nielsen. Rather than design processes or select technology tools to maximize sales, aim to optimize the experience your prospects and your clients have when they engage with your firm. “By understanding the needs and wants of clients through their lifecycle, investment managers are able to better distinguish themselves, providing a more effective way to sustainably grow their business,” said Nielsen.
Leverage Data and Technology Tools
Even before COVID-19, companies like Google and Amazon had set a new bar for the client experience. They leveraged data and technology tools to gain visibility into audience needs, preferences, and behaviors. Then, they created processes to deliver highly personalized interactions. Today, successful companies across industries aim for client service excellence by designing their internal operations to optimize engagement and create a holistic experience for audiences.
Achieving client service excellence starts with understanding your audiences’ decision-making journeys, or client lifecycles. To do so, you must own your data. Then, offer tailored content and conversations meeting their needs at each step. In a recent Investment Marketing Roundtable hosted by Synthesis and Evalueserve, marketers discussed how they are accomplishing this task. One firm is doubling the number of data analysts in 2021 to understand their data better. Then, they will build out an effective client engagement model for the future. Another large U.S.-based investment manager noted that they’re now able to help their salespeople tailor their outreach. They said, “We’re at a point where we can get a sense of what’s going on at a branch or an office, such as which asset classes and competitive products they’re using. We can narrow it down to which branch to call today and which products to talk to them about.”
Know Your Audience
Of course, you can’t create unique materials and processes for each client. However, you can segment your audience into personas with a common set of objectives. For investment marketers, the task of defining target audience personas is relatively straightforward. They generally correspond to the marketing channels you serve. These may include institutional investors, financial intermediaries, and individual retail and high net worth investors. But how you engage with each of those channels will be unique to your firm, depending on your corporate strategy, structure, and culture, as well as your investment philosophy and other variables.
Each client type can be represented by its own flywheel. As you map out your clients’ lifecycles, and how to serve them, you start to define each of the outside pieces of your wheels.
Using this model, you can be deliberate about enabling the interactions you want to have with clients. This should include which parts of your organization will be involved in each step. For example, your marketing team might own the very early stages of prospecting. Then, your sales team may join in or take over once leads have been qualified. You might have an onboarding team that helps new clients through that stage. Alternatively, your client services team might own all interactions once prospects convert. Also, your marketing and sales teams may stay continually involved or get involved again after conversion to foster client retention. Ultimately, investment management firms with a client-focused tech stack will enable each of these interactions.
At the same time, you can identify any gaps in your capabilities. For example, you will need some technology tools to create and manage marketing assets, track workflow, distribute content, and measure engagement. You may also want to enable salespeople to personalize certain materials — such as pitchbooks and factsheets — for individual clients.
Evaluate Tools for Efficiency
Often, companies assume they need to plug each capability gap with a separate technology tool. Yet, it’s not always a one-to-one relationship. “When firms focus on digital technologies that enable the client experience they want to achieve, they can identify a more efficient solution architecture, by either optimizing existing systems or only implementing tools that deliver on the capabilities they require,” said Nielsen. For example, some content management tools also allow salespeople to tailor standard content assets created by marketing while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. On the other hand, you might need an additional tool for client reporting to comply with new data security regulations.
Although today’s marketplace for technology tools is virtually unlimited, the same cannot be said of investment managers’ budgets. Investing in the wrong tool — regardless of how robust and impressive it is — constitutes a poor use of limited resources. By the same token, even the right tool can be configured in the wrong way. Then, it makes one process easier but creates a roadblock for another. That’s why it’s important to understand all your processes and how they inter-relate. You can make highly strategic technology investments with a detailed picture of how you communicate with clients and one another. These tools will add efficiencies in the right places so you can generate meaningful ROI from your whole investment management tech stack.