Beating Digital Grade Deflation 23 August 2017

Guest Feature by Mark Atkinson

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination." - Albert Einstein

What grades would asset managers get if they had just sat exams for digital intelligence? Judging by Living Group’s new ratings, most would have to settle for Cs and Ds or even Fs. Unlike this year’s crop of A Level and GCSE students, precious few would be celebrating being awarded coveted As and A*s.

So how can asset managers improve their digital performance? Living Group’s recommendations of really focusing on clients’ needs, versus puffing their own credentials, and producing high-quality, engaging content are certainly part of the answer. 

But digital intelligence requires so much more than just fixing public-facing websites, mobile apps, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn pages. It’s about what happens behind the scenes in the back and middle offices too.  Software tools that can automate traditionally labour intensive processes, cognitive technology that facilitate alpha generation and big data that can generate an holistic picture of customer behavior all have a part to play.

As they seek to transform their businesses for the digital age, asset managers also shouldn’t forget the human touch.

While confident individual investors might be happy to buy funds online from a platform for their ISA or SIPP without ever speaking to an IFA, professional fund buyers with much larger sums to invest are always going to want to meet and interrogate a fund manager in person before committing their clients’ capital.

So trusted relationship managers who can advise and guide clients during the buying process remain key. Deals don’t close without them. But they have to recognize that their roles have changed. Once they were the sole conduit for information between a manager and client.  Now, there are simply too many alternative digital communication channels for them to maintain that stranglehold.

As in other industries, the growth of digital channels has given professional fund buyers many more opportunities to do their own research on a firm or its funds without engaging directly with a salesman until much later on in the buying process. So getting digital channels right is mission critical, but not in isolation.

The challenge, therefore, is for asset managers to achieve better alignment between their human and digital channels to improve the customer journey, wherever it starts, on or offline. Too often now, the two seem to be working out of sync, with old-fashioned relationship managers, who fear disintermediation, paying lip service to digital channels and marketing departments getting carried away with digital excitement. The result for the client or prospect can be a disconnect between what relationship managers are saying on the ground and the messages marketing departments are promoting online.

The top marks for asset management students of the future will go to those who understand the benefits of both human and digital channels working closely together to deliver true value to the customer.

How can Living Group help?

Here at Living, we drive business performance with strategic thinking, brand creation and cut-through messaging - creating effective communications that get tangible results.

To see how we can help you build a well-connected digital strategy, please contact Greg Hobden in London, Aliena Lai in Hong Kong, or Kate Shaw in New York.

About the author

Mark is former head of EMEA Marketing at T.Rowe Price and AB. Before joining the investment industry 15 years ago, he was economics correspondent at The Guardian.