As we look forward to the year ahead, it's important to stay on top of the latest trends in the investment marketing industry. From collective confusion around ever-changing regulations to the continued growth of digital marketing strategies (who else has spent the last week testing out ChatGPT?), these are the trends that have defined the world of investment marketing in 2022. Whether you're an investor, marketer or financial professional, it's essential to stay informed and adapt to these changing trends in order to remain competitive and successful in the ever-evolving world of finance. So, without further ado, let's take a look at our team’s predictions for next year:
For Twink, our founder and CEO, it all comes back to brand.
My last 12 months has been dominated by three key areas of conversation – brand, private assets and, more latterly, culture. It’s a heady mix of the commercial imperative of shaping ‘what you are known for’ alongside the more intangible, softer fabric of each business. I have talked before about how the pandemic thrust brand in to the spotlight as a key asset for engaging clients with brand personality through digital journeys. Further, the integral relationship between a company’s position on sustainability and how it relates to their brand has also nudged businesses towards revisiting brand strategy and articulation. Asset managers are typically spending between 20 and 30% of their annual budget on brand. We certainly see the investment to better express what they stand for and how they are differentiated. Boards are increasingly focused on these attributes and measuring them in the market. With all this in mind, we expect to see a few key areas of brand focus in 2023:
- More bespoke research mandates to ascertain clients’ current understanding of brand, and thereby define the roadmap to move businesses towards what they want to be known for.
- Consolidation around fewer, more impactful brand traits that are deeply embedded, from which a company can tell stories, build campaigns and engage clients.
- Greater focus on defining the cultural strength that sits behind a brand, and trying new methods and tools to measure and evidence it.
We know the budget backdrop is difficult and 2023 looks like another year of flat, if not reduced, budgets for marketing. With markets as they are, this isn’t too surprising. What has been reassuring, however, is the number of groups that are maintaining their brand focus as a commercial priority. There is now a much better shared appreciation of brand and its strategic importance to competing in this environment – not least in terms of its critical and reassuring role in these unnerving times for investors. However, I’d be lying if I claimed this was an industry-wide stance – I can’t help but feel that companies having to make a choice between strategic brand investment and tactical sales activation will clearly have their work cut out for them if they are to compete and grow their profile and presence in the market next year.
In terms of digital developments, Andrew shares his outlook on the year ahead.
Looking back through 2022 and earlier, we’ve seen digital marketing being given its opportunity to shine as COVID lockdowns shifted awareness, engagement and servicing to digital channels, and increased the collaboration between marketing and sales.
Have firms embraced the digital opportunity? Yes – but only those firms that transitioned to recognising digital marketing as a key contributor to the success of sales, servicing and retaining clients, and therefore invested in the people, processes and technologies to grasp this opportunity.
However, we see the gap between firms who are investing in digital and those who are yet to embrace this opportunity widening, or at least remaining static.
We’ve spoken to a number of global marketing teams as they have gathered to reflect and plan, and talked about what we’ve seen or worked with clients on this year: separating digital transformation from digital marketing, bringing a UX discipline to the overall Customer Experience (CX), getting the MarTech Architecture right, thinking about marketing teams and roles, and describing what a measurement-focused firm does.
Looking ahead to 2023 we see a focus on a handful of key areas, and of course when we talk about digital it’s never about the technology, it’s always about people. What matters is an appetite for experimentation, a willingness to accept insight from data, a commitment to set and measure objectives, and sometimes the confidence to use the shiny new technology you just bought.
People – there are three elements to consider in terms of structures and roles in the new year:
- Specialist vs generalists – at our current stage of evolution there remains a need for digital specialists and typically a ‘center of excellence’ approach to supporting broader marketing and sales teams.
- Channels vs funnels – typically firms gather teams around channels (e.g. country > audience), but there is an alternative structure framed around acquisition > engagement > retention to explore.
- Centralised vs regional/local - delegating content management and digital campaigns to regional/local teams can feel intuitive but the need for specialist skills can make it difficult to manage this effectively.
ChatGPT ( https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/) – we can’t look at the year ahead without referencing the current frenzy around what ChatGPT brings to our world. The answer: a lot. And more than (not) replacing your content team! This conversational interface really is a breakthrough that brings a language model that anyone can use to direct and interact with a huge volume of content and knowledge. One example that Liam gave was recording meetings with Otter.ai and asking ChatGPT to summarise. Or ask it about one of your funds. 🙂
Headless – we're seeing the first firms starting to embrace headless (CMS) architectures. Headless has been around for a while but it’s often been sold as a means of achieving faster websites, which underplays what it can bring. Headless architecture enables a rethink of our martech stack, with a focus on content and data hubs with multiple front ends (website, sales enablement, third parties). It can also create gains in security and speed along with design freedom.
Data – gathering data across channels and interactions and interpreting insights continues to be a challenge for firms, and there is a resultant focus on Client Data Platforms (CDPs) as tools for stitching together data in a coherent fashion. Like every other technology investment, firms should focus on what they want to do with the data, having the skilled people available, and getting processes designed before buying the technology.
Benchmarking – it wouldn’t be right to leave data as the final point. And we do have a vested interest in this topic. There is a real upswing in focus on benchmarking – comparing marketing performance with peer firms to identify opportunities across the marketing channel mix that need investment.
Beacon brings data-based, transparent measurement that enables marketers to compare performance and, just as importantly, collaborate with peers to understand best practice and shared challenges.
