The role of asset managers’ marketing function is evolving from execution to strategic direction. As the asset management industry in Europe becomes more complex, the nature of the relationship between client and salesperson is changing.
Research shows that 62% of managers spend more time with their existing clients than they did two years ago. The survey of European managers found that 76% of respondents believe that taking a consultant-style approach to selling is increasingly important, according to Cerulli Associates' latest report, European Marketing and Sales Organizations 2019: Harnessing Technology to Win Business.
Several marketing managers told Cerulli that their teams are becoming increasingly important to their firms. Most of the managers interviewed reported that their marketing team headcount has increased over the past 12 months - and that they expect this to continue.
According to Cerulli, few managers have fundamentally changed their marketing budget allocation, but many are making incremental changes. The main shift in this area is that managers are increasing their digital spend. The largest change is expected in social media: around 37% of the managers Cerulli surveyed expect their social media spend to increase over the next 12 to 24 months and 10% expect it to increase by more than 10%. In addition, social media “listening” has become a powerful tool for managers seeking to measure their brand recognition and develop brand-driven competitive intelligence. More than two-thirds (69%) of the managers use social media to evaluate their brand recognition and appreciation.
As the importance of social media to asset managers increases, firms’ social media team sizes are growing. Just 28% of the managers currently employ more than four people in their social media teams. However, 44% of respondents expect to employ more than four people in their social media units over the next 12 to 24 months, which suggests that managers’ marketing teams are increasing their focus on this channel.
“Consultative selling is becoming increasingly important in the asset management industry,” says Fabrizio Zumbo, associate director in Cerulli’s European retail research team and lead author of the report. “This involves spending time with the client to understand the problem they are trying to solve and then recommending a solution that will address that problem. Clients usually have specific pain points and it is important for managers to address those issues rather than simply seeking to sell products; the focus should be on providing solutions.”
Investors’ expectations of asset managers’ client-facing staff are also changing: 70% of the managers surveyed said that their clients are increasingly requesting salespeople with robust technical knowledge. More than 50% indicated that they are increasingly looking for salespeople with expertise in alternative investments and exchange-traded funds. Salespeople have traditionally used their relationship-building skills to win new business, but clients now expect them to offer more technical information as the complexity of the market increases.