Matthew Heath, Invesco Chief Marketing Officer, Americas and EMEA, takes on the core myths about brand in asset management.
It has long seemed strange to me that, for an industry which relies on trust above all else, financial services has seldom excelled at building brands. Brands are marks of trust that short-cut and assist the thousands of choices we make every day, guiding us to decisions where we can have confidence in the consistency, probity and value of what is being offered.
Unfortunately, many asset management brands have been all about product, performance and price, perhaps with a sprinkling of post purchase servicing. Few asset managers place enough importance on building brands that go beyond just their businesses, to differentiate their offering in a way which resonates more than these functional dimensions.
And myths abound:
Our audience are professional buyers, not swayed by brand in their decision making. My response would be that they are people like us, people who use brands to navigate just about every other aspect of their lives, including massive B2B purchasing decisions.
Performance is all that matters when evaluating asset manager brands. Here I think we are missing the point. Strong brands drive more loyalty and they open the door to honest and fruitful discussion. Few active strategies will win all the time, but during a bumpy ride those asset managers with deeper customer relationships will have earned the right to at least engage and look at what can be done. Brands are a way to explain what makes your firm different and why you believe that will win over the longer term.
The industry is going through so much secular change we don’t have time or money to invest in brands. This, in my view, could not be more wrong. The rise of passive investment, the slow democratisation of private assets, the development of more tailored solutions…all these changes are opportunities for brands to help educate, inspire and differentiate. Without the more emotive, more sophisticated connection with our buyers that brands can help facilitate, we may all be in a race to the bottom where functionality is all that counts.
Time and again we see from our research that clients value the other great things a strong asset manager can bring, from thought leadership and agile service, to personalised solutions and access to people who want to help their own business to succeed. A strong and differentiated brand goes a long way to signalling both intent and execution in all these less product-centric dimensions of what we do.
So will 2024 see the growth of more brand thinking, the development of braver and more interesting differentiation and expression? I for one hope so. Asset management is, in effect, one of the last brand landscapes where it is all still very much to play for. That will change and next year is as good a time as any to make the right steps forward.