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Integration, engagement and partnership: Key trends shaping the future of RFP writing

Published on November 24, 2021 by Harsha Krishnakumar and Rajeev Sinha

With the global asset and wealth management industry poised to grow over five percent per annum to 20251, the pivotal role RFPs are expected to play in generating new business, cannot be overstated. In order to take a proactive approach to new business generation, RFP teams globally need to be both resistant and responsive to the changing global undercurrents. The path is not easy –as institutional investors today require nuanced information and data, preferably in an expedited manner. To do precisely this, RFP teams globally are looking to explore multiple avenues including possibility of a hybrid work model, better collaboration with sales & distribution leadership while screening new business opportunities, leverage technology for content management and optimization, need to manage RFP career motivations, and the idea of engaging with strategic RFP partners to build the “right” RFP platform.

Assessing the impact of pandemic on asset management RFP teams – Boon, Bane or Both?

Without being too philosophical, the pandemic could perhaps have existentially challenged the very notion of what it meant to “be at work” and not be productive.

But how much of this is true? In 2020-21, a resilient RFP community demonstrated that RFP work can be done sans geographical limitations, empowering people to work anytime, anywhere! Many RFP writers prefer focused time to work on custom responses and have been able to do that well working remotely. This enabled the RFP workforce be more productive during uncertain times and helped achieve better work life balance; an idea often dismissed as wishful thinking.

The industry seems to agree, with many trillion dollar managers feeling a growth in both complexity and overall volumes, with greater emphasis on areas like ESG, D&I, BCP including preparedness for Covid, it drove teams to engage with each other and stakeholders more intentionally and consistently, thereby opening new avenues to explore a talent pool that was traditionally nonexistent.

It isn’t all smooth sailing though; training new resources who are used to physical orientation and work atmosphere, is a challenge across the board. With increasing volumes, comes increasing demand for skilled RFP writers. Without the ability to have onsite due diligence meetings during the pandemic, RFP writers need to have increased collaboration with wider organization to craft bespoke and meaningful responses. In an office environment, one has the benefit of ad-hoc conversations and questions, whereas it can be more challenging when everyone is working from home.

What prominent leaders of global asset and wealth management firms, have to say

During a recent RFP webinar hosted by Acuity, which included RFP experts from across the asset and wealth management industry as attendees, we ran a survey to understand the various approaches taken to address the RFP headwinds of rising volumes, complexity and budgetary constraints. To combat this, 27 percent hired more onshore resources, and about 6 percent of the attendees hired temporary resources and interns, while 16 percent of the respondents preferred to outsource/offshore components of their processes. Despite this, we found that 36 percent of the attendees are challenged by manual, dated processes as a means to handle the rising complexities and resources challenges.

To learn more such insights from the webinar please visit - https://www.acuitykp.com/rfp-webinar-asset-management/

Synergizing content management within RFP processes – the key to provide meaningful solutions

Content management is a commitment of time and resources. Having a dedicated content team or manager while being extremely useful, is a luxury for many asset managers. This means that more often than not, content management falls in the basket of a writer, who simultaneously needs to contend with rising RFP volumes. The best way, it would seem to manage content, is to have process and protocol around timely updates to language and manage it closely so that the database doesn’t get out of date over time. Teams must carve out time for periodic reviews/revalidation of content and track like any other project, with a due date and an estimated number of workhours to complete.

A well-managed content platform sometimes is like the silent knight that ensures that the king’s horses and all the kings’ men are ready, willing and able. It helps writers know that there is information that is current and which can be leveraged for a considerable portion of the RFP. By managing it, RFP teams can ensure that they are able to provide key insights to the first draft, that were erstwhile only possible post contributions from the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). By creating robust folder structures and bespoke content optimization, RFP teams would be able alleviate a lot of the manual effort that goes in populating a first draft, especially when it comes to recurring Due Diligence Questionnaires (DDQs).

All of this is only as good as the RFP teams understanding of the client and their needs. There are experienced writers, but there is no substitute to spending time with the salesperson at the start of the RFP to get that context. Drafts need to be crisp and reflect that implicit learning which in turn allows the stakeholders to focus on making suggestions to more closely align the proposal with the client’s interests, rather than being distracted by correcting typos or determining if questions are fully answered. This isn’t possible without a manager or peer review to help reinforce this process. It really needs to be a team effort, i.e. a strong partnership with sales, consultant relations and investment teams paired with meaningful content would position firms as best as they should be.

