Using Data for Good

By: Peter Hans
Co-Founder & CEO – Harvest Exchange Corp.
PAICR Gold Sponsor – Harvest
www.hvst.com

In the investment management world, “data” has historically meant “capital markets data”—used to create an investment thesis or structure an allocation model.  But in recent years the topic of “big data” has been top-of firms’ minds.  Why? Because in a digital world, there are significant opportunities for investment managers to leverage behavioral data so they can better engage with their clients. And under the right circumstances, that data can also be used to better align the interests of an asset manager and their clients.

Here are a few examples of how data can be used to achieve such goals:

 1. Personalize the client experience

The future of finance is digital, as stated by the Financial Times. Frankly, this statement is consistent with trends we are seeing at Harvest, which demonstrate over and over again that hedge fund managers, analysts at a public pension plan, financial advisors, and individuals are conducting investment research online. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning makes it possible for the likes of Netflix and Amazon (and Harvest) to better organize content in order to improve the user experience. But without user data, this wouldn’t be possible and would lead to the user having to sort through things that are irrelevant to them. It should come as no surprise then that 70% of the content consumed on Netflix is the result of a recommendation by their algorithms.

2. Quality over quantity

 While digital marketing has allowed investment managers to seamlessly distribute their message at scale, it has also led to an environment of unsolicited spam and ever-shrinking attention spans. However, there’s no need for such a shotgun approach. Instead, behavioral data can be used to transform a manager’s previously volume-driven approach to a highly targeted relevance-driven strategy. Harvest was built with this in mind and seeks to help financial organizations better engage with their clients. We do this by prioritizing what an individual, or group of individuals, cares about and interacting with them accordingly. In essence, we seek to filter out the noise for the reader and create an environment where less is more, both for the asset manager seeking new clients and for a client seeking a new solution.

3. Intelligence for humans, not robots

While Harvest uses behavioral data as inputs into its algorithms, for asset managers the same data offers an insight into the next human interaction. For example, knowing in real time whether certain targets are engaged with thought leadership on energy infrastructure, or reading your firm’s view on the yield curve, can provide extremely valuable qualitative information for a manager’s sales team. Additionally, understanding what your target audience demographics are interested in, what they aren’t, and how those trends are changing can also be used as inputs into deciding your upcoming marketing priorities. In short, asset management has always been a relationship-driven and deeply personal business. The availability of technology-empowered behavioral data does not have to mean full automation and the elimination of the human element. In fact, this data can be used to materially strengthen the human element so that a manager can achieve their desired outcome and their client enjoys a better user experience.

In the end, most people are growing weary from the deluge of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis. But with data being used for good, that deluge can be replaced with a stream of information that users will find relevant, interesting, and actionable. For investment managers, data can be applied to better align their interests with their clients. This includes the use of data to personalize the client experience, the ability to emphasize quality over quantity in their communications strategy, and by creating more meaningful conversations with their clients.

 

 

Ever wish someone had told you sooner?

By: Anne Farro and Ellen Jones
PAICR Board Members and 2018 RFP Symposium co-chairs.

We’re crazy about RFPs.  Well, maybe just crazy?  We guess that’s up for debate! However, between the two of us, we’ve got around 50 years’ experience with writing and proposals.

We’ve seen it all – from desktop printing to PDFing.  So we thought it would be valuable to at least document and pass down random observations that we wish someone had shared with us as we were coming along in our careers.  We presented these at our recent RFP Symposium where audience participation was amazing and feedback was lively and positive.  We laughed, commiserated and debated.  Most of all, we enjoyed professional companionship, shared experiences and valuable insights.

For those of you who missed out on the “party”, or would simply welcome a refresh of what was discussed, we’ve set out below the first half of what we rolled out during our Symposium presentation.  Stay tuned for installment #2, which will be coming soon.

RFP 101: Random Observations

 Professional Technical Writers

As an RFP writer, you’re on the hook for communication, punctuation and grammar.

