What Asset Managers Need to Know About Marketing to Millennials

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Dec 8, 2017 7:30:00 AM

With Millennials set to inherit an estimated $40 trillion from aging Baby Boomers over the next several decades, it’s no surprise that asset management firms have spent a tremendous amount of energy trying to figure out how to crack the Millennial code.

While most of the research into marketing to Millennials, the generation born from 1980 to 2000, has focused on how they differ from previous generations in terms of their spending habits, communication styles, investment priorities, and media-consumption habits, one investment marketing professional urges asset managers to start by understanding what Millennials have in common with older generations.

Libby Dubick, the head of an agency that helps financial services firms optimize their marketing and distribution strategies, said that there are many important similarities between Millennials and older generations—and these similarities have important implications for how asset managers market to Millennials. Like older generations, Millennials say that family is their top priority, are moderate in terms of their risk tolerance, value expertise when selecting a professional advisor, and will need more financial advice as their lives get more complicated.

Despite these similarities, Dubick said that there are, indeed, significant differences between Millennials and older generations that financial marketers should be aware of. In terms of how they spend their money, Millennials value experiences over owning material goods. When it comes to what types of messages and brands resonate with them, authenticity trumps nearly all other characteristics for Millennials.

“These have important implications for financial services firms,” Dubick said in her presentation to fellow asset management marketing professionals at PAICR’s 2017 annual conference in New York City, where the theme was “Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat. Agile Marketing in the Age of Disruption.”

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

5 Lessons From Ebenezer Scrooge on Writing a Year-End Client Letter

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Dec 6, 2017 8:19:00 AM

A version of this post was originally published in December 2016, and it has been updated to reflect the economic and political developments of the past year.

The holiday season and the end of the year provide a great opportunity for financial services firms to reach out to clients. Writing a letter that provides valuable insight and strikes the right emotional tone, however, is easier said than done in the financial services industries.

Believe it or not, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’s classic tale about Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, provides some powerful lessons that financial professionals can use to write a classic year-end client letter.

Here are five Dickens-inspired tips to keep in mind as you sit down to write this year’s letter:

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Financial Writing Tips

Evolve or Die: Asset Management Marketing in The Age of Disruption

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Dec 5, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The disruptive forces that are reshaping the asset management industry—robo advisors, fee compression, consolidation, regulatory change, just to name a few—are well known. What’s not as clear, however, is how asset managers need to adapt their marketing communications to succeed in this new landscape.

According to Lee Kowarski, a keynote speaker at PAICR’s 2017 annual conference in New York City, navigating these disruptive forces is a matter of survival for asset managers, and marketing’s ability to articulate a firm’s differentiation is more important than ever.

“As scary as (the current era of rapid change) can be, we look at it as a pretty exciting time,” said Kowarski, a vice president at DST Systems, which provides advisory, technology, and operations outsourcing to the financial and healthcare industries. “It’s a time when you actually can separate yourself from the pack and a time when marketing is going to be very much elevated in organizations. ... (Marketing) is really going to be a differentiator for organizations.”

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Ghostwriting, Asset Management Marketing

FCS Recap: Marketing Financial Services to Women

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Dec 1, 2017 12:46:46 PM

Women are living longer than men, graduating with professional degrees at a faster rate than men, and representing an increasing percentage of senior executives and entrepreneurs. As a result, women’s influence as investors and consumers of financial services is greater than ever.

Despite this expanding clout, the financial services industry’s marketing to women is largely missing the mark, according to extensive research conducted by Kantar, a global research, data, and insight agency. “Women really aren’t coming to the category confidently and they aren’t feeling engaged,” said Anita Watkins, Kantar’s Global Head of Qualitative and the keynote speaker at the Financial Communications Society’s (FCS’s) November 28 event in Chicago, “Marketing Financial Services to Women.” 

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Asset Management Marketing, marketing to women

Do Emojis, Hashtags, and GIFs Belong in Your Financial Writing?

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Nov 27, 2017 7:30:00 AM

Asset management has always been one of the most conservative industries in terms of its approach to marketing communications. Obviously, much of this lack of risk-taking stems from compliance restrictions. But this conservatism is more pervasive than being limited in how you can talk about performance or how you are allowed to engage with clients on social media. The conservative nature of asset management marketing also manifests itself in the language and tone that firms use in their communications.

If you were to audit the language used by asset managers in their advertising, brochures, websites, blogs, social posts, and other marketing materials, you would probably find that the following descriptors would apply to the word choices and tone: sophisticated, formal, modest, traditional, measured, precise, refined, authoritative, or stuffy.

If you are in an industry whose value proposition is based on managing other people’s money, being perceived as being serious and careful are undoubtedly good things. But when it comes to differentiating your firm’s brand and capturing your audience’s attention in an increasingly crowded marketing landscape—one where ideas have to be conveyed in 140 characters (or 280 characters now) and clients expect to receive real-time messages that are personalized to their reading interests—sounding like a traditional, old-school asset management firm probably won’t get the job done.

Tailoring Your Brand’s Voice - Lessons from PAICR

At this year’s PAICR national conference in New York in November, I was on a panel that discussed how asset management firms can adapt their brand’s voice to fit today’s media landscape by being more engaging, conversational, and informal. (PAICR is the leading organization for investment management marketing and communications professionals.) On the panel, I was joined by Tucker Slosburg, the president of Lyceus Group, a Seattle-based firm that provides public relations and message development services for asset management firms.

