INTERVIEW: Ascot Lloyd CMO seeks differentiation in advice space

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

IFA firm Ascot Lloyd is looking to implement a rebrand while navigating the challenges of communicating this across its large network of advisors, says its CMO Simon Vella.

Simon started at the firm in May 2022. His role also encompasses profit and loss responsibility for the firm’s telephone advice business, as well as marketing for discretionary fund manager Avellemy, which recently underwent a brand refresh.

His primary focus is working on the Ascot Lloyd brand itself, a project which has so far entailed six months of an “insight phase” consisting of talking to colleagues, partners and introducers around their views and opinions of the firm. This has been followed up by a major piece of research into what motivates and drives people when it comes to financial advice.

The current objective is finding the right themes to test from a messaging and creative perspective. Some of this research has looked into distinctiveness – or lack of it – within the market.

“We’ve [spoken to] lots of clients and look-alike clients. We talk to them around their perceptions of other people’s brands, and they all seem to land in the same place, which is that they’re a bit safe, vanilla and trying to appeal to too many people.”

The research has however revealed a few areas where the firm might be able to differentiate.

“That’s obviously going to go into building out a creative brief and working with an agency, all the way through to how we’re going to roll it out in a controlled way.”

He expects to see the brand being rolled out from the last quarter of this year, coinciding with the launch of the firm’s new digital proposition.

A firm like Ascot Lloyd, which has growth through the acquisition of IFAs, can face a challenge presenting a unified brand to clients who primarily see their relationship as with the advisor and sometimes even the legacy brand.

Marketing has to articulate the key things that matter and demonstrate value around five core drivers: trust, peace of mind, fees, performance and clarity, Simon says.

Simon expects the arrival of Gary Stirrup, joining as Chief Commercial Officer from Brooks Macdonald, will help to provide a much closer link to the advisor community and what their challenges are.

“We want the client to understand that there’s more than just an advisor in this relationship. There are lots of people that are helping.

“You’re not trying to break or replace that relationship between the advisor and the client, but you’re trying to then layer in the importance of Ascot Lloyd as the business that sits above the advisors.”


Marketing strategy

When Simon first joined the business, marketing was essentially there to support the rest of the business. Now everything it does is aligned to the overall strategy of the business.

He also notes that decisions weren’t made with data and insight at their heart.

“That’s the other big change. Everything we do and talk about has to have some degree of data and insight sitting behind it.”

Every piece of marketing output also now has to have some element of value creation underpinning it, whether financial or simply providing clients with a better outcome.

“The overall strategy is very aligned to strategic objectives, very grounded in insight and very focused on creating some sort of value.”

Simon’s third year in his position will see him working on the firm’s referral strategy, which will be core to its growth in future.

“I’ve implemented successful referral strategies in the past; they tend to have been in very different business models. Our business model is predominantly face-to-face advisors dealing with a client and you’re trying to seek a referral when you’re talking to them which tends to be at the point you’re giving them advice, which tends to be hard.”

Other areas of focus include channel strategy, where there will be a mixture of scaling up what worked well last year alongside testing new channels in the hope of scaling them up in the future.

At the time of writing, Ascot Lloyd is also soon to launch the first iteration of its hybrid advice style proposition. Simon views hybrid advice models as the future of the industry and a way of serving underserved segments of the market.

“We’re just about to launch a proprietary Ascot Lloyd digital account for clients where they will be able to do relatively simple activities around seeing their portfolio, their plans, updated valuations of their plans, the performance of plans since they’ve invested, as well as update their details to assess periodic suitability on an ongoing basis.”

“We’re at a point where we’re going to launch something to clients that is relevant and exciting and ties right back to some of our core strategic objectives and becomes helpful in the future.”

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