Published on April 20, 2020 by Harsha Krishnakumar
The S&P 500 Index fell c.12% in March, making it the worst month for US markets since October 2008. Italian and Spanish equities declined c.33% and c.32%, respectively, while fixed income markets were equally chaotic. Notably, the US 10-year Treasury fell c.43bps but remains the highest-yielding government bond among those of major developed economies.
Market-moving events, such as COVID-19, test not only business processes and systems, but also the spirit and culture of an organisation. As long as a company has robust sales, marketing and digital communication strategies in place, communicating the firm’s brand identity and engaging with potential clients can remain uninterrupted. This is one of the main reasons why marketing communication and reporting are effective ways for asset and wealth managers to remain in touch with clients.
To meet client expectations, asset managers’ marketing, reporting and client servicing teams play a crucial role by keeping up with how the global markets are moving – unpredictably, fast and rudderless.
Common trends evolving for marketing and reporting teams
The current situation introduces a new challenge for sales and marketing teams, and highlights the importance of exploring strategies outside the traditional approach of internal dependence. As a business partner, we have foreseen trends in asset managers’ marketing, reporting and client servicing functions, and have quickly adapted our processes to ensure continued support.
Prepare for an increase in marketing and reporting content: Market uncertainty is driving demand for investor communication. At Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity), we have noticed a significant uptick in demand for investor communication material such as due diligence questionnaires (DDQS), requests for proposal (RFPs)/requests for information (RFIs), marketing collateral and thought pieces. These include questions related to business continuity plans (BCPs) or pandemic preparedness in DDQs, RFPs and consultant surveys, and demand for tailored content in commentaries on how portfolios are impacted by economic turmoil.
To effectively pre-empt and prepare for a spike in volumes, asset managers could look to partner with specialised firms such as Acuity to help create bandwidth for their core teams, giving them more time for client-facing activities.
Create, customise and communicate: We expect an increase in investor demand for customised collateral rather than for stock answers. Investors also expect their asset managers to maintain transparency and disseminate information faster than they used to. With more than half of the world’s population under lockdown, we can imagine how difficult it is for most marketing and reporting teams to maintain business as usual (BAU), let alone create new focused collateral.
Remember, however, that not everything needs to be customised, and not everything needs to be redone. We need to identify collateral that is least impacted by this pandemic and that which is most affected. In these troubling times, close collaboration among the sales, product positioning, and digital teams and third-party vendors can help marketing teams create effective thought-leadership material and stay ahead of the curve.
Demand for safe-haven products: Global financial markets have witnessed one of the worst sell-offs in modern times, and market volatility has increased significantly. This has shifted the focus from equity markets to safe havens such as fixed income and money market products. At Acuity, we have seen a steep rise in ad hoc requests for brochures, flyers and other marketing collateral promoting these asset classes.
Asset and wealth managers need to revisit the positioning of their focused products and strengthen these asset class desks to be able to run effective marketing campaigns within a much shorter turnaround time.
A global model with a local flavour: The evolving market uncertainty could compel asset managers to implement a targeted approach for each geography, testing their preparedness to handle any increase in demand for marketing collateral from a particular region or country. Data process requirements for all marketing and reporting material, including data sourcing, turnaround by subject-matter experts, and distribution and publishing, need to be flexible in order to accommodate evolving global trends, and to have a presence in multiple geographies.
While having a centralised marketing team is helpful, firms need to be able to quickly bolster their regional marketing teams to cater to local demand. Having marketing teams in more than one location could also help meet client commitments during such situations. Acuity, with its five global delivery centres and the ability to provide support in multiple languages, can assist firms ramp up or ramp down their bandwidth within a short period of time.
Digital distribution: In these days of social distancing, it is imperative that distribution switches from the physical to the digital. In addition, the sheer magnitude and variety of collateral that is created would necessitate increased communication with quick turnaround time. This need for speed and quality puts significant pressure on digital marketing teams.
Asset managers should consider implementing a “follow-the-sun” model to ensure round-the-clock functioning. Additionally, they can consider partnering with vendors that are capable of handling all facets of digital support and have a strong understanding of the asset management industry.
Acuity continues to provide seamless support
Acuity’s teams are adept at managing data within tight cycle times, measuring real-time activity, and project-managing critical client deliverables. We have very proudly continued to do so, without a glitch, since the start of the outbreak, by taking the following actions.
These actions have helped us effectively assess risks, manage our emergency response mechanism and analyse the nature of our business to ensure business continuity and resumption of work.
The COVID-19 pandemic may serve as a wake-up call for investment managers to challenge traditional thinking and look at partnership possibilities in the area of fund marketing activity.
While we at Acuity continue to diligently assess the current events and their implications, we understand that business solutions are not obvious. The pain in the economy may outlast the economic downturn, but we will continue to focus on delivering for our clients amid the adversity.
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About the Author
Assistant Director, Fund Marketing Services
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.
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