Is 2023 the year we finally see jargon-free investor communication? Nick certainly hopes so.
The asset management industry in the UK has breathed a collective sigh of relief over the abolition of the PRIIPS regime – and for marketers that includes the Key Information Document (KID).
But let’s not sit back and relax. The government’s intention is to create a basis for communicating the key features of investment funds that actually works for investors – telling them what they need to know to take a decision, in language they understand.
However, this remains a distant goal. Under the current regulatory regimes, the lawyers have taken over and the whole system has been shaped by self-preservation. Investor documents are a conduit for disclosures and disclaimers to protect against miss-selling if things ever got to court. What we have ended up with are two layers of fund communications: standard documents such as the KIID and now defunct KID where consistency has triumphed over comprehensiveness; and non-standard fund fact sheets with portfolio and performance data, where the legal-minded approach to compliance has run amok with endless layers of disclosures, disclaimers and obscure descriptions of risk.
The FCA has acknowledged the confusion that these documents create (and their own part in how we got here). Undertaking a period of consultation, they are now conducting an honest assessment of both formats and their contribution to an investor’s ability to take a well-informed decision.
The challenge and opportunity for marketers is to reclaim ownership of the concept of “clear, fair and not misleading”. This will be a long but important road.
As clearly advocated in the Consumer Duty regime, we have a huge opportunity to sweep away the jargon-filled web of obscurity that mires the standard descriptions of our funds and focus on information that counts. What does this fund invest in? What does its portfolio look like? What is it trying to achieve? What are the risks? And how much will it cost? All answered in language that my parents would understand. Simple, but not easy.
Is it too much to hope that the winner in all this is plain English? Let’s reclaim ownership of our communications and relearn the ability to communicate with investors – presenting the information they actually need in simple, intelligible terms.
We can be proud of creating communications that help our clients, rather than just the reassurance that we won’t go to jail. Rise up, marketers – this our moment, and the regulator has got our backs.
It’s been a tumultuous year for sustainable investing, and Benjie expects to see the tightening up of sustainability messaging, reporting and content.
It's been a few years now since asset managers really started digging into their sustainability messaging and expanding their content offering around it. This has in part been due to regulatory requirements (UK Stewardship submissions, for example) and in part down to client demand for more detail and rigorous explanation around ESG processes, credentials and themes.
But those looking to take their collateral to the next level (and avoid any possible hint of greenwashing) are starting to re-examine how they present their sustainability story to the market. Less kitchen-sinking (throwing everything you've ever said or written down on sustainability into the annual report) and more focus on the intended use and purpose of a particular content piece in a potential customer journey.
In addition, we've seen clients starting to double down on how they can report progress in less mainstream assets. Consistent and systematic data collection has been the main barrier here, with private debt and equity deals generally negotiated on a deal-by-deal basis. But as the gaze shifts beyond public markets to encompass the private sphere, individual case studies demonstrating engagement will no longer suffice; investors are looking for a line in the sand to measure progress against, so any attempt at standardisation in reporting will go a long way.
Lastly, Esther expects the area of culture to be subjected to greater scrutiny next year.
Finally, we're starting to see culture emerge as an area of real focus. Sitting smack bang in the middle of brand and sustainability, culture is almost always cited as a 'secret sauce' that glues an asset manager's USPs together. In our discovery phases of brand and sustainability articulation projects we so frequently hear that a business' culture is "differentiated", "unique" and "special", that we have started to challenge clients to prove it. And we’re not alone. Institutional investors and consultants have also started to probe this issue and are asking to be shown evidence of strong culture and collaboration rather than merely told about it.
Too often it is a woolly and intangible claim made in recruitment materials, or used to point to a collaborative investment approach that gives one business the winning edge over another. So think how much stronger these claims and messages could be if there was a metric to definitively measure and present a culture.
This prospect is something we have been getting our arms around for the latter part of 2022 and is an area we have been developing and broadening at pace.
In an industry where margin pressures are here to stay, where passive investing has established firmer and firmer footing and where sustainability propositions are quite rightly being scrutinised, it stands to reason that some of the softer influences within asset management are starting to come to the fore. And that's before we've even considered the manifold economic challenges and consequent potential for lots more volatility in 2023.
When performance fails, it is relationships that prevent investors from losing the faith in an asset manager. Meanwhile, it is internal relationships and 'culture' that can stop a ship from taking on more water and allow leadership to steer it to safer territory from which to weather the storm.
Brand and sustainability are two pathways in strengthening an asset manager's external relationships, while culture is fundamental to establishing and protecting internal relationships.
It might feel like a nebulous concept, yet we can all point to places we have experienced 'toxic' or 'challenging' cultures, and describe the impact these had on the success (or lack thereof) of the business in question and its perception in market. There is also a connection between strong culture, high performance, strategic execution and risk management – the ability get things done more efficiently and with better outcomes for the business and its clients.
In much the same way that forward-thinking asset managers grasped the opportunity to formalise and articulate their approach to sustainability earlier than others, we see culture becoming the next vanguard of competition between industry peers. Those who manage to define, measure and articulate their culture in 2023 will be carving a path for others to follow. But, as always, first-mover advantage will be hard to catch up with.
We're looking forward to working with our readers and clients on these themes in the coming year, and we can't wait to see what the future holds. Thank you for your continued support and partnership, you can get in touch with us here.