Managing RFP talent – the ebbs and flows

As asset and wealth management RFP writing continues to remain a niche domain and skilled RFP talent is rare to find and even more difficult to retain, hence, RFP managers are required to look at smart and efficient ways to manage resources—to build the right team.

RFP teams tend to sit at the center of a large web of information and internal relationships. That position can naturally pull RFP writers in many different directions which leaves less time for higher-priority requests, creates more fire drills and ultimately contributes to instances of writer burnout and turnover.

Finding experienced RFP writers can be difficult as there is a limited set of writers who understand the asset and wealth management RFP space. Having a strong network as well as being willing to train less experience writers can help build the right team. A dynamic approach to the type of writer, their strengths, goals and capacity is equally critical - for RFP Writers who want to stay in the role their entire career, managers need to find ways to challenge them, keep them engaged, leverage their deep institutional knowledge – make sure they are being recognized for what they bring to the team, and they will give their best efforts and go the extra mile.

For RFP Writers using the role as an opportunity to grow within the firm, managers need to ensure they are given stretch assignments, opportunity to lead projects outside day-to-day RFPs/DDQs, and convince them of the support firm would offer to help meet their career aspirations.

Engaging strategic partners – to build the right RFP platform

As one of the key takeaways emerging out of the ongoing pandemic has been the fact that RFP work can be done from anywhere and anytime, global asset and wealth managers can now additionally explore opportunities to engage with strategic service partners to build a robust RFP platform. Such a strategic move could not only help bring in cost efficiencies, augment existing capacity, enable onshore teams to focus on strategic endeavors but could also be used an opportunity to leverage the collective knowledge of emerging trends and industry insights available with such strategic partners to further explore process improvement opportunities and create additional efficiencies.

RFP practice at Acuity – A cut above

Acuity integrates! Not just with process and systems, but with people. The writers all come with an asset and wealth management background who are genuinely interested in answering the questions completely and not simply cutting and pasting. With an open and transparent line of communication and ease of time zone coverage, most onshore teams are able to check in with questions and concerns easily via phone or email. The project management is on point, with a roadmap and highlighted risks to the timeline so client teams could make changes as needed. This carves out valuable RFP writer time for onshore teams, time better spent on more strategic endeavors, leading to better job satisfaction and overall new business creation.

Acuity RFP teams also boast a rapid learning curve, requiring minimal hand holding and ease of trainability. This translates to higher onshore capacity and better economies of scope and scale. The cherry on top is really the strong senior layer of SMEs and managers who constitute Acuity’s RFP center of excellence. They help Acuity set up, transition and run teams for clients including large, mid-size and boutique asset and wealth management firms.

With Acuity overseeing a lot of the day-to-day quality mechanism like process checks, training, people management and ensuring client SLAs are met, a lot of burden from our client RFP managers is alleviated.

How to engage with Acuity Knowledge Partners

Would you like to know how Acuity Knowledge Partners can help you streamline your RFP process? Get in touch with our experts to understand some of the emerging trends in the RFP community that can help your firm build a high-impact RFP/DDQ team.

References

1PwC 2020 report https://www.pwc.com/jg/en/publications/asset-wealth-management-industry-to-grow-by-2025.html


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About the Authors

Harsha Krishnakumar has over 10 years of experience in RFP creation/writing and personal coaching. In his current role at Acuity Knowledge Partners, he provides support in business development and content strategy for fund marketing services. Prior to this, he was part of the Sales Enablement team at JPMorgan. He holds a Master of Business Administration from ICFAI Business School and a Bachelor of Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology.

Rajeev Sinha is part of the Fund Marketing Services practice at Acuity Knowledge Partners. In this role, he is primarily responsible for the management and oversight of dedicated RFP and DDQ teams that work with leading global asset management firms. Rajeev has over 10 years of sales-enablement experience. Prior to joining Acuity, he worked in various roles at J.P. Morgan, including those of a proposal writer and knowledge manager. Rajeev has also worked as an account manager for clients’ dedicated RFP teams at Genpact and Copal Amba. He started his career as a research analyst covering the private equity market at RR Donnelley. Rajeev holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Banaras Hindu University, India, and a Master of Business Administration with a specialisation in finance from ICFAI University, India.

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