Value Creation for Smaller Asset Management Firms

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.

Investments

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?

Client Service

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?

Distribution

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.

Conclusion

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).

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Resources to Hone Your Communication Skills: 2016 Edition

Charnley & Røstvold has had the pleasure of working with hundreds of investment industry professionals over the past three decades helping them prepare their content and delivery for a variety of scenarios, including:

  • Introductory prospect meetings
  • Final presentations
  • Due diligence meetings with consultants
  • Client retention meetings
  • Client cross-sell meetings
  • Team presentations
  • Individual speeches or board presentations
  • Client conferences

When coaching investment and distribution professionals alike, those who have advanced the furthest and become stellar communicators share several attributes: ongoing commitment to improvement, receptiveness to constructive coaching, willingness to rehearse, and initiative. The results – a bounty of new clients, accounts and assets won; multi-millions of dollars of accounts and assets retained; increased number of favorable consultant rankings; and higher win ratios. Preparation makes a difference. So does attitude.

People often ask us to suggest books and resources with valuable insights for enhancing content and communication skills. Below are some of our favorites.

Books

  • TED Talks: The Official Ted Guide to Public Speaking, by Chris Anderson
  • Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, by James C. Humes
  • Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds
  • Think on Your Feet, by Keith Spicer, Ph.D.
  • It’s All in Your Delivery, by Terri Sjodin
  • Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority, by Caroline Goyder
  • Power Questions, by Andrew Sobel

Videos

  • Ted Talks (www.ted.com/talks) are a valuable example of brief presentations by strong presenters (in particular, Amy Tan and Susan Cain)
  • Steve Jobs, a master!

Articles and Speeches

  • “Your Speaking Voice,” by Toastmasters
  • “Creating a Voice with an Executive Presence,” by Kate Peters
  • “How to Give a Presentation that Wows,” by Bill Blasé
  • “Proper Breathing in Public Speaking,” by Katherine Axtell
  • “Dialog vs. Divalog: Listening for Greater Impact as a Speaker,” by Kate Peters (www.katepeters.com)
  • “Overcoming Speaking Anxiety in Meetings & Presentations,” by Lenny Laskowski
  • “The Eloquent Woman,” by Denise Graveline
  • “Stop the Run-On Sentence in Public Speaking,” by Nancy Daniels
  • “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” by Amy Cuddy

Blogs and Other On-Line Sources

Regular Practice Forums

  • www.toastmasters.org Toastmasters provides one-hour practice sessions once a week that strengthen your body language, voice modulation and overall presentation delivery skills significantly. The practice sessions also help you pay closer attention to your language choice and raise your comfort level in communicating with people.

Vocabulary Builders

Do you have favorite resources for insights on enhancing your communication skills to suggest? 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.

Three Keys to Excellence

People often feel as though they could never be inspiring speakers. They sometimes conclude that they are introverted; therefore, communications will be naturally challenging for them. Public speaking and communicating, however, are both skills that are learned.

Most of us have impressions of Winston Churchill as a powerful and gifted orator, however, it was not always so. Winston did poorly in school, was chubby and spoke with a lisp when he was young. He also stuttered. His own father, a brilliant scholar and political leader, considered Winston a disappointment. But when Winston was 12 years old, he attended a private boarding school, and there he became enamored with literature. The more he read, the more his world expanded, and he started to thrive. As he grew older, he began to develop his public speaking skills, and overcame his lisp and stuttering. The rest is history.

Some of the individuals we have coached to improve their communications have surpassed their own expectations, and, as Winston did with his father, exceeded our expectations as well. What is the secret to their success?

1. Mindfulness

Many people are unaware of how they communicate. You may have friends who talk non-stop with run-on sentences, use filler words such as “like” or “you know,” or ask a question and then never wait to hear the answer. While Winston’s lisp or stuttering may have been more noticeable than these bad habits, all communication habits bear assessing. If you are uncertain as to how effectively you communicate, ask family members or your peers at work. Record yourself speaking, then listen for pace, modulation, verbal tics, filler words, and overly casual language.

2. Commitment

Becoming aware of your strengths and of areas to improve is just the start. After you’ve become mindful, develop a plan for what and how to improve. You need to commit both thought and time. Few people are able to change their communication style overnight. We recommend establishing three priorities. By setting three priorities and working on each of them, you will focus on your biggest issues in a manageable way.

For example, if you speak with a lisp, mumble or have an accent, you can commit to enunciation exercises, a sample of which is below. Stand in front of a mirror, and exaggerate your words while you perform these exercises.

