OK that’s a slightly harsh headline but as a rule, asset managers websites are not fast. 

I meant to write this post in Q4 last year but as usual the last few weeks of 2023 got very busy and time to write became a scarce commodity. Now with all the good intentions a new year brings, I’m making time to write more about Beacon and our broader digital work. 

Last year, as part of our Beacon benchmarking product, we focused on website performance across a selection of firms with the following methodology: 

  • We used GTmetrix – which enables testing across devices, locations, connection speeds (we actually use Google PageSpeed Insights for our monthly Beacon benchmarking, but GTmetrix is great for in depth research) 
  • We measured a range of page types to reflect the different composition of page elements:
    • Home page – typically a mixture of content types
    • Fund overview page – content 
    • Fund detail page – data (and often 3rd party) 
    • Insight page/post - content 
  • We measured desktop and mobile performance 
  • For simplicity and consistency, we measured in London 
  • On a standard broadband connection (20/5mbps) / LTE mobile (15/10 mbps) 
  • We compared 2021 results to 2023 to see trends 

If we were completing a full research project we would test across multiple locations, on multiple days and play back more detail on the performance elements, but for the purposes of this exercise we kept it simple. 

What did we find? 

On a grading system of A – F, firms achieved in the E – F range overall with some firms achieving as high as a B on some pages.

The average website performance for investment management is poor. 

Most fund pages scored a significantly low website performance grade. Insight pages often performed better due to the simplicity of the content, but whilst that’s great, I’ll leave you to debate whether better performing insight or product pages are more important. 

Mobile performance is significantly lower than desktop performance, which in many other industries would be a disaster but ‘fortunately’ in asset management the majority of website traffic remains on desktop. 

Now you could argue the testing methodology, the detail of site construction and what users really need but I think it’s fair to say; website performance is not great and if we believe our websites are primary interfaces and/or an effective lead generation channel – we should worry about that. 

Why does it matter? 

For the purposes of this exercise we compared website speed to bounce rate. Firms with a higher speed score saw a lower bounce rate. Users don’t wait. 

Not to mention the Google search algorithm taking speed into account; the only reason that’s not more of an issue is the lack of mobile traffic and generally the lack of focus on SEO. 

So, there are a lot of reasons for concern about website performance; brand perception, user experience/satisfaction, lead generation and customer experience. 

In short, we’re investing time and money to bring prospects and clients on a journey to/through our websites only to encourage them to leave as they watch a page loading spinner (if they’re lucky). 

How do we make it better? 

One of the interesting things about the results was that two of the better performing websites were running platforms on the opposite ends of the spectrum; one a large monolithic CMS and the other a headless environment. Now there are all sorts of variables that make that a hard comparison, but one observation is this – going headless for speed reasons isn’t necessarily the answer. You go headless for the broader architecture benefits (single sources of data, content etc) and other benefits, and you get speed as well. And a well hosted and built CMS website can be fast too.

What are some things you can do? 

  • Make sure someone has ownership of your website; 
    • It's complex so you need expertise 
    • Host on a platform that understands your CMS (if that’s what you’re using) 
    • Have someone responsible for the complete platform 
    • Remember your domain and DNS hosting 
  • Make sure your hosting is leveraging; 
    • A Content Delivery Network (CDN) 
    • Content is being intelligently cached 
    • You have all the security features switched on (ie. DDoS, WAF) 
  • Optimise your content; 
    • Have controls over what content is published 
    • Automated compression of images 
    • Hosting video off your site (may not always be true) 
    • Make sure any 3rd party content is loading fast 
  • Design for speed; 
    • Keep your content simple 
    • Especially for mobile (we advocate designing for desktop first, then mobile) 
    • Build UX into your standard page/content publishing 

Of course, our Beacon members get to see who is doing well and how they compare, but right now let’s assume your website could be performing a whole lot better. We're happy to help.