Achieving Success with Strong Investment and Business Leadership

Having equally strong investment and business leadership is a necessity and a key competitive advantage for an asset management firm in today’s market. Many savvy asset managers have failed or faltered due to business mismanagement. Consequently, investors conducting due diligence on asset management firms typically scrutinize the leadership and management of the businesses, and of the investment processes intensely.

Distinct Leadership Responsibilities

There is a clear division of responsibilities and expertise required for running an asset management firm effectively and for spearheading investment success. Business management encompasses a diversity of areas – the infrastructure, financials and budgets, business and marketing plan, compliance/legal, technology, cybersecurity, human resources, etc. The Chief Investment Officer leads the research and investment professionals, oversees the investment process, portfolio construction and risk management, and in most cases, interacts with clients and consultants. The market is skeptical that one person can manage, much less lead all of these areas well.

Emerging and smaller asset management firms are generally constrained by limited capital and revenues. The firm’s founder and Chief Investment Officer is often tasked with running the firm’s business as well as delivering investment performance. This can be a challenge at best and an impediment at worst. Firms that invest in a President, COO or other senior professional with the appropriate expertise and skill sets to lead the business management, generally go further faster and are more likely to succeed. For institutional investors, spending their fee dollars wisely, and minimizing headline and career risks are top priorities.

Building with a Plan

Having a well-defined strategic business plan is a must for asset management firms of all sizes. A respectable plan includes near-term, intermediate and longer-term goals for both business and investments, and of course, the visions must be aligned. Key elements include:

  • AUM and revenue goals, and timeline
  • Resources (internal and outsourced) – current and planned expansion
  • Systems and technology – current and future
  • Budget (operational, travel, entertainment, prospecting and presentations, conferences, PR, outsourced services)
  • Sales and marketing strategy (databases, target markets, distribution channels) –implementation plan
  • Client, consultant and prospect communications (materials, website, social media)
  • Performance objectives and benchmarks, incorporating client needs the firm’s investment strategies can address
  • Capacity targets by strategy
  • Product development
  • Professional development
  • Intellectual capital
  • Succession plan

Business and Investment leaders of successful asset management firms continually and collaboratively review their business plans, assess progress in reaching milestones, and modify as appropriate.

How to Shine in Due Diligence

An asset manager’s ability to answer tough questions regarding the management of their business and investments with authenticity, brevity and clarity is essential. Tough business-related questions raised in due diligence reviews vary depending on the maturity of an asset management firm.

For Emerging Managers:

  • What is your break-even point in terms of AUM/revenues?
  • How is your firm capitalized?
  • How long is your runway should assets be slower in coming than expected?
  • How are you going to attract and retain talent?
  • What roles will you be adding next and at what point?

For more established firms:

  • Is your firm profitable?
  • Do you carry any debt?
  • How much operational cash do you keep on hand?
  • Have you had turnover of key business management or investment professionals?
  • What is your current ownership structure?
  • How do professionals earn equity in your firm?
  • What is your succession plan?
  • What is your asset capacity?
  • What is your cybersecurity policy?
  • Has your firm experienced any regulatory issues or lawsuits?

Answering these questions directly, concisely and without becoming defensive helps build the confidence of potential investors in your firm’s leadership, long-term viability and success. Showing evidence of strong leadership and management is paramount.

Attributes of Well-Led Firms

Attributes that reflect strong business and investment leadership of an asset management firm include:

Investment Leadership Attributes

  • High-conviction leadership with history of attracting, motivating and retaining investment talent
  • Well-resourced, collaborative and stable investment team
  • State-of-the-art investment systems and tools
  • Value-added trading
  • Understandable investment process
  • High transparency of investment process and portfolios (show versus just tell)
  • Consistent, proactive communication with clients and consultants (during good markets and bad)

Business Leadership Attributes

  • Financial stability
  • High continuity of operational, client service and sales professionals
  • Measured growth of AUM
  • Solid infrastructure to support AUM growth and investment offering expansion
  • Effective succession planning and professional development
  • History of no regulatory or legal issues

Pair strong investment leadership with strong leadership of the business management, and you have a winning combination.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” ~ Warren G. Bennis

Do you have any tips or suggestions for helping asset management firms achieve success through strong investment and business leadership? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.