  • Open and close your mouth easily as you repeat these sounds: Fah Fah Fah Fah Blah Blah
  • To loosen your jaw, repeat these sounds: Sah Kah She Fah Rah, Pah Kah She Fah Rah, Wah Kah She Fah Rah, Baj Kah She Fah Rah, Dah Kah She Fah Rah
  • To loosen your lips, repeat these letters: www www www bbb bbb bbb wbw wbw wbw
  • For a combination of jaw and lip loosening, repeat these letters: lll ldl www ldl wlwd
  • Phrases for precise articulation: “The tip of the tongue, the teeth and the lips”, “Lah lee loo lee. Zip e do da”, “Repetition, repetition, repetition”, “We’ll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not”

Here’s a famous tongue twister from the opera, The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. (Imagine having to sing this on stage in front of an audience!)

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block! To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block! A dull, dark dock, a life-long lock, A short, sharp shock, a big black block! To sit in solemn silence in a pestilential prison, And awaiting the sensation, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

(Source: Mount Holyoke College)

3. Practice

Regular practice or actual rehearsals – which encompass both content and delivery – enhance communication skills. Even naturally gifted speakers fall into some bad habits or become lazy. By practicing and rehearsing regularly, you will gain greater command of your content. You will articulate, modulate and pause using your voice, just as if you were singing or dancing. Your posture, eye contact, voice, and delivery will all be improved. With increased confidence, you will be able to engage more fully with your audience.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” ~ Winston Churchill

Do you have an insight on enhancing your communication style to offer? 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).

Maximizing Institutional Investment Product Specialist Success

The Product Specialist role has gained a prominent, valuable place in the institutional investment management arena. These professionals enhance an asset manager’s client, consultant and new business initiatives. They leverage the time of investment professionals by spearheading or contributing to a spectrum of responsibilities, including:

  • Serving as a proxy for investment professionals in client review meetings, consultant meetings and prospect presentations
  • Acting as a liaison between investments and distribution
  • Leading new product development
  • Writing investment commentaries
  • Developing thought leadership pieces, webinars, blogs, etc.
  • Conducting internal educational and training sessions
  • Attending and speaking at industry conferences and forums
  • Overseeing RFPs and database updates
  • Providing quality control in reviewing client reports, prospect presentations, and other materials and media (e.g., website and/or database content)

The role comes with a variety of titles – Product Specialist, Client Portfolio Manager (CPM), Asset Class Specialist, Portfolio Specialist, Investment Specialist, etc. Just as the titles and responsibilities vary from firm to firm, so does the effectiveness of different Product Specialists and CPMs. It can be challenging to overcome the preference of clients, consultants and prospects to meet with a portfolio manager.

Five Keys to Success

Following are important variables and attributes that enhance the credibility and success of Product Specialist professionals.

  1. Relevant Credentials and Qualifications
    More than ten years of institutional investment industry experience is generally required. Many of the top Product Specialists and CPMs have 20+ years of experience. An MBA and CFA are preferred. Depending on the asset management firm’s client base and target markets, other credentials and certifications (e.g., CPA, JC, CIMA, Series 7, 63/65 or 66, etc.) can be beneficial as well. Individuals who have a portfolio management, consultant or plan sponsor background are ideal. They usually take the role further faster than sales or client service professionals who transition into the role. Professionals in this role must be willing to travel and have a deep understanding of the competitive landscape. Not only should they personify the portfolio manager, but the investment firm as well.
  2. Outstanding Communication Skills
    Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential. As subject-matter experts, Product Specialists must be able to articulate the investment process and portfolio strategy, and to discuss specific portfolio holdings and performance attribution as well as, if not better than, the portfolio managers. Product Specialists must be able to engage clients, consultants and prospects in strategic discussions. They must excel at eliciting and addressing needs, interests and concerns. Proficient writing skills are mandatory to contribute to messaging, marketing materials, presentations, investment commentaries, thought pieces and other written communications.
  3. Reporting Lines Directly to Investments
    The most effective Product Specialists sit with, report to and are respected by investments. They are fully engaged with the investment team, short of making investment decisions. They attend investment meetings, review trades and know the portfolios. Having Product Specialists report to distribution, as some firms do, can be an impediment. In a distribution-led structure, Product Specialists are perceived as being in more of a sales role. Clients, consultants and prospects are less receptive to having them as a substitute for the portfolio manager. Whether a Product Specialist reports to the CIO or investment strategy portfolio manager depends on the size of the asset management firm and the specified role of the individual. If the Product Specialist is a generalist by asset class, reporting to the CIO is more common. If the Product Specialist is focused on a specific strategy, they typically report to the lead portfolio manager on the strategy.
  4. Effective Teamwork
    To succeed, Product Specialists must have good working relationships and strong collaboration with virtually all functional areas in their firm – investments, marketing, client service, sales, administration, operations, compliance and business management. Effective teamwork is vital in marshalling an investment firm’s resources to provide optimum solutions and value to clients, consultants and prospects. Strong internal communication, enhanced by consistent use of a CRM system to document calls, meetings and activities, and to keep everyone informed, is a given.
  5. Proper Incentives
    Compensation structure and incentives aligned with the mission of the firm and the desired objectives for the Product Specialist role (e.g., client retention, enhanced consultant relationships and number of strategy approvals, closing sales, product development) are crucial. Incentives to foster teamwork between Product Specialists and professionals in other roles (e.g., sales, client service, consultant relations) must be in place as well.