  • Aim for a Flesch-Kincaid grade-level score of about 11th
  • Use active voice, ensure verb tense consistency and be precise with your word usage.
  • Writers read what they are producing. Do not just cut and paste.  Read what you are working on and improve for the purpose (edit, emphasize and rearrange).

Document Process and Procedures

You should have written step-by-step instructions for every team process:

  • Completing questionnaires
  • Quality checks
  • Final reviews and approvals, and
  • Content management.

And, make sure everyone follows them to the letter.  This helps protect you and the team in all audits (internal and regulatory).

Also, do you publish timelines at the beginning of each document/project?  For example, include when a draft is due to sales/compliance and when comments are due back to the team.  And hardcopy RFP responses should be mailed two days ahead of the due date.

Brand Ambassador

RFPs are one of the first client-facing interactions with your firm.  Make sure you follow brand guidelines.  Use the voice of your brand, color palette and approved imagery.  This is especially important when you have many SMEs contributing to the document.  Sales may own the pitch, but the RFP team should own the wordsmithing.

Customer Service

RFPs are the first customer service test.  So:

  • Answer the questions asked. If you are hoping some long answer has the answer to the question in it somewhere, you have missed the mark!
  • Use the questionnaire’s words and terminology wherever you can. This means  use words and terms from the question asked.  Swap out terms even if you think the client will understand what you are saying anyway.
  • And answer multiple question sets in the order that they are asked. Do not make your readers hunt around.

Be Evaluator Friendly

Newsflash! No one reads an RFP word for word.  They scan for anticipated information.  So how can you help direct the reader’s attention?

  • Be aware of RFP goals and evaluation criteria.
  • Use headings and sub-headings to direct your reader’s eye.
  • Also you may want to consider pulling out key information into a call out box, or bold the information to make it stand out (do not use italics for this purpose).

Stay tuned for the next installment …

Get Your RFP Insights Here

2018 RFP Symposium Committee

A few years ago, I sat in an airport with colleagues talking about our jobs. What do you say when someone asks you what you do? Fueled by beer and exhaustion, we threw out phrases highlighting the best business buzzwords—leverage, facilitate, organize, write. But nothing felt like it totally encompassed the incredible responsibility (and sometimes frustrating limits) of the position. As RFP professionals, we’re expected to demonstrate knowledge that runs both deep and broad, juggle competing priorities, and organize all parts of the firm to respond to a prospect’s request. The role touches everyone, but is ultimately unique in scope.

I’m not saying we’re a rare breed—or maybe we are? But it’s so great when the person/s on the other side of the conversation speaks the same language as you—at least “professionally”; when you’re all part of essentially the same “tribe.” Because chances are you all face exactly the same challenges, and you can all benefit from brainstorming solutions for your shared problems together.  So where can you find a tribal gathering of RFP professionals?  Well, the most immediate opportunity is at the PAICR RFP Symposium in NYC on Monday, May 7.

PAICR’s annual meeting—dedicated to those in the investment management RFP world—is a distinct forum where  proposal professionals get to discuss a range of relevant and topical issues. Through interactive sessions, you have the opportunity to engage with your peers from other firms across the industry. So, come with stories of your challenges and successes … and be prepared to walk away armed with new, actionable ideas to improve your processes and re-engage afresh with your job.

Here are a few of the important topics we will be covering this year:

  • Who’s the Boss? Explore how a RFP Team’s reporting structure can influence its effectiveness within the organization. This panel discussion will lead you through an interesting review of how RFP teams have been positioned throughout the industry.
  • Rise of the Machines In today’s competitive environment, proposals that show an understanding of the prospect’s goals and objectives will have a clear edge. All too often, important information from the sales team doesn’t get funneled to the proposal team. This break-out session will offer case studies of firms that leverage their CRM tool within the proposal process to effectively disseminate information and improve outcomes.
  • I Want it Now! Teams can no longer choose between quality and quantity; both are demanded simultaneously. This session will focus on how to manage this recurring debate in order to meet deadlines and maintain your sanity.

