Eurizon SLJ Capital Head of Distribution: “Sales and marketing should be 100% integrated”

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Asset manager Eurizon SLJ Capital is seeking to build a distinctive presence in the UK market around its research expertise, enabled by a cutting edge technology stack, says the firm’s Head of Distribution Matt Jones.

The firm was formed in 2016 when SLJ Macro Partners joined forces with Eurizon Capital SGR, the €392bn (at the end of June 2022) asset management division of Italian banking group Intesa Sanpaolo. The parent has ten asset management centres around the world and distribution in 24 countries, with the firm launching its first two strategies in the UK based around Chinese onshore and emerging market bonds in February 2021.

“The reason I joined in September 2019 was to help set up the UK asset management business and bring the company to the UK market,” explains Matt.

Having worked in distribution roles at Royal London for over 12 years, Matt embraced the role as a “blank piece of paper”.

The main priority for the next 12 months is to amplify the funds launched in February last year and raise awareness of the business, with their UK China Bond fund having a strong pipeline, building on their £3.7bn total UK AUM. Chinese onshore bonds are a relatively new asset class for many people, part of the objective is educating people of the benefits of this niche class.

Working with a local agency, Matt oversees the UK’s distribution strategy with support from the parent company. The UK arm of the company is boutique “with a capital B”, explains Matt, backed up by a “strong, well-resourced and caring parent” which supports via a strong marketing operations and PR team.

He adds that the parent has “placed trust in the UK business”, acknowledging the differences between markets and combining a centralised and local approach.


A symbiotic sales-marketing relationship

As head of overall distribution for the UK, Matt believes that sales and marketing have to be “100% integrated”.

“Sales and marketing have to be symbiotic. Running the two separately is missing out on insight, and the opportunity to be very agile and client-led.”

Will the company hire a formal head of marketing? Matt says the company plans to add resource as the company grows, but takes an agnostic approach to whether specific positions will be hired for, such as CMO.

“Sales and marketing are a constantly evolving environment. If I said to myself, in five years’ time, I will have a head of marketing, head of sales and the different silo approach, I’d probably be limiting creativity. I’d rather keep a bit of an agile mindset about that. Absolutely, that’s a possibility. But I want to keep an open mind.”

“We spend a lot of time working with international sales colleagues and have branches in a number of countries. In particular, for strategies we manage on their behalf, we’re in close and constant contact with salespeople on the ground.”

The salespeople provide a “really positive feedback loop” about the concerns and needs of clients.


Tech-powered content

He says Eurizon SLJ Capital is a “very content-rich company.”

There are two sides to the content: on the one hand, research which is a subscription service.

On the other, there is content produced for the broader public, covering a range of macroeconomics and policy topics across the world. There are also regular long-form editorial comments from Stephen Jen, the firm’s CEO and co-CIO.

Matt groups content into “banquets” and “snacks”.

“We have a huge amount of very long-form content, which is nice – we all like a long lunch or a banquet. But we don’t always have time for that.”

Part of the content challenge, then, is turning long-form content into snackable content.

“We take a larger piece of research or content and look at ways we can tailor and cater to different appetites. We acknowledge some people like to read, listen, watch – there’s no reason the same content can’t be tailored across different channels.”

Matt is interested in technological solutions to this, describing himself as a “bit of a geek”. He and his team have spent time building out a technology stack, encompassing tools such as AI-generated text-to-audio.

“It’s great to have an integrated approach when it comes to content creation and sales – short data-driven insights from the sales perspective is essential.”

He says the way to differentiate from competitors is to solve simple problems, giving salespeople access to data so they can respond in an agile, nimble way.

One aspect of this is an AI tool which autogenerates sales messaging, such as the performance of strategies relative to peers.

“We’re able to cut down time and the traditional model of different teams with sales support. I remember back in the day if you wanted insight or a bespoke report you would have to submit a request, which can take two days to get to the client.

“We can cut that down to 90 seconds – a fully compliant, signed-off report, personalised with the client’s name.”

Matt says this kind of technology is “incredibly exciting”.

“One of the great things about not having some of the legacy infrastructure is being able to put a lot of this in place.”

Having started work on the technology stack in 2019, by the time the firm launched its strategies the marketing digital infrastructure had completely changed, with AI-powered natural language processing, a new CRM and text-to-audio tools.

“All of this can be done very cost-effectively and quite quickly.”

He says that while the “normal stuff” such as email automation and insights as to who is doing what are all incredibly important.

“You can use the insights you have efficiently and in a dynamic way to enable sales and inform further marketing content.”


Passion and authenticity

While Eurizon SLJ Capital doesn’t have a one-line elevator pitch for its brand, it aims to get across to clients a picture of the type of business it is: the quality of its research, how that informs investments, and delivers the right outcomes for clients.

“What we basically try to portray is authenticity. We’re a passionate business. We always strive for excellence. We act with integrity, and we’re a highly collaborative group of people, for want of a better phrase.”

The ethos is set by founders Stephen Jen and Fatih Yilmaz, who lead in every aspect of the business.

“What they have created is something incredibly special – the guiding principles really make it a special place to work and in the longer term will set us apart.”

However, there is a huge focus on diversity of thought in the company, with work done to bring in and train new graduates. For example, the China strategies team is majority female, all originally from China. Founder Stephen Jen is from Taiwan, was educated in the US and has worked in Europe for many years.

“What really gets us excited is forming those intellectual partnerships with clients, prospects and contacts – having a reputation for thinking differently, having orthogonal perspectives to cut through the noise and really contribute to the debate.”

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