Benefits of the Product Specialist Role

It is unrealistic to expect Product Specialists to replace portfolio manager interactions with clients, consultants and prospects completely. Product Specialists can, however, allow portfolio managers to travel less and to focus primarily on investment management. In addition to the potential for enhanced performance, benefits of the Product Specialist role include:

  • Stronger lines of communication among marketing, sales and investment teams
  • More comprehensive and regular interactions with clients, consultants and prospects
  • Increased opportunities for client retention and asset growth

What is your firm doing to maximize Product Specialist success? Please share your insights and comments below.

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.

National Dance Competition – Is Past Performance A Guarantee of Future Success?

Recently, while working on messaging and investment process definition for a global equity strategy for a New York-based manager, we were staying at the Sheraton Times Square. The hotel was the site of the 2016 National Season Finale for the New York City Dance Alliance. The grand lobby was filled with aspiring dancers from ages 5 to 15. Little girls and teen-age girls were sprinkled everywhere, costumed with false eyelashes, lipstick, face powder and rouge, hair curled and sprayed, bedecked with ribbons and jewels. Sparkling lavender, red, turquoise, gold, silver and pink spandex outfits, and shiny black patent leather dancing shoes adorned all the contestants, boys and girls. I couldn’t help but wonder what did all the make-up, hair embellishments and gilded spandex have to do with dancing? Is it a competition for best costume or best dancing? When I looked up the winners listed by different age groups, no details were provided. I wondered also if winning these competitions were indicative of future success as dancers.

Just as I wonder what all the full-page ads in our asset management industry publications (especially cover-page ads), showing Morningstar ratings, or composite and benchmark returns, have to do with institutional asset management? With every ad showing performance, there is the familiar disclaimer in bold text – Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results. Studies completed by Vanguard and others have concluded that Morningstar ratings offer little insight about expected future relative performance. If past performance and ratings provide unreliable direction on future success, why do we continue to spend so much time showcasing and evaluating historical returns relative to benchmarks and peers?

Why not focus instead on what does matter? I found Gretchen Tai’s article, “HP Lays the Foundation for a New Investment Model,” in the June 2016 issue of Institutional Investor to offer a rational alternative to meeting long-term future liabilities. As former CIO at Hewlett-Packard’s pension plan team from 2010 until her recent retirement, Gretchen had an instructive story to share. With the same skepticism toward forecasting expected returns, volatility and correlations across asset classes as I feel about selecting managers based on benchmark or peer rankings, Gretchen and her team at HP developed a new model for asset allocation, distinct from the traditional mean-variance optimization and from the “endowment” model, evolved from David Swensen’s Yale University model. The goal was to achieve better long-term results relevant to HP’s needs based on more attention and understanding of risk, responsiveness to markets and dynamic rebalancing. Downside protection and cost controls were key elements of the success of the model. She credited former CIO, Ken Frier, and his team, with much of the original innovation, focusing on “We will take risk for the plan when we have to, and we will take risk where the payoff is best. If we don’t need the risk or if the reward is not worth the risk, then we won’t take it.” Check out the full article in the June 2016 issue of Institutional Investor.

I hope that the awards for the dancers are more indicative of future success than benchmark and peer rankings are for managers. I also hope that we as an industry continue to make inroads in understanding how to achieve success for our constituents. Their future and our own future depends on it.

What do you think? How can we ensure deeper understanding of determining the best investment solutions for varying retirement needs? Please share and comment below.

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).

Cross-Selling to Deepen Client Relationships and Grow AUM

Successful cross-selling requires a long-term commitment, a multi-dimensional strategic initiative and alignment of your firm’s investment offerings with client needs.

Current clients and consultants where you have clients in common are the optimal target markets for multi-strategy investment firms to grow assets under management in a time-, resource- and cost-efficient way. Many institutional investors prefer working with a limited number of managers. Investment firms that have done a good job for clients in one area can take advantage of the “halo” effect to introduce other strategies.