In addition to these sessions, the symposium continues to offer great training for both new and seasoned professionals. A classic forum, RFP 101, will guide writers and managers through the nuts and bolts of a successful RFP process.

So, if your team is in need of an “information-shot in the arm” on new and leading industry trends, join us at the PAICR 2018 RFP Symposium on May 7. The Early Bird registration special is available only until April 20, so get a move on … and we’ll see you in New York!

1 Big Thing: Your Communications Style is Outdated

By: Tucker Slosburg
President, Lyceus Group
http://www.lyceusgroup.com/
PAICR Secretary and Board of Directors member

Header

The oldest Millennials are in their mid-thirties and this could seriously impact how asset managers communicate with clients.

Why it Matters:

  • Older Millennials are in decision-making positions at institutions, at consultancies, and at wealth management firms.
  • They are a larger age cohort than Baby-Boomers
  • They consume information differently than both Boomers and Generation X’ers

Be Smart: Asset management firms who can balance modern linguistic styles with their brand identity will be more likely to reach more potential clients in an era of peak content.

But, but, but: This doesn’t mean brands should forgo their traditional identity altogether. Instead they must fuse their brand with an emerging style.

***********************************************

The Times They Are a-Changin

Okay, so if you happen to read the daily briefs from Axios, the above format will look familiar. That format is a buttoned-up version of changes in how we receive and digest information.

Sure, any number of industry reports will tell you that advisors want more digital engagement, but few—if any—explain what that means or looks like beyond polling what percentage of advisors look to email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, etc.

To really see how our style is changing, here are a few examples pulled from various newsletters, most of which are retail-oriented. It’s no grand statement to observe that the asset management industry is notoriously slow to change. It took how long for FINRA to advise on Twitter or LinkedIn? The point is that if you want to see what’s coming or how to communicate, look towards direct retail communications.

A Brave New World (of Style)

$he $pends is a website and newsletter whose motto is: “giving you actionable tools to tackle the wage, investing and board seat gaps.” With such ambitious goals, they use punchy, bold, and humorous language to convey their message.

Here’s how they summarize the weekly news. Take note of the headline and subject lines.

WTF

The title alone jumps out at you. Hardly something we advise sending to consultants, but important to consider that this level of informality resonates with their readers. Additionally, note how the headlines are both amusing and referential: “more experience, more problems,” clearly riffs off The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo money, Mo problems.”

Don’t doubt for a second the importance of millennial references from the ‘90s. Think of how many shows Millennials grew up with that are returning to TV: Rosanne, Will and Grace, Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks, and Netflix added more episodes of Arrested Development and turned Wet Hot American Summer into a series. And of course, there’s this segment from Saturday Night Live. The reference to Biggie Smalls is more than just fun, it communicates identity and affirms that the sender of the content doesn’t just “get it,” but more importantly, they “get you.”

Let’s look at another newsletter. The Penny Hoarder is a personal financial website and was named the fastest-growing private media company in North America by INC 5000. Headline emails like the example below probably help. It’s filled with millennial laid-back tones and super-fun jargon.

Penny

Can you believe it? Two amazingly fun and casual references in the first three words? That’s 66.67% of fun words before getting into the meat of the headline! You can often find “Friyay” references on the web with beer or wine next to them, or the play on Friday with Bae, a fading but still prevalent term of affection for one’s “significant other.” The point remains, this casual and approachable language is more welcoming than most quarterly letters.

The fight for attention is a big fight, and readers want something informative and fun. Being fun matters in the world of attention getting. With everyone worrying about content saturation, standing out and being fun and approachable matters. Consider this article from The Penny Hoarder:

McKinnon
Kate McKinnon talks money with kids

To capture the reader, The Penny Hoarder blatantly states their aim is to make it fun. As a reader, that’s far more appealing than not being fun.

No discussion of modern/millennial style would be complete without a discussion of theSkimm, a daily newsletter founded by two former news producers targeting female Millennials. There’s money behind building their audience. Google Ventures and others just raised $12 million in a recent round of funding. They deliver news in a compelling way to an eyewatering demographic. As they stated via ReCode:

“We have revolutionized the delivery of news and information to the most coveted demographic and, as we look to grow our membership by expanding our products and services, GV’s expertise and data-driven mindset makes them the ideal partner to aid in our expansion.”

