Your firm has choppy performance, you have lost some clients, and sales are stagnant. What do you do?
The three important areas to question in this situation are centered on Investments, Client Service, and Sales Structure/Strategy. You need to be tough, and you need to ask the right questions in each area. You need to evaluate the answers in context of all three areas. Otherwise, your firm will continue to flounder, and you will be unable to define a relevant strategy.
We had a client who was in the unenviable position of possibly losing a $1 billion client. The team asked themselves some tough questions to save the relationship. Those questions are below. The firm was successful and carried out the “save the client” initiative with conviction, authority and authenticity.
First, take a hard look at the strategy’s performance.
- Do you still have conviction in your philosophy, process and disciplines?
- Do you understand from where the underperformance is coming and why?
- Is your approach robust enough? Will you be able to continue to add value in the future?
- When was the last time you analyzed the key drivers of performance? What are you doing about addressing the unknown risks? Can you isolate and improve those specific elements that are causing the underperformance? Can you reinforce the areas that are performing well?
Then, expand your analysis to include all areas that affect the strategy – from the systems to the people.
- Your universe – is it sufficiently large? Are you getting enough of the right ideas? Are you getting to them fast enough?
- Your approach to research and to screening – are your criteria and/or screens hurting or helping? Are you getting the information you need in order to make timely, high- conviction decisions? Are your relationships with company managements, competitors and providers productive enough?
- Your team and how everyone works together – are communications frequent, invigorating and value-added? Is your idea exchange healthy? Are the recommendations solid? Is any area under-resourced?
- How effective are your approaches to volatility, risk management and the benchmarks?
- What is the value added from your trading desk?
- Do you have the right investment strategies? Too many? Too few?
Finally, ask your investment professionals what they think.
- What areas do the portfolio managers believe can be improved?
- What areas do the research analysts believe can be improved?
You need to dive deep into client relationships and confirm how you are perceived.
- Do you feel truly confident that you understand the reasons for the client losses?
- How much attention are you paying to clients?
- Should you conduct a survey? Should you retain an independent firm to evaluate the relationships?
- Are your clients eager to meet with you, and do they seek your perspectives on the markets or on world events?
- Do they initiate communications with you? Do they respond to any of your written commentaries?
- What do they feel about the quality of the people with whom they are interfacing? What do they feel about your firm? Are your clients confident in your firm?
- Are your client service professionals equally as confident in their relationships with clients and with internal team members?
- Are they positive on your firm and how it is being led? Do they have conviction in the firm’s investment offerings?
- How do they think client service could be improved?
Your sales strategy needs to be well-defined and measured.
- Do you understand your competitive position by strategy, by target market, by consultant? Is there a well-defined marketing plan that focuses resources appropriately?
- Are you diversified enough? In your offerings? In your types of clients? Geographic diversification?
- Are the optimal target markets for your strategies defined?
- Do you have the right strategic partners for distribution?
- Are you developing productive relationships with the consultants in your target markets? Are you gaining approvals?
- Are your key messages strong and engaging? Are your materials fresh and clear? If not, why not?
Connect with the consultant community to understand why your competitive position has tumbled. Interact with your prospects and peers. Ask questions. Ask for feedback.
All three areas – Investments, Client Service, and Sales Structure/Strategy – are part of one organic being. Are the three well-integrated, and do the different entities work well together? Are they on message? Is there a consistent, relevant brand that you convey, both internally and externally? Assess if there are areas where innovation and technology can help. Finally, at the end of the day, you have to ask the toughest questions of all. Do you have the right structure, the right people and the right leadership? Once you ask the questions and you have the answers, you can re-build, re-invigorate and re-start.
We would like to hear how you successfully re-invigorated your firm. Engage in conversation with us! 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).