Lessons Learned

With over three decades helping asset management firms grow in the institutional investor market, we have learned some invaluable lessons on how to maximize an investment firm’s ability to endure.

1. Be client-centric.

While putting clients’ interests first seems like a given, there are firms recognized more as asset gatherers than as asset managers. Or firms that are more focused on quarterly revenues, expenses and profits than on client outcomes. If you are truly client-centric, you will build a culture that always puts client interests first. You will employ experienced professionals who care about their clients across all areas. You will control the growth trajectory of the firm overall and for each strategy to ensure your clients benefit. Your professionals will listen to, engage with and serve every client of the firm. You will stay deeply entrenched in understanding client needs as they evolve. You will have competitive and transparent fees.

2. Vary your client base.

If all your clients are in one region or in one type of investor category, your risk of loss is higher should the client base become unhappy with your firm. Investors share information with each other. If one public fund client fires you, it will become known fairly quickly. If two or three fire you, you may face a mass exodus.

3. Diversify your investment offerings appropriately.

If you have too few strategies, or are a niche manager you risk your approach becoming out of favor, or performing poorly relative to benchmarks or competitors, and having no growth. Conversely, if you have too many offerings, investors may question what you are good at, or misunderstand what you are offering. Be strategic in developing your plan for growth.

4. Have sufficient capital for a three- to five-year runway.

If you are a new firm, assume it will take longer than you expect to achieve profitability. The barriers to entry have risen. Increased compliance, more stringent regulations, essential technologies, cybersecurity and relentless competition, along with fee pressures and high compensation demands, have made it much tougher for a new firm to launch, much less ascend. As a result, due diligence on an investment company’s ownership, compensation, financial strength and other business issues has deepened.

5. Define incentives that align interests with those of clients.

Ownership structure and compensation programs can make or break a firm long term. Incentives must be in place to attract and reward talent who in turn appreciate and care about achieving client goals.

6. Define a strategic marketing and sales plan, and implement with experts.

Still common in our industry are firms where marketing and sales professionals are treated like second-class citizens. A strong brand and effective messaging are keys to success. Developing a well-crafted plan to direct and focus your marketing and sales resources will give you an important competitive advantage. Skilled sales, consultant and client service professionals who understand the markets and client needs, and who know how to listen, marshal resources and solve problems are essential.

7. Know and articulate your strengths and distinctions.

The market is smart, skeptical and rich with choices. Yes, investors need to know what you do, but more importantly, how are you different and stronger than your competition? Does your value promise extend beyond just performance? In what ways? How can investors benefit more from working with you than others? Why can they trust you, and have confidence in the future of your relationship with them?

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

Any lessons learned that you wish to convey? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Jackie Charnley, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Jackie serves on the ICMA-RC Board, a not-for-profit company serving the financial needs of over one million public employees. She was also a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources).

Competing in a “Solution”-Oriented Environment

Institutional investors are increasingly seeking investment solutions to address their investment needs for return, income, risk reduction, asset-liability matching, etc. The shift away from traditional asset allocation means investment managers can no longer expect to sell products classified by traditional labels such as growth, value or core.

Large, multi-asset-class managers are well-positioned to provide customized solutions to fulfill specific clients. While opportunities for single traditional investment strategies still exist, they are limited. How can long-only and specialist managers compete and survive in a solution-oriented environment?

The answer lies in the messaging. It is essential to link the results of your strategies to client needs. How do you do that? Here are three tips to help you position your strategies effectively in a solution-oriented market.