What?

“Know what your clients want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”
~ Kevin Stirtz

Successful cross-sell campaigns are a collaborative effort between clients, and an investment firm’s management, investment, sales, client service and consultant relations professionals. Your firm will need to set realistic goals – overall, as well as by professional and investment strategy. To qualify likely cross-sell candidates, you must do your homework, which starts with analyzing your clients’ existing plans in terms of:

  • Investment objectives
  • Current asset allocation
  • Current managers and strategies
  • Managers on watch list and any replacement searches
  • Liabilities
  • Correlations
  • Restrictions
  • Risk profile
  • Challenges
  • Anticipated changes
  • What size allocations are appropriate
  • Consultant involvement
  • Any issues with current relationship

For each qualified cross-sell candidate, you need to outline a strategic plan with objectives, implementation strategy and time frame well defined.

When?

The client experience is the next competitive battleground.”
~ Jerry Gregoire

While an investment firm may achieve some cross-sells within the first year of launching the initiative, significant results require at least a three-year commitment and preferably one that is re-evaluated continually in perpetuity. At the three-year point, the client relationship expansion initiative typically becomes an integrated dimension of client service and of the firm’s business plan. Important components of an ongoing client and consultant cross-sell initiative are:

  • Ongoing dialogues with clients and consultants to elicit needs, and define ways your firm can help clients address a broader set of objectives
  • Prompt follow-up with relevant and valuable information to move the process forward
  • Engagement of and collaboration with internal resources to evaluate opportunities, challenges and potential solutions
  • Consistent written communications enlightening clients and consultants of your different offerings and benefits to an investment plan
  • Timely, relevant updates on the firm (e.g., new strategy launches, including early adopters, and role in and benefits for an investment program)

How?

Success is when opportunity and preparation meet.”
~ Bobby Unser

One of our clients organized an effective “Cross-Sell Competition” to set the foundation for a strong launch of the firm’s cross-sell initiative. At a quarterly sales meeting, they divided their sales, client service and consultant relations professionals into three teams. Each team was assigned a specific investment strategy that had been identified by management as a strategy with strong potential for cross-selling success. Each team was given 30 minutes to outline a cross-sell plan for the designated strategy. All the professionals reconvened as a group, and a spokesperson from each team presented the cross-sell plan for their assigned strategy. The presentations were followed by 15-minute debrief discussions where audience members provided further suggestions and asked questions. At the conclusion of all three, a panel of judges evaluated the three cross-sell plans against the following criteria:

  • Comprehensiveness of plan – Up to 25 points
  • Likelihood of success – Up to 25 points
  • Effective presentation of the plan – Up to 25 points
  • Responses to audience questions – Up to 25 points

The team with the most points earned an award. In addition, there were financial incentives for any cross sells made during the following 12 months. The firm’s cross-sells quadrupled from 9 the prior year to 36 during the 12 months following the competition.

Documentation, tracking and accountability are essential to maximizing outcomes of cross-sell campaigns. For example:

Cross-Sell Goals – Overall

crosssellingtodeepenrelationshipschart1

Cross-Sell Targets and Strategy – Sales/Client Services Professional

crosssellingtodeepenrelationshipschart2

Tracking overall progress is also valuable in assessing what is working and what are the challenges. Discussing progress, and eliciting ideas and recommendations from the broader group at least quarterly generally enhance success.

Who?

If you’re not serving the client, your job is to be serving someone who is.
~ Jan Carlza

Excelling at client service requires teamwork rather than relying on the efforts of just one person. Defining the proper incentives to align and motivate resources firm wide to contribute to successful client experiences, including involvement in appropriate cross-sells to clients, is key. You need to avoid developing silos of talent where professionals protect their interests over those of the clients.

After confirming with a client both the level of interest and time frame, the client service professional can set up an introduction to the portfolio manager or product specialist for the selected strategy. Optimal times for presenting additional strategies to clients are during client on-site visits to your office, update meetings on the existing portfolio, or meetings when the sales professional and portfolio manager for the selected strategy are going to be in a client’s town for another meeting. Generally, it is most effective to present alternative opportunities during a period of strong performance, and at the end of a client meeting after covering portfolio updates.

Key messages and benefits about the proposed strategy must be clear. In addition, you must be prepared with concise, direct, positive responses to likely questions and objections encompassing the following:

  • The firm
  • Strategy investment team and other investment mandates they manage
  • Investment process encompassing idea generation, portfolio construction, sell disciplines and risk management
  • Portfolio composition
  • Benchmark
  • Fees

Why?

