Asset management marketers need to build a collaborative internal culture before they can realise the benefits of new technology, according to the Global Director of Marketing of one of Europe’s largest asset managers.
Since joining the firm three years ago, LGIM’s Global Director of Marketing Andy McQuillan’s goal has been to modernise the marketing team. When he arrived, he explains, “the team’s structure was quite fragmented and marketing strategy under-developed. It was a very high quality team in terms of professional capabilities that was not able to do its best work.”
This had external impacts as well, with people “not always clear what LGIM stood for. It was a series of individual messages going to the market rather than a coherent whole about the many great strengths of the LGIM business.”
Andy argues that these issues are shared broadly by the asset management sector, which he says is not marketing-led and struggles to define the role and value of the discipline.
“In some ways marketing has an existential question to answer about what it is in the asset management context. You don’t have to answer that at Procter & Gamble or Unilever.”
Asking the team to define marketing when he first arrived at LGIM produced many different answers, says Andy.
“There’s a need for asset management to redefine what marketing means for our sector and not simply ape the models of FMCG, for example.”
He adds that there has been a considerable focus on proliferating channels and martech in recent years but less on the things that precede these, which he defines as “leadership, structure, process, collaboration and nurturing creativity.”
These areas have formed the heart of the modernisation programme which Andy has undertaken since he joined the firm.
Particularly key has been the integration of different teams, including digital.
“Unless you put the effort into making sure the digital team is integrated with marketing, you get a digital silo and a separate marketing programme through digital channels compared to the content stream or channel marketing.”
He argues that substantial marketing teams are usually grouped in vertical functions of high expertise, which have relatively low transferability of skills between them. However, the best marketing is integrated, he argues.
“The big organisational challenge is how do you get a horizontal slice through your brand, content, digital and events capabilities and point them at the client or prospect in an integrated way.
“That is at its heart a leadership, structural and managerial challenge as much as a question of budgets, themes or campaigns.”
Marketing modernisation at LGIM
In 2019, Andy launched the marketing modernisation programme, creating a unified global marketing and communications team.
“We unified around a common vision to be the best marketing team in the industry. We tried to unlock the creativity and energy of people in marketing. The results really flowed – there has been outstanding work done by the whole team.”
“It’s based on a series of principles which are unified across the whole team. We bring together our vertical teams of experts into horizontal virtual teams so that they are assigned to client channels. Everyone is pulling together to create and execute strategies for those particular channels.”
LGIM also uses an in-house agency model and insources as much work as it can, which he says leads to a mutually reinforcing dynamic where people feel empowered and trusted and external agencies are less necessary anyway.
“One of the great tragedies of marketing is having talented people in-house who take the brief and pass the interesting challenges to external agencies. Third party agencies tend to have less knowledge about asset management and the complexities of a business as large as LGIM, and also don’t have the bandwidth to invest in stakeholder relationships.”
LGIM was able to start 2020 with a new team approach and plan. This meant that when Covid hit, the company was able to rapidly pivot to pandemic marketing, both in terms of the team itself remote working and finding new ways to contact clients and prospects through digital means.
“The outcomes [of the programme] are a happier team, a happier business and great connectivity through challenging times with clients, prospects and other stakeholders,” says Andy.
Internally, he highlights that team morale as measured through employee satisfaction scores (ESAT) has increased markedly. In addition, a survey by Broadridge which ranked asset managers for brand and communication saw LGIM ranked number one in the UK.
The next phase is a “good to great” journey, explains Andy.
“There’s lots of exciting enhancements in the pipeline in terms of technology, teamworking and creativity coming.
“If you don’t do the hard work around culture, structure, empowerment and development of the team, just putting tech in isn’t going to solve challenges we talked about. We’re at the right place now to be really innovative.”
Culture and structure first
Andy says his role has engaged his experience from across his “varied” career, which he describes as atypical for a marketing director. This has included a variety of sectors and countries, including strategic consultancy.
“In our team there are people running digital marketing strategy teams who are stronger in those areas than I am in a day-to-day sense. I draw on management experience, with the need to be nimble and led by the client.”
He likens his current role to a consulting role, where he has been empowered to see through the changes that are needed.
“With consulting, you leave the paper with the management team and go to the next client. This has been an initial piece of consulting, building a high-performing team and then seeing it through.”
Adapting to digital marketing during Covid
The inception of the pandemic forced LGIM to pivot quickly away from its large face-to-face events programme.
The company had historically had two blogs but these were unified into one. LGIM also launched a new podcast called LGIM Talks, which has reached over 15,000 clients and increased visits to the site by 30% year on year.
Like many companies, LGIM was forced to move events to online.
“What we found was we reached more clients at a lower cost,” says Andy.
He cites almost 1000 registrations for LGIM’s sustainability summit earlier this year and thenumber of live attendees to LGIM’s retail investment conference increased by 49% from the in-person events.
“Feedback was unanimously positive – it is something we will continue to deliver.”
Andy dismisses the idea of “Zoom fatigue” – “not for thoughtful, engaging events and content.” He argues that the future is hybrid and the challenge will be developing events in a strategic way so that they are targeting people at the right stage of the client journey.
Key to this is the collaboration between events teams, channel marketing teams and strategy teams. The reach and engagement of events is mapped alongside the marketing funnel so that distribution teams can follow up with conversations.
“Gone are the days of relying on anecdotal evidence that something was a great event,” Andy adds.
He adds that there is a “strong always-on component to asset management marketing.
“People expect us to be sharing our expertise on the blog and through the CIO update. There is no just putting out generic content for a business as broad and wide as LGIM – a trustee of a pensions scheme has different priorities to an IFA.”
While the messaging has to be tailored, a primary focus of LGIM messaging is around sustainability.
“We’re clear on our purpose which is to create a better future through responsible investing.”
A lot of activity, such as the LGIM sustainability summit held earlier this year, is built around conveying that inaction is not an option for asset managers.
The firm has partnered with endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pughwho is campaigning to protect 30% of the world’s oceans, leading to a 40%+ uplift in LGIM’s LinkedIn engagement and a tenfold increase in engagement on LGIM’s Twitter handle.
“It’s a genuine partnership based on shared values and a desire to really make an impact. This has been made possible by our new marketing team approach.”
Andy says that people are currently “on high alert for greenwashing and marketing teams putting out messages that don’t conform to the company’s intent or purpose.
“Any brand marketer will tell you it only works if it’s real.”
The partnership with Pugh is the first step on this journey, says Andy, with more to come in the future.
With sustainability as a central message, the next year will be about building on the structure and drawing on martech tools to manage areas such as workflow, content and campaign management.
“The role of leadership is to create conditions for people to flourish. We’re in a pretty good place in terms of where we are today – now we can really launch the innovation drive in that space