Know WHAT Your Strategy is Designed to Deliver

Is it alpha, low volatility, income, low correlations, absolute returns, or other outcomes? “Show” versus tell investors the results by developing data that demonstrates your strategy’s historic returns in context of these objectives. If your goal is consistent alpha, show rolling three-, five- and ten-year excess returns. If your strategy offers low volatility, show upside/downside capture of your strategy inception-to-date. If diversification is the deliverable, show correlations of returns relative to peers or other relevant benchmarks.

Be Clear on HOW You Deliver Results

Investors must have confidence in your ability to deliver the promised results. What aspects of your approach or process contribute to the repeatability and consistency of your results? If it is your ability to assess long-term secular trends, and identify industries and companies that will be beneficiaries, give examples. If your competitive edge is stock selection, show performance attribution. If your advantage is capitalizing on market dislocations and volatility to invest opportunistically, cite examples.

Manage Expectations about the WHEN

What is the appropriate investment time horizon over which your strategy can be expected to deliver results? You want to attract clients who are a good long-term fit. That means their horizons and your own must be aligned. If your strategy’s investment horizon is 3 to 5 years or 7 to 10 years, it is important to communicate that to your clients and make sure they understand. If short-term periods of underperformance can be expected, show the past experience or circumstances likely to cause shortfalls.

Institutional clients do not like to be sold, they prefer to buy. That means you must do your homework to understand as much as possible about a prospective client before you begin a dialogue. If a corporate or public fund plan, do they have a significant funding gap? If an endowment or foundation, what are their income requirements? Are they in the news; e.g., moving all their assets to passive? When you do connect, you need to probe with relevant questions to confirm priorities, and understand asset allocation and manager selection policies. Are they planning any changes to their asset allocation policy? Are they receptive to active management? Are they fee-sensitive? You can then determine whether your investment strategies and firm will be a good fit. If so, you are equipped to have meaningful dialogues about how your firm can partner with the client to provide investment solutions for one or more of their investment needs.

Do you have any suggestions for how to strengthen your firm’s competitive position in a solution-oriented environment? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following Charnley & Røstvold!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.

Seven Lessons Learned from the Board Room

A not-for-profit dedicated to the financial well-being of well over a million public employees, ICMA-RC is a mission-driven organization. The ICMA-RC Board is one of which I am particularly proud to serve. I have served on the ICMA-RC Board for seven years, chairing the Investment Committee for the last four years and serving on the Nominating Committee as well.

What have I learned?

  1. Succession matters. One of the most important decisions you will need to make at some point is to replace the CEO or President. Be prepared. Discuss succession among the board members. Spend time with the internal candidates, and ask them questions. Ask them what they feel they would need to assume a leadership role. Know what executive recruiter you will use if necessary. Assess the current CEO or President. What other qualities would be useful for the enterprise to succeed? Discuss diversity. Take your time. Don’t make a decision just to make a decision.
  2. Avoid complacency. The competitive landscape is always changing. Study and be thinking about what industry, client and competitor changes may mean to you and the organization you serve. One thing you can depend on – competitors will never stand still. You need to know the company’s value proposition and whether it has the power to stand the test of time. Invite external experts to speak to you and your board members. Engage the leadership team in discussions of what is going well and what keeps them up at night.
  3. Understand the present, but spend most of your time on the future. What will the next year, three years, five years, or even twenty years look like? Understand what the company does. How do the employees feel? What will be the big issues going forward? How will the company attract talent? Who will be your future competitors? What changes are the clients/buyers undergoing that need to be addressed? Challenge the CEO/President/leadership team on what they envision for the future.
  4. Take cybersecurity seriously. Take all risks seriously, but take cybersecurity especially seriously. Your due diligence can make the difference in the company’s reputation. Ask the dumb questions (although there is no such thing as a dumb question). Again, call on experts to help you become more knowledgeable and understand the most likely risks.
  5. Commit to continuing education. Preferably attend educational events with other board members so that you can talk about what you have learned in context of your board and organization. You will discover that you can always learn something new. And you will realize that there are many different solutions to almost any issue. It is amazing what different board members have experienced. Dialogue and ongoing learning are key to capitalizing on others’ experiences.
  6. Think outside of the box. If you are a health company, look at a toy company. If you are an asset management firm, assess a film company. If you are a public entity, look to the private sector. What are they doing that might be useful for your enterprise? Do you have a chief of innovation? When was the last time that management came to the board with an innovative idea, or vice versa? How successfully was that idea implemented?
  7. Align compensation with desired behaviors. The lessons learned from Wells Fargo were sobering. The bank’s revenue goals were unrealistic and ultimately motivated professionals to have sales take precedence over fulfilling client needs. Never take client retention for granted. Be strategic and reward your professionals for keeping clients as much as for attracting them.

