INTERVIEW: Ninety One’s CMO on four years of the rebrand

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Ninety One CMO, Malcolm Fried, shares what’s on the agenda for asset manager Ninety One.


FSF: What are your current priorities?

Malcolm Fried: We’ve a few principles, which are always our priorities. To be business people as well as marketing people. To act with conviction, which means to be informed. To make good choices. To find and sustain a differentiated and distinctive position in a cluttered market.


Roughly four years on from the Ninety One rebrand, where would you say the brand is now?

We believe a brand is a function of everything we do. It’s our reputation, which is founded, over time, on products, services, and behaviours, as well as how, what, and where we communicate. The brand is not merely a colour palette or a logo. In this whole sense, in our 33rd year in business, we’re confident, though definitely not complacent, about our positioning.

Every day is another opportunity and obligation to perform all over again. In respect of the visual identity we adopted on our independent listing in March 2020, it feels like we’re creating a recognisable space for Ninety One. We all know it takes discipline to be creative within boundaries, and boundaries must be there if we’re to present ourselves consistently.


Are there any plans to update or build on the brand platform?

We’ve no intention of changing any element of our VI. By any measure in our industry, a platform that’s only four years old is young. Our sole focus here is on embedding, consistently and over time, the visual elements of our identity in the ways we’d originally designed.

There are very few good reasons to change one’s VI – or, colloquially, one’s brand. One reason is that one is forced to, as we were, because we demerged from the parent group.

Another is that the very nature of a product or service changes, creating fissures or fractures with the existing VI. In our view, material changes to VI should be made in an extremely considered, restrained, and rational way, and never just because it feels like “it’s time for a bit of a refresh” or “a new VI will give a boost to our product” or similar.


Which markets/areas of the business are you currently focused on expanding?

Internationally, we’re focused on differentiated fixed income and credit as well as specialist equity. Also, we believe our heritage and experience give us an edge in emerging market investing.


What are your main marketing plans for the rest of 2024 and for 2025?

Our marketing strategy is really a mirror of the firm’s strategy – the focus areas in the previous question. We don’t cook up marketing plans without working pretty hard to understand our investment focus and our sales initiatives. We say marketing exists to help create relationships of value with our clients. To get value, we need to provide it. Broadly, then, our plans as marketers are designed to support how we’re positioned as a firm and those things to which we aspire.


Recently asset management brand campaigns seem to focus more on in-house expertise than on say, ESG – eg T. Rowe Price, M&G, Royal London Asset Management. What do you think is the current battleground for asset management brands?

The current battleground for investment managers is not, in our opinion, primarily with one another. Every firm, to succeed, must provide value to clients, across various segments, investment categories, and geographies. This isn’t a zero-sum game.

The mission is to power through what’s been a tough global economic and market environment by showing clients the value in what we provide, and can provide, over the long term. Here, no one knows a firm or its capabilities better than the people who work there. It makes sense to us to promote our own experience and expertise.


Do you still see the value and importance in above the line in a more product driven marketing landscape?

After quite a few years of experience, I’m yet to be convinced one can achieve causation, as opposed to correlation, in advertising outcomes for investment managers targeting disparate, sophisticated, and globally diverse institutional audiences.

Perhaps one can. In the advisor segments, we’re more inclined to promote via advertising, though in contained ways where we’ve a high level of confidence we’re reaching only relevant markets.

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