THE NEW ASSET MANAGEMENT ECOSYSTEM: how asset managers can grow loyalty, AUM
Asset managers are grappling with a complex environment beset by higher expectations, more competition and greater pressure on profit margins. That’s moving the industry into a targeted, personalized and intelligent future, requiring managers to more strategically engage with their customers to cultivate loyalty and grow assets. In this article, Jarlath Forde outlines the new asset management ecosystem, highlighting how asset managers can leverage the Salesforce platform in conjunction with automation tools to grow revenue and improve customer service across client segments, including retail, advisor and institutional.
Across the industry, asset managers are facing a confluence of challenges impacting not only the bottom line but the products they offer and customers they target. For one, customers’ digital expectations are quickly evolving. Engagement requires more than simply a webpage or traditional fact sheets. For another, asset managers are under pressure to become more transparent to both clients and regulators as the post-crisis effect continues to impact the market.
Further, competition for assets remains a significant hurdle as investors move more assets into low-cost investment products. In fact, investors pulled $294.6 billion from active funds over the one-year period through September, according to Morningstar. Meanwhile, passive funds saw net inflows of $453.7 billion over the same period.
There is no doubt delivering efficient, customized services is critical to remain competitive and engender loyalty that keeps investors from the exits when volatility strikes. That means platforms have to be intelligent in terms of understanding who the customer is, what their specific needs are and when they need to present a particular message, which can vary depending on the client (e.g., retail vs. institutional).
It also means, while firms are turning up the volume on customer engagement and client service, they need to do so with much more automation. Throwing people at the problem no longer scales. Using automation, firms are able to track and measure customer preferences to enable a differentiated, value-driven engagement model.
As companies across industries shift into the digital age, those who get it right stand to gain an advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace. In fact, 86 percent of asset managers believe it is at least “somewhat likely” that the leader in the industry will become a digital disruptor (e.g., Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix), according to new a survey conducted by Publicis.Sapient in conjunction with Fortune.
To adapt to and outpace rising competition, asset managers must establish processes and leverage automation tools that align their digital strategy with the needs of their customers. These include such tools as Salesforce applications (marketing cloud, sales cloud, service cloud and community cloud), Sapient’s Client Connect solution, Kurtosys, Seismic and Adobe, which span across the four pillars of the digital ecosystem, as shown in Figure 1.
For the asset management industry, how firms communicate with their clients through email and other channels, how they leverage marketing automation to build customer journeys and how they trigger and manage different content as customers move through the sales lifecycle all have a role to play across these pillars. Tightly integrating these capabilities by utilizing Salesforce as a digital platform enables a BD manager to more effectively generate loyalty by establishing an intelligent and personal relationship with a client that can be tracked and measured.
Additionally, those managing and supporting the client relationship can spend less time searching for marketing and sales collateral because it sits and is tracked within this ecosystem.
Aligning Strategy with Business Type
What’s important, particularly for asset managers, is developing strategies that align with how they operate their business—specifically, whether they are a scale business or a depth business.
A scale business tasks one person with engaging many customers and prospects through account servicing, prospecting and selling. This could include retail or advisor services, or in some instances, the institutional side of business. For scale businesses, automation and efficiency are critical to meet the individual needs of multiple clients.
A depth business, on the other hand, is more of a one-on-one relationship where one person has a long-standing relationship with a small base of clients (e.g., pension or sovereign wealth funds). The key to driving the efficiency needed to support this deep relationship is capturing client needs and leveraging technology to cater to those preferences.
The differences between scale and depth businesses are important as the application of the four pillar ecosystem is unique for each organization type.
Consider a scale business scenario in which the marketing and project management team are running a campaign in Q4 around the Fed’s potential interest rate hike and the implications for investors. The team discusses messaging and content, and then plans a series of events in Q4, all enabled through marketing automation tools.
The business development manager sees an event is scheduled via Sales Cloud—the Salesforce cloud-based application that centralizes customer information and interactions. The BD manager is able to view which customers are targeted for the in-person event, the webinar version and the post-event recording email. Clients in the top producer segment are always invited to in-person events. Low producing prospects are rarely or never invited to the live event.
After the event, the BD manager can see the collateral has been automatically shared via a secure link, and an auto generated presentation tailored specifically for each customer is created. The BD manager can track activity around how the presentation is viewed. The lead management platform then triggers and prioritizes follow-up conversations. As the weeks pass, the manager can track the activity and view how marketing activities are driving sales activity to help them meet their sales goals.
In this scale strategy scenario, the content drives the insight. It’s important to think about aligning the marketing automation platform with sales productivity and the CRM platform. What’s more, when targeting many clients, efficiency is critical. Using automation to minimize manual efforts and expedite steps in the process can help improve customer loyalty and grow the business.
For institutional clients, the scenario is more focused on leveraging the depth of insight about a client. During a regular quarterly meeting, the pension fund client indicates a new potential need. The BD manager captures this on his or her mobile device, which notifies the sales support team to prepare and automatically generate a presentation for the follow-up conversation.
The manager previews the presentation and then shares it with the client via secure email link through Salesforce marketing cloud. As the manager takes the client through the digital presentation, analytics are gathered in the background, capturing how much time is spent on each slide and the additional staff who are forwarded the presentation. This information can be fed back into a marketing platform to determine where the high value content lies as the presentation is viewed across meetings, as well as other key influencers within the client firm.
The sales support team can utilize this information to customize content to support the client’s specific area of need. As the conversation progresses, a meeting is scheduled with the investment board, and this in turn kicks off a contracting and onboarding preparation workflow so that the client service team is prepared in the event of a successful investment board decision.
By capturing client relationship information in Sales Cloud, client service and support teams can more efficiently automate the generation of highly tailored content and collateral, reflecting specific preferences and understanding, to support the client relationship, reinforce loyalty and grow assets.
Certainly, there are other conditions that can determine a successful outcome with a client. However, investing in the right tools that align with a digital strategy can take a step toward building those deeper client relationships.
Too often, client conversations focus on quarterly performance updates. To bring those conversations back to a strategy discussion and a focus on why the client invested in a product in the first place regardless of market performance, firms must demonstrate an understanding and commitment to a client’s preferences.
An approach leveraging Salesforce as a platform, rather than simply as a product, can push asset managers into this transformation.
Jarlath Forde is a Vice President at Sapient Global Markets. He is focused on fusing design principles with technology to optimize business processes and transform the client experience. He has spent the last 16+ years shaping interactive initiatives for companies around the world, designing high-performance complex user interfaces and creating compelling information designs and visualizations.