The beauty of serving on a board is how much you learn from others who are in management or who also serve on a board. It is joyful work.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

~ Albert Schweitzer

Have you ever served on a board? Any lessons you wish to convey? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Jackie Charnley, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Jackie serves on the ICMA-RC Board, a not-for-profit company serving the financial needs of over one million public employees. She was also a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources).

Winning Back Lost Clients

Losing a client is always painful and costly. Your first priority when losing a client is to start a campaign to win them back. How do you do that? Here are five suggestions.

1. Probe to Understand the Reasons

There are a myriad of reasons managers are terminated, including:

  • Underperformance – failure to achieve client’s objectives, lagging benchmarks and/or peers
  • Organizational changes or professional turnover
  • Fees – relatively high and/or unwilling to negotiate
  • Poor client service – infrequent or ineffective communication, insensitivity to client needs/interests (e.g., diversity, ESG)
  • Asset reallocation – from active to passive; from traditional to alternatives; from external to internal management
  • Consolidation – streamlining the number of managers serving the investor

Whatever the reason, it is important to initiate dialogues with your clients to understand their position. Avoid becoming defensive, and welcome any feedback and criticism. It may help you save other client relationships. To quote Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers [clients] are your greatest source of learning.”

It is optimal for individuals who have the strongest relationships with the client to have the conversations. It also can be beneficial to have an outside independent party talk with the client (and/or their consultant) as well. Elicit as much information as possible with probing questions such as the following:

Sample Probing Questions

If performance-related:

  • What was the primary concern about performance?
  • What time period was most relevant in your decision (e.g., quarterly, annually, trailing or rolling 3 year periods, trailing or rolling 5 year periods)?
  • What, if any, benchmark or peer group comparison was the basis of your decision?
  • What metrics do you monitor most closely in deciding whether to retain a manager: Alpha? Tracking error? Factor exposures? Information ratio? Turnover rate? Sharpe ratio? Risk-adjusted returns? Other?
  • Did our firm adhere to the investment mandate that we initially proposed and which was the basis for your decision to hire us?
  • Was the decision to terminate our firm strongly influenced by a consultant recommendation? If so, what were the reasons?

If organizational concerns:

  • Was the termination related to any specific event or issue (e.g., personnel turnover, succession plan for senior management transition)?
  • Was the decision to terminate our firm strongly influenced by a consultant recommendation? If so, what were the reasons?

If asset allocation policy:

  • When was your most recent asset allocation study conducted and what were the changes? What changes have occurred in your overall investment plan (e.g., actuarial goals, funding level)?
  • What changes have been made in your active/passive allocations? Style allocations?
  • Where will you be reallocating the assets our firm has been managing?

General perceptions:

  • How would you rate our level of client service?
  • How long has our firm been on your “watch list”?
  • Has our firm communicated with you effectively in relation to your stated concerns during this period? Have we asked the right questions to understand the nature and seriousness of your concerns during this period?
  • How could communications or service have been handled better?
  • Was there a “triggering event,” or was the decision based on an accumulation of concerns? Please describe the event or concerns.
  • What is your overall view of our firm as an organization today?
  • Would you consider reestablishing a relationship with us in the future? If so, what would we have to do to succeed with you?
  • Is there anything we could have done, other than performance, to have changed or delayed your decision?