What are they doing so differently that traditional outlets are not? Why are Google Ventures and others pouring so much into theSkimm? Because their style, their approach, and their delivery creates a lasting audience by speaking to their readers as humans.

So, what does a newsletter valued at $55 million dollars look like?

Skimm

The news is serious, the tone is lighthearted.

Cool. But how does that affect asset management—at all?!  Good questions, we’re getting there. Three, two, one, and, go.

Putting the Fun in Fund!

So, is any of this happening in the asset management space? Yes. Is it as loose and casual as retail? No, but that’s OK. Bill Gross did a fine job of keeping bond discussions approachable, and Warren Buffett is the master of sounding folksy. Smead Capital often uses movies in their missives, and I’ve seen references to Game of Thrones at some firms. Longboard recently went so far as to invoke Star Wars as a means to discuss alternative Investments. Here’s an example from one of their newsletters:

Longboard

I particularly appreciate the use of imagery and the use of Star Wars lingo in their bullet points, not because of my love for Star Wars (which is large), but because of the consistency and commitment it brings to their approach. It’s a full commitment to rethink the discussion of dry topics into something far more interesting.

I recently came across another younger firm, Newfound Research. They write about traditionally dry items, but their relaxed and humorous tone provides the reader access to more obscure subjects.

They make Monte-Carlo Simulations fun.

MonteCarlo

This is a fine example of brand building using a more approachable tone. It’s definitely not institutional in tone, but that’s okay because as Millennials age we’re going to be less focused on proving we sound smart, and more focused on proving we’re relatable—the title alone suggests that the firm “gets you” and less focused on the fact that they can talk about Monte Carlo simulations. That resonates with readers.

As Millennials take over more senior positions at all levels across the industry, it will be more important than ever to think beyond millennial jargon and re-think your firm’s communications style. Certainly, social media will matter, but it remains to be seen how much. Not to mention the effect compliance plays in permitting its use.

The notion that a campaign, an ad, a missive, or an email should reflect something authentic or personal — something beyond just what the S&P did versus your benchmark — will be the difference between building an audience and directing traffic. The former provides value, the latter drives away.

Finally, since we’re about distilling information and communications down to digestible pieces these days, here are some key takeaways to bear in mind as you develop your firm’s communications.

  • Speak like a human—authenticity matters
  • Speak casually—no one wants to hear how smart you are; they want to hear what you think
  • Informal is the new formal—it’s obvious when you try too hard

 

Zombies & RFPs – The Problem with the Undead

By: Cathy McLagan
PAICR President, PAICR Board of Directors member

“People talk about the death of the RFP because it’s gotten so complicated,” Christopher Faust (Qvidian) says. “They want to kill it but they can’t. It won’t die. There’s no way.”

Fundfire RFP Automation Tools Set to Alleviate Search Headaches, March 23, 2016

Zombies!  Ever since Night of the Living Dead introduced us to these slow moving non- descript monsters, we’ve seen an explosion of types and characters that are all related to the genre.

RFPs remind me of zombies.  For the last few years, we’ve been told that RFPs are dead. Big name plans announced they were abandoning the tradition model and instead shadow searches would be lurking behind the scenes.  While the traditional RFP model is changing, it’s not dead; like the zombie story genre, RFPs are evolving to keep teams busy and on their toes.

Slow vs. Fast Zombies

 Night of the Living Dead’s black and white zombies move slowly.  You have plenty of time to run away, pause and scream and then lock yourself in the house to wait for them to show up several minutes later and break through windows. Similarly, the traditional RFP model allowed time for review, public notice, along with a period to ask questions (or perhaps stop and scream), followed by the longer (several months) cycle for Q&A submission, receipt of files, etc.  We still see these types of RFPs and have time to stop and scream as we pull together the numerous pieces needed to complete and respond.