The benefits of a well-orchestrated, consistently implemented cross-sell initiative are many:

  • Deeper client relationships
  • Better understanding and fulfillment of broader client needs
  • Enhanced client relationship tenure
  • Leverage of client service and sales resources
  • Increased potential for growth in assets under management

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.

RFP / Consultant Database Team Best Practices

What happens when 15 communications and marketing professionals from 11 Southern California investment management firms gather to exchange best practices for RFP and Consultant databases? Spirited conversation, valuable suggestions for managing database and RFP content, insights on team structure, and delectable desserts. On May 19th, Charnley & Røstvold welcomed this group of bright and eager professionals to the PAICR Regional Roundtable on RFP/Consultant Database Team Practices, hosted by Tom Mulligan, Director of the Product Management and RFP Portfolio Management Client Service Division at Brandes Investment Partners, and sponsored by Pensions & Investments. While the tips and practices the group members shared were many, three topics emerged as significant to us all – Accuracy, Customization and Consistency.

Accuracy

It’s been reported often that consultants use databases, and then RFPs, more as an elimination tool than a selection tool. Your data must be accurate if you want to stay in the game. While the process for ensuring accuracy depends on the size and structure of the team, the participants all agreed – it is essential to follow a data-review process.

Errors and inconsistencies can result when updating data or text in multiple places. By keeping all responses in a bank or master file, you update the information once, and have it proofed once. Several commercial systems are available to update your information and populate your collateral; however, if you do not have this type of system, a Word document organized by topic will work.

In a perfect world, when you change a piece of information in one document, you will have time to edit all occurrences of that data immediately. But since we live in the real world, that is unlikely. Establish a review process to check all data. Our roundtable participants reported reviewing their database and RFP content annually or semi-annually. A process that includes team members from various areas, each focusing on his or her area of contribution, can streamline the process. For instance, an RFP might start at the desk of an administrative professional who enters firm information, move on to an analyst, then to the portfolio manager, and so on.

Tip: Having both long and short forms of your narratives doubles the chances of error. By making your narratives similar and consistent in format, the changes you do make will be minor. Highlight the text that changes to see efficiently what needs updating.

Customization

When asked, “How do you customize your materials?” “Do we really have to customize them at all? Is it OK to refuse?” – the answer was a resounding, “Absolutely! You must customize.” While time consuming, customization is an opportunity to show the clients, prospects and consultants that you value them. Beyond customizing the materials with their names and portfolio information, be sure to provide what is requested. When completing RFPs or populating consultant databases, ask yourself, “How does the [consultant] want to see this information?”, “What are they really trying to learn?” Then give them exactly what they need in the format they request. You will be doing a service to yourself as well as to them.

Tip: For client reporting, DO use your client’s returns, but DO NOT customize their portfolio characteristics. Use characteristics from a representative account – they are essentially all the same anyway. Big time saver.

Consistency

Databases, RFPs, presentations and reports – if a person were to take all the content from a set of just one strategy’s materials, it would create a string of text that would wrap around the earth seven times. Really. Well, possibly. Just getting all of the information into the right places is an enormous undertaking, and once it’s there, it must be correct. If you’ve ever wondered, “Does anyone even read this stuff anyway?” – they do! Errors and inconsistencies will be discovered, and can be enough to disqualify you.

To help achieve consistency across your systems and files, start at a high level, and consider the message you want to send. Remember, this is your chance to tell clients, prospects and consultants what you want them to know. What are the strengths of the strategy you want to get through to the audience? Keep that message in mind as you populate databases and complete RFPs. Your goal is to convey a clear, consistent and complete message. It is vital that your information be current and consistent across all databases. Moreover, the content in your presentations, reports and RFPs must be the same throughout all pieces. If your RFP says one thing and the presentation another, it will be noticed.

Tip: Outsourcing your database entry to populate multiple databases not only saves time, but ensures your data is consistent across platforms.

These are just a few of the topics addressed at the PAICR roundtable. The attendees came from investment management firms of varying types and sizes, yet all shared common challenges. What better way to overcome those challenges than by exchanging ideas and experiences with others. Next time you feel as if you’ve hit a wall, reach out to a peer who may have advice. Or reach out to several by hosting or attending a PAICR roundtable or attending a conference. Sometimes learning just one small tip can improve your productivity.

Do you have an RFP or database best practice to offer? Please add it in the comments box below, and share this article if you found it helpful.

If you would like to know more about PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources) or attending a regional event or conference, you can find more information at www.paicr.com.


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.

Linda Sherman is Chief Administrative Officer at Charnley & Røstvold, Inc.