2. Determine If There Is Anything that Could Change the Outcome

You have everything to gain. Explore whether there is a possibility of securing more time to address the issue(s). If performance-related, can you offer a reduced fee for a specified period of time? Does your firm offer other strategies/solutions that will address your client’s needs? Studies show that if you can resolve a problem with a client, you can potentially build a stronger relationship. Keeping even a portion of the assets in another strategy offered by your firm allows you to preserve the relationship.

3. If the Termination Is Irrevocable, Be Gracious

No one likes sour grapes. Empathize with your client. Convey understanding and appreciation of the decision. Offer to help in every way possible to ensure a smooth transition of the assets. Ask if you can provide referrals/suggestions. Let the client know how much you value the relationship. Genuinely thank the client for the opportunity to invest on behalf of their entity and participants. Let them know you would welcome the chance to work together again in the future.

4. Keep the Relationship Alive

Stay in touch with periodic visits, calls and written communications. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Management committee members and objectives change. Send meaningful, relevant information – anything that will help your contact(s) do their jobs better. Reinforce the value of maintaining a relationship with you and your firm. Be professional, persistent and patient. Avoid “selling.” Be a valued resource. Even if you fail to keep or win back lost clients, you increase your chances of keeping them as allies, and potentially as referral sources.

5. Attract Clients Who Are a Good Fit

The real secret to maximizing client retention is to attract clients who are a good long-term fit. That means:

  • Providing solutions that fulfill specific and changing client needs
  • Making sure clients clearly understand what you are providing and have realistic expectations
  • Confirming that the client’s investment time horizon is compatible with your own
  • Avoiding negative surprises
  • Putting clients’ interests first
  • Exceeding expectations in every way possible

“Know what your customers [clients] want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”

~ Kevin Stirtz

Do you have any tips or suggestions for Winning Back Lost Clients? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.

Institutional Investment Sales Professionals – Still Facing a Whole New World

“Knowledge must continually be renewed by ceaseless effort, if it is not to be lost. It resembles a statue of marble which stands in the desert and is continually threatened with burial by the shifting sand. The hands of service must ever be at work, in order that the marble continue to lastingly shine in the sun. To these serving hands, mine shall also belong.”

~ Albert Einstein, 1950

Precipitated in large part by the Financial Crisis of 2008, the role and expertise required of the institutional sales professional have had to evolve – from benchmark-centered product sales to a consultative approach that focuses on client needs and outcomes. After the financial crisis, the smoke of scorched markets cleared to reveal a new, more complex world for fiduciaries and the managers who serve them. For many, the collective haunt of negative or single-digit returns, illiquidity when liquidity was needed most, and higher correlations across asset classes gave rise to a specter of shortfalls in meeting objectives and greater challenges in closing funding gaps.

The needs of the institutional investor vary – encompassing absolute returns, alpha, relevant diversification, liquidity, volatility reduction, income, reduced funding gaps, asset-liability matching or inflation protection. To address specific needs, institutional investors need to work with managers who are experts on capital markets worldwide, understand correlations and risk exposures, and who can offer or create solutions.

“Buckets and Boxes – Let’s Fill Them!”

Prior to the financial crisis, institutional sales professionals predominantly represented products – such as Large Cap Value, Small Cap Equity, International Equity, Fixed Income selections – to institutional investors who had mapped out fairly rigid asset allocation buckets and style boxes to be filled with defined investment products. For the most part, consultants and institutional investors knew exactly what buckets and boxes they were looking to fill, and would meet with those institutional sales professionals who had the products to fill the buckets.

Benchmarks were well defined. Relative performance to benchmarks and peers drove business. Agendas were straightforward. Managers simply let the prospect know which bucket or box they inhabited, how they fared compared to other managers in those buckets or boxes, and how they would be able to repeat their investment successes. Sales and communication processes were nearly formulaic. The Four Ps dominated: Philosophy, People, Process and Performance. If the “product” managers didn’t prove to be “good” (outperforming benchmarks and peers), they were fired and replaced by “better” product managers in those buckets and boxes.

