Asset management should take inspiration from Amazon’s customer centric approach, says Natixis Investment Management’s CMO.
Emily Askham, whose previous experience includes AXA IM and M&G, joined the firm in January 2022.
The role had a “pretty intense” start – Emily was 32 weeks pregnant when she began and accordingly had less than two months to get to grips with the business and create a strategy before going on maternity leave.
The key mission was moving marketing from sales support to a strategic function. Her goal during this period was to understand the overall business strategy and align the marketing strategy to that.
She inherited a huge team of different functionalities which had never actually worked together before.
“It was really about setting out what the team objectives were and making sure that we had everyone aligned and pulling in the same direction and being really clear on what they needed to achieve for the year.”
Another task was assembling skills and expertise. In September James Moore, previously of Jupiter Asset Management, joined the team as Head of Digital, Data, Insight and Marketing Technology. His remit was to expand the scope of the company’s use of data and insights in order to put the customer at the heart of decision making, “making sure that all of our marketing decisions, whether it’s budget optimization strategy or account-based marketing approach, was based on some insights versus what we think we should do.”
Another hire in September was Matthieu Ghesquière, Head of Campaigns and Planning, who helps to align activities so that the firm takes a consistent approach across its different audiences. Rosie Smith was also brought on as Business Manager for International Marketing, ensuring that marketing and its reporting is aligned to the business strategy and priorities.
More recently, Emily brought in a new Head of Content to reorient content production around answering client needs rather than pushing certain products.
Her citing of many of her team by name is emblematic of her overall approach to leadership.
“My management style is empowerment: hiring the best in the business and giving them their remit. We align on a common goal and how they get to the end goal is up to them.”
“You see so much personal growth in people if you give them a challenge. If I stand here and say, ‘please go and do X, Y, Z’, I don’t get as much out of my people.”
During maternity leave she remained involved, making sure everything was ready for launch in September and continuing the recruitment process.
The launch of the Expert Collective
In September, the new positioning was launched, moving from an approach promoting 22 affiliate brands to positioning the central brand of Natixis Investment Managers as an “Expert Collective”.
She says that this positioning corresponds to a broader shift in the market.
“I think as the market is looking to consolidate, they’re looking for big players to be able to offer more products to them,” she says, pointing out that Natixis IM has over $1 trillion in AUM.
“What our product offering allows us to do is compete with the big brands, but also provide a boutique product offering through our affiliates.”
She believes the brand gives Natixis Investment Managers a huge amount of flexibility, with the current market volatility enhancing the relevance of the message.
“We need to be seen as a partner [to clients]. We need to be seen as accompanying clients on their journey .”
“They don’t want to feel like we’ve all shut our lights off and disappeared because we’re cost saving and focusing on our own bottom line.”
Towards customer centricity
She believes that the asset management brands that will “move the dial and make a difference” are those who find new ways to engage, being much more data-led and driven by insights and moving away from the traditional marketing channels which the industry has used for a long time.
This means “not necessarily forcing people to land on a website” but thinking much more about “content and visibility in their own environment.”
“People don’t want to click off and go to another website. If they can actually consume [content] where they are, we’re going to be much more effective at getting our message across and it’s a much better user experience for them.”
She thinks marketers need to make their case to the C-suite in terms of consumer brands, particularly Amazon, which famously lists “customer obsession” as one of its key principles.
“It doesn’t matter who we are, we all use Amazon, and Amazon knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes with the products it selects for us. How can we be that for our clients?”
For Emily, this means moving beyond display and creative visibility towards more content-driven segmentation and targeting, understanding where clients are in the funnel and communicating with them in a bespoke, personalised way.
“We’re working on that 360 degree view of the customer – how do we integrate with sales and give them sales leads?”
If Emily’s first year was about building the infrastructure and getting the buy-in from her team, the second year is about taking the proposition to market.
“We’re starting to understand our clients much more and developing personalised approaches.”
“I’m looking forward to taking it to market, localising it and reporting back on the metrics because I think it’s going to be something we can be really proud of and something our C-suite will see the value in.”
What role is display advertising playing?
“User behaviour no longer warrants us measuring this format with cost per click, it is about visibility and share of voice when this objective is relevant. When it comes to engagement it isn’t necessarily website traffic – they could be for example dwell times or engagement on a video in the user’s own environment.”
She also hopes to move the firm from 16th in pan-European brand ratings to the top 10 by 2025.