During our discussion, “Tailoring Your Brand's Voice in a Disrupted Marketing Landscape,” Tucker and I talked about several lessons that marketing professionals at asset management firms should keep in mind as they think about how to adapt their firm’s voice. Here a several of the key takeaways:

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Financial Writing Tips, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

CAIA Event Recap: Has Private Equity Entered Bubble Territory?

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Nov 18, 2017 10:41:40 AM

With fundraising by private equity funds hovering near all-time highs for the past several years, many institutional investors have been asking whether there is a bubble in private equity as an asset class.  

University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Steven N. Kaplan, one of the world’s foremost experts in researching the performance of private equity and venture capital, addressed this question in his keynote address at the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association’s annual awards ceremony on November 9.

“Where are we in the cycle? Not a great place,” Kaplan said, citing the fact that private equity returns tend to be lower in years with high levels of capital commitments, as well as the rising leverage levels and valuations for buy-outs. “Are we in a bubble? I would say, no, because … a bubble basically means that expected returns are negative, and I don’t think that expected returns are negative.”

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, White Papers, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

5 Sections to Include in Your Financial Writing Style Guide

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Nov 14, 2017 12:22:43 PM

“There’s only one way to eat an elephant—one bite at a time.”

This is one of the many great lessons that my dad has taught me. It’s helped me overcome feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of many large projects, and it’s been especially helpful throughout my career as a financial writer.

If I try to think about all of the work that goes into writing a white paper, I’m not sure that I have the energy to do it. But if I instead realize that writing is just a series of many small, manageable steps and I remind myself that I only need to focus on doing one of those tasks at a time, then it’s easy to get started.

This same principle applies when you create a style guide for your financial writing. If you think you need to come up with a comprehensive list of all of the grammar, punctuation, number usage, and other stylistic issues that show up in your financial communications, the task of creating a style guide will seem daunting. But, if you instead realize that creating a style guide is just a series of small, easy steps, you will feel a lot better about getting started.

The first step is determining how you want to organize your style guide.

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Financial Writing Tips, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

How to Create a Style Guide for Your Financial Writing

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Oct 31, 2017 10:00:00 AM

What could possibly be less exciting than a blog post about capitalization, punctuation, and number-usage rules? A blog post that combines all of those stylistic topics with a lecture about how your firm should have a style guide to help you enforce consistency across your marketing materials—that’s what!

But just because style rules aren’t captivating, that doesn’t mean they are unimportant. In fact, style inconsistency is the “silent killer” when it comes to how people judge the quality of your financial writing. Inconsistent style usage doesn’t jump off the page the same way that typos, grammar errors, or awkward sentence structures do. But over time, style inconsistencies can erode your perceived competence and make your firm look unprofessional.

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Financial Writing Tips, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

How to Write About Controversial Topics in Your Investment Newsletter

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Sep 28, 2017 10:05:44 AM

Many investment firms struggle when deciding what they should write about in their investor newsletters. These decisions can become particularly difficult when there are high-profile news events that are dominating headlines in the mainstream media.

As a financial writer who helps companies write their newsletters, I get a lot of questions from clients along the lines of, “Should we be writing about [insert trending, high-profile news item here] in our newsletter? I know our clients are hearing a lot about this, and it seems like we should have a point of view on it.”

Clients will bring up many different considerations when talking through these decisions, including: “We don’t want to look like we have our heads in the sand.” “We want to show that we are relevant.” “We don’t want to touch an issue that is too politicized or divisive.” “We don’t want to end up being wrong.” “We don’t want to ‘get outside of our lane’.” And the list goes on.

Given the number of considerations companies try to weigh, it’s no wonder that firms struggle when deciding whether to write about a high-profile and potentially controversial topic.

Rather than trying to balance all of those separate considerations, firms should narrow their thought-process and answer one main question: “Can we add value for our clients by writing about this topic?” If the answer is yes, the topic probably belongs in your newsletter. If the answer is no, leave it out.

Let’s apply this litmus test to a few recent topics that have been grabbing headlines lately.

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Newsletters, Financial Writing Tips, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing

3 Tips For Writing High-Quality Investor Letters

Posted by Scott Wentworth on Sep 13, 2017 10:52:00 AM

Writing quarterly letters to investors is a fact of life for portfolio managers, financial advisors, and other professionals in the asset management industry. Whether you operate a mutual fund that is legally required to send out a quarterly letter or you’re a financial advisor who just wants to have a regular stream of communication to keep clients updated about market conditions, the deadline for your next quarterly letter always seems to be right around the corner.

If you’re like a lot of quantitative-minded people, these investor letters might be the most writing-intensive task that you have to tackle all quarter. But sitting down and putting your ideas about the fund’s performance, market valuations, or macroeconomic conditions—things that you spend all day thinking about—in writing might not be as simple as it sounds.

As a professional ghostwriter who works with clients across the financial services industry, I’ve helped many clients write or edit their quarterly letters to investors. So I’ve seen a lot of excellent letters—and a lot of weak ones, too.

Here are three things you can do to enhance the quality of your quarterly investor letters:

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Topics: Financial Advisor Marketing, Financial Writing Tips, Investment Banking Marketing, Asset Management Marketing