Many managers’ products, however, did not fit in the buckets or boxes. Some, in order to grow assets, either forced their products to fit or launched products that did. Others left the confines of the traditional institutional investment world and moved into the more receptive realms of Endowments, Foundations or High Net Worth. A few pioneers revolutionized communications with the institutional investor market – identifying what they perceived to be the real needs of institutional investors, and communicating why investment offerings outside traditional buckets and boxes may be better solutions. This generally proved to be a hard sell.

“Needs and Solutions – Let’s Meet Them!”

Once the smoke of the financial crisis cleared, revealing harsh new realities, institutional investors started demanding more. Standard 60:40 asset allocations and benchmark-investing were no longer right for all investors. Almost overnight, investors and fiduciaries began shedding traditional asset allocations and style-box methods to explore what was really needed to achieve successful long-term investment outcomes.

Simultaneously, globalization led to expanding investment markets, innovation created new instruments and new markets, and the inspired vision of those with proven investment prowess brought inventive solutions to the forefront. The traditional model of selling an investment firm’s history, AUM size, products and the Four Ps became less effective. The challenge became how to position investment offerings in context of dynamic, newly appreciated needs and goals of institutional investors. Thus, the evolution of institutional sales professionals from “product sales” to “consultative sales.”

“The Hands of Service”

What does “consultative sales” mean? Many professionals were already successful at the consultative sales approach. The attributes of the evolved institutional sales professional include the following:

  • Expert investment knowledge. An MBA, CFA and/or minimum ten years in-depth investment industry experience are mandatory, as evidenced by the demand for former consultants and/or product specialists to serve as client service or sales professionals. Expertise must expand beyond a single style or asset class, and sales professionals now must demonstrate a strong grasp both of the risks institutional investors face, and of the diverse competing solutions that are effective in meeting long-term institutional investor needs. The sales professional needs to be conversant on correlations, liquidity, risk budgets, leverage, hedging, different financial instruments and leading-edge solutions. Remember, time is limited, information overwhelming and insights valued.
  • Strong probing and listening skills. A client service or sales professional must be able to ask the right open-ended questions to elicit objectives, preferences, objections, concerns, biases and opportunities. Unless specifically invited to do so, walking in and delivering a product presentation at the first meeting will limit a firm’s capability to one category in a prospect’s mind. The ability to ask the right questions at the right time, and respond appropriately, demonstrates to the client, prospect or consultant the value of working together. Strong listening skills earn respect and are also helpful in qualifying clients and prospects.
  • Empathy. A sales professional must know what actions would be most worthwhile for the buyer and when they should be offered. Attempting to sell a product prematurely or asking for the wrong actions frequently and regrettably result in no more meetings.
  • Insightful, personalized follow-through. There should always be follow-through actions. It is not enough to send a rote thank-you letter with performance information attached. It is not enough to send a social thank-you note mentioning kids, hobbies or vacation spots. What challenges or concerns are absorbing the time of the prospect or client? What would help that individual to tackle his or her challenges? A consultative approach means you are there to help. How can you help?
  • Representation of the client/prospect/consultant within the firm. In today’s highly competitive market, everyone needs to elevate their skills in communicating with clients, prospects and consultants. Consultative institutional sales professionals effectively convey and disseminate within their firms the priorities and concerns they learn from clients, consultants and prospects. Investment professionals who are well versed in the prospect’s needs and biases can advance prior conversations by bringing highly focused, relevant content to that client or prospect when they meet.

As Einstein challenged in 1950, “Knowledge must continually be renewed by ceaseless effort…” Change in our industry is continuing rapidly. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the institutional investment world, but not a time to stand still. It is a time to learn, to develop, to evolve. It is a time to keep our hands of service hard at work.

Tell us how you and your firm have evolved. Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Jackie Charnley, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Jackie serves on the ICMA-RC Board, a not-for-profit company serving the financial needs of over one million public employees. She was also a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources).