Technicolor zombies move fast. In features like World War Z, the slow-moving zombie is a thing of the past, replaced by zombies that overtake you before you reach the safety of home.  Similarly, the timelines for new RFPs are shortening.  You can submit clarification questions but might not get the answers until a few days before the deadline!  These timelines force teams to choose between working on a RFP they may not submit OR producing one in a few days.  Neither case is ideal and both are frustrating to all parties.

Permanent vs. Temporary–

There was a time when a zombie was a zombie and no amount of love could change them.  Today, the zombie genres include people infected by diseases and we learn we can coexist with the living dead. As in Shawn of the Dead or Warm Bodies, medicine, or even love, can cure a zombie returning them to contributing members of society….

Online tools also take these two approaches. Databases such as eVestment and GIMD are permanent homes for your products and information.  Data entered in these systems will live there for years to come (sometimes to your dismay).  No amount of love or medicine will change that ill-fated profile you created and your firm will permanently be explaining why you don’t maintain that 120/20 product anymore.

Now we are also seeing temporary homes for data.  Search facilitators use online portals to allow firms to submit information for a specific RFP or client. This direct connection to a search can cause confusion in-house – is it a database or a RFP?  Which team maintains it and reviews it?

Still breathing …

 Bottom line—if you’re waiting for the final nail to be put in the RFP’s coffin, I think you could be waiting quite a while. Clients and consultants are expanding the search methodologies they use but the industry hasn’t seen a mass abandonment of traditional RFPs. The evolving ways to gather information challenges RFP teams to be nimble and make friends with the Walking Dead.

 

Are you committing these Seven Deadly Twitter Sins?

By: Deb Well
PAICR Board of Directors member
PAICR Member since 2006

Until now, asset managers have been slow to adopt Social Media. But more are finally jumping into the “social” waters, primarily via LinkedIn and Twitter.  But are they getting the most out of their efforts?

With more firms (and content) vying for eyeballs, making your social media presence relevant, meaningful, and impactful is more important than ever.  If your firm is committing any of these “Twitter Sins”, making a few changes (some simple) can likely upgrade engagement activity with your content.

SIN #1: LACK OF VISUALS

Numerous studies support the fact that you are more likely to get engagement on Twitter if you include a picture, video, or even emoticons with your text.  Yes, a few high-profile folks can get by on just their words – Bill Gross or Jeff Gundlach don’t need visuals.  But most of the content being shared by firms does not carry that weight.  So look at adding images – it could potentially boost your engagement by up to 200%!

SIN #2: NOT MOBILE OPTIMIZED

Over 50% of traffic on Twitter is mobile.  If the link you are sharing is to your site and it is not Mobile optimized – this is a big fail.

SIN #3: NOT TAILORING FOR TWITTER

How often have you seen this – a Tweet that shares the first sentence or so of a blog post, but is cut off mid-thought with a link to the post?  Likely, the person was using the automatic “share” function from their blogging platform, which generated the tweet when the post goes live. This can also lead to awkward cutoffs in the text shared.

Automation can dilute personalization.  Whether it is that blog auto-poster, or a social media management platform that posts the same content across different channels, you need to put in the effort to optimize your content for Twitter – or any specific social platform – to get the most out of it.

SIN #4: BAD TIMING

Do your tweets that go out every Monday at 9 a.m. perform poorly?  This is not a surprise. Everyone who does email marketing knows the importance of optimizing send time – and it is no different in the social realm.

There are plenty of studies about the best time to post for all the various social platforms. And don’t forget to review your own Twitter stats. Analyzing when your followers are engaging with your content should help you fine tune your tweet schedule to get the most out of it.

SIN #5: NOT TAGGING

So your portfolio manager is on CNBC today?  Did you remember to tag @CNBC in your post?  Or perhaps your analyst was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article.  Did you tag @WSJ?

Tagging relevant parties in your posts increases the visibility of your content and the likelihood that it will get re-shared.    Bottom line: strategic use of this function can be a big boost for your content.

