£20 billion asset manager Polar Capital has leant into its heritage as it sought to refresh its brand and user experience over the last three years, says Head of Marketing Vik Heerah.
Vik joined Polar Capital in summer 2019, after near ten year stints at both Fidelity and Artemis. Prior to 2019, marketing at the firm had been largely reactive, focusing mainly on marketing services and events without utilising the full marketing mix. Polar Capital had achieved a lot without any strategic marketing, and he joined a company without a marketing structure, no set budget and a dated website.
As well as building the team itself and explaining the role of marketing and its benefits, a key item on Vik’s to-do list had been the brand refresh. It was important to not change the approach for the sake of it, he says.
“For me it was important that people associated with Polar Capital liked it and it ‘felt’ like Polar.”
The decision was made to focus on the company’s heritage: a boutique, modern company but with a traditional approach. Crucially, this was combined with a collegiate, investment-led, meritocratic culture.
“How you communicate that brand is more than just imagery, it feeds into how you engage with clients. ” he says.
The company’s logo is a snowflake, with the similar shape of a hexagon also deployed as a creative device to represent the investment teams coming together.
The company targets both investment professionals and individual investors, although the primary focus is professionals.
“I’m a big believer in not over-complicating things,” he says, asked whether more excitement needs to be brought into the sector.
Primarily, he thinks the interest can come from engaging and relevant content.
“We did a piece on the Metaverse, which is an interesting and exciting topic in itself How you package that up is where you can inject a bit of dynamism.”
Polar’s Investment Insights page features content on a wide range of topics and in different formats, including video interviews with fund managers, articles, infographics and longer form thought leadership pieces covering topics from stagflation and inflationary fears to the race for energy independence in the wake of the Russia / Ukraine conflict.
The common thread for content at the firm is that it’s investment-led, he says.
“We look at what markets are doing, what our fund managers are thinking and doing.”
However, in order to produce something that ticks the two boxes of what investment teams want to talk about and what clients want to hear about, the generation of the content is a collaborative process.
“I’m a big believer that content should be insightful; if we don’t have something to say I’d rather not say it. If you tell the stories people are interested in and demonstrate your investment expertise, the funds will hopefully sell themselves.”
Vik uses a number of standard key metrics to measure success, such as cost per view, the number of new clients being reached and content dwell time. A focus at present is integrating lead scoring and lead generation.
“The shift to digital marketing provides marketers with far more intelligence around consumer behaviour and what products people are engaging on. Embedding marketing technology to harness this information and provide leads to sales is something we’re focussing on.”
In a fast-moving market it is important to know when to turn the volume up on certain products; for example, financials focussed funds were out of favour for a long time, before showing signs of a turnaround last year.
Vik says that the market is very broad compared to when he entered the sector, ultimately offering investors more choice.. Time will tell, he adds, whether a more uncertain market will benefit active managers.
“A period where there a fewer losers due to quantitative easing is that bit more challenging for an active manager. As the interest rate environment normalises it may become a stock-picker’s market.
“When markets are volatile you need to move more tactically; you can’t plan your marketing too far ahead as the environment can change very quickly but you can focus on helping clients understand the environment they’re in.”
This ability to respond quickly is enhanced by the strong integration of the distribution team within the office, with marketing seated next to the sales team. As in many asset managers, Vik says that the pandemic-driven shift to digital enhanced the internal profile of marketing.
The distribution team’s current objective is to support the business’s global diversification, demonstrated by their marketing plans in the US and its new website in Australia.
“In some ways I don’t like the separation of sales and marketing. It’s distribution. That’s what we’re all looking to achieve, perhaps working at different points of the funnel, but very much working closely together.”
The culture at Polar Capital differs from that of his previous roles. Fidelity, he says, was a great learning environment to start out in.
“The marketing engine at Fidelity is powerful,” he says, noting that during his time, they employed an in-house agency and media buyer, and had the ability to learn from the US business. Culturally, distribution had a strong influence in the business.
Contrastingly, Artemis and Polar Capital are both investment-led businesses; Artemis had the established brand of the profit hunter.
“As a business when we take a product to market it’s because the investment team believes in it. A more distribution-led business might launch a product because they feel it’s marketable.
“Our teams are specialist; our role is to take that expertise and communicate it to clients.”