Seven Tips for Organizing Successful Client Events

Client conferences and breakfast/lunch seminars are excellent forums for asset managers to deepen client relationships, showcase their firms’ intellectual capital and raise the visibility of a greater number of team members. Organizing and hosting these events, however, can be time-intensive and expensive. You want to make sure the events are well-attended, clients find the time valuable and the results warrant the investment.

Here are Seven Tips to help ensure successful events.

1. Know Your Objectives

What do you want to accomplish by hosting a client event? Perhaps it is retaining clients during a period of underperformance. Showcasing your firm’s intellectual capital. Introducing new team members and/or new investment offerings. Learning more about your clients’ interests, needs or concerns. Defining your objectives in advance will help you organize an event that attracts clients and accomplishes your specific goals at the same time.

2. Assign a Strong Project Manager

Every detail matters. Having a proficient project manager who manages the event planning and implementation, timeline and follow-up is essential. A well-run event is a reflection of a well-run asset management firm.

3. Create an Engaging Agenda with Timely, Relevant Topics

Provide your clients a list of topics you are considering, and invite them to submit additional topics they would like you to address. You will then be able to prioritize topics of greatest interest to clients. Include a combination of internal and external speakers whenever possible. Invite external speakers who will be a strong draw. Avoid salesy commercials for your firm or traditional strategy presentations.

Schedule the right amount of time and frequency – generally 1½ days for a client conference, and 2 to 2½ hours for a breakfast or lunch seminar. Every other year is generally ideal for conferences. Regional seminars in cities where you have concentrations of clients can be scheduled annually. Institutional clients and consultants receive a lot of invitations and are selective about those they attend. It is always best to avoid times when other big industry conferences are being held.

4. Communicate and Inform

Use a multi-dimensional approach. Inform clients in advance with “save-the-dates” and formal invitations. During meetings and calls with clients in the months preceding the event, have client service and sales professionals encourage clients to attend. Internally, communicate the event, objectives, internal roles and responsibilities, and clients attending to event participants and to all employees. Communicate details firm-wide about any clients who may also be visiting your offices. Prepare all employees to be welcoming, professional, gracious and helpful.

5. Prepare

Prepare “welcome” bags with appropriate gifts (e.g., books authored and signed by event speakers, sunscreen if event is held in a sunny location, snacks, etc.). Elicit ahead of the event any special needs of clients who will be attending (e.g., handicap access, dietary preferences, transportation, reporting requirements for value of meals, etc.). Be sure these needs are addressed.

Have presenters practice both presentation content and delivery. Test all technology and equipment. Ideally, have all the presenters rehearse in the event venue using the technology (e.g., slide advancer, laser pointer, teleprompter, etc.). The more natural and conversational the presenters are, the better. Moving around on the stage rather than standing behind a lectern is optimal for engaging with your audience.

6. Maximize Opportunities to Interact with Clients

Create an event that is as interactive as possible. Encourage audience questions and engagement. Use audience members’ names and your colleagues’ names, and smile! Ask relevant questions using electronic, real-time polling tools to show results (for larger forums). If the event is held off-site, invite clients to visit your office before or after the event. Assign a “concierge host” for each client. Time permitting, give an office tour and introduce as many of your team members as possible. Offer meetings with portfolio managers and other members of your team. Learn if any clients would enjoy social interactions.

7. Debrief and Follow-Up

Schedule a date for the internal team to discuss what worked well and what would have made the event, presentations, venue, and logistics better. Did you achieve your objectives? Invite client feedback on the event. Ask what they found most valuable. What would have made the event better? What topics would they like addressed at future events? Thank them for their time and participation, and send a summary of key take-aways from the event. Also provide any specific follow-up requested by clients during the conference or office visit/tour.

“Every contact we have with a client influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” ~ Kevin Stirtz

Do you have any tips or suggestions for organizing successful client events? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!


Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.

Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.