SIN #6: NOT GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CONTENT

In following several asset managers’ Twitter feeds, I will often see that they use a couple of different versions of tweets to share their blog posts or other content. Which is great … BUT I see those shares on the same day…and then never again.

Given all the effort put into creating that content, one or two measly tweets on a given day is not getting the biggest bang for your buck! Yes, vary the visuals and blurbs, but tweet it today – and a couple of days from now – and maybe a week after that.  Space it out and recycle that great content!

SIN #7: BAD HASHTAGS

Tweets with Bad Hashtags aren’t just the ones #with #too #many #hashtags #to #read.  Bad hashtags are ones that are randomly placed and not well thought out.

Do your research. Go to sites like Hastagify or Keyhole to gain insights and get the most out of your hashtags. Or search your proposed hashtag to see if it is trending; if it isn’t it might be worth going back to the #drawingboard.

The takeaway: Twitter (and other social media platforms) can be a powerful tool to engage and expand your network and brand voice. To maximize your efforts, make sure you are avoiding these pitfalls, fine tuning your messages so that they achieve their greatest potential in reach and engagement.

 

Agile Marketing in the Age of Disruption

By: Deb Well
PAICR Board of Directors member and 2017 Annual Conference Co-chair
PAICR Member since 2006

“I don’t want to scare you all, but….”  Lee Kowarski, DST Systems – PAICR Annual Conference Opening Keynote Speaker

We are being disrupted.  And we will continue to be disrupted at an increasingly faster pace.  And we need to embrace change, or else risk getting swept away or being made redundant or irrelevant.

That was just one of the very important messages delivered to the attendees of the PAICR Annual Conference in New York on November 13-14th.

Opening keynote speaker Lee Kowarski discussed industry consolidation, new competitive and disruptive entrants, technology adaptation, regulatory pressure, and changing advisor business models as just some of the catalysts of change reshaping the competitive landscape for asset managers. And he laid out the dramatic changes we all need to be thinking about to meet these challenges.

The distributor landscape is shrinking, asset managers are rationalizing their product lineups, and the future belongs to managers at opposing ends of the spectrum: those with broad product suites or specialized/niche players.

However, for the room full of asset management marketing professionals, there was an important piece of upbeat news – marketing is more important than ever before, and distribution teams are relying on them and becoming better partners than in the past.

All About Agile

Along with disruption, many of our conference sessions zeroed in on the concept of agile marketing – with both a big “A” and a little “a”.

Keynote speaker Andrea Fryrear of Agile Sherpas took on the big “A” Agile Marketing.  One of her key takeaways was about starting small – both in terms of implementing Agile once you return from the conference, but also in terms of creating an Agile marketing plan.  Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat. Start small and build up to scale.  Most firms now plan big, with the risk of failing big.  Starting small allows for learning from small failures with less risk and building small successes to bigger successes based on the knowledge gained from what you have measured and learnt.

Killing Marketing?

Keynote speaker Robert Rose introduced another disruptive concept – what if you killed marketing as it is practiced today?  He told the audience stories of several firms who have changed things up to look at marketing as a business model, rather than a functional cost center. They’ve re-invented their marketing as the function that invests in building audiences. Robert is the Chief Content Adviser for the Content Marketing Institute. Content Marketing has been THE buzzword in asset management over the last few years, so Robert’s talk was very timely, as well as the article on content marketing he contributed to our PAICR Blog before the conference.

Learn. Connect. Succeed

PAICR’s Annual conference has always stood as a great place for all attendees to learn about best practices in our industry for marketing and communication professionals and what they need to keep/make their firm more efficient and stay competitive. It is also a great way to connect with old contacts and meet new people, all of whom make up our incredibly supportive PAICR network that we can call on as a resource when needed.  In taking this time to come together at the PAICR Annual Conference, we all walk away with the keys to help our firms succeed, and to be ready for the many changes that face us as asset management marketers as we go forward into 2018.

Are you a PAICR Member? Learn about the benefits of membership here.

Want to become more involved, maybe help plan next year’s RFP or Annual Conference?  Send us an email and let us know