Q&A: Cardano Advisory Head of Marketing on pensions in 2023 and the ‘Value of Different’

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

In this Q&A, Govinder Heer, Head of Marketing at Cardano Advisory, explains the firm’s marketing strategy and plans for 2023.


FSF: What do you think the overall outlook is for investment managers in 2023?

Govinder Heer: Firstly, let me caveat my responses with – I am not an investment specialist and the following views are my own. However, I listen carefully to my expert colleagues whose jobs are investment led day in, day out.

Last year was a challenging one for the whole investment and long-term savings industry with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, soaring energy prices, rising interest rates and inflation, the cost of living crisis and the market volatility following the then Government’s mini-Budget. As a result, investment managers were very busy dealing with the impact of crises after crises.

So, looking ahead to 2023, hopefully there won’t be as much to deal with. But certainly, some of last year’s challenges will continue to run this year too and there could be a more bumps along the way.


How are the expectations of pension schemes evolving?

There’s a lot of pressure on trustees. Ultimately, they want to govern the schemes well to pay savers. Our job is to help advise in that respect.

Some schemes have found themselves generally in better funding positions and well ahead of where they expected to be. The latest edition of Pension Protection Fund’s Purple Book confirmed this, and as a result we expect insurance companies to be particularly busy next year. However, other schemes have found themselves in worse positions than a year ago, and perhaps leaning on their sponsors for more support, which in turn are feeling the squeeze too.

There is change coming down the line from a regulatory perspective. 2023 is likely to be the biggest year for regulatory change in the defined benefit world since 2014 (the implementation of the Funding Code of Practice 03), or even since the Pensions Act 2004. Trustees and corporates will see the long awaited, and highly anticipated, DB Funding Code, in 2023.

This year we will also see more schemes fall into the cohort required to submit reporting in line with TCFD requirements.

All of these changes mean the landscape for trustees continues to evolve.


What is your overall marketing strategy and what are your key objectives?

We re-branded at the end of 2021. The Lincoln Pensions brand (which Cardano had acquired in 2016) was retired and we now market ourselves as Cardano, with different specialisms: Investment and Advisory being two of several key business areas.

Since the re-brand our focus has been on getting a really strong brand foundation in place: refreshed brand proposition, visual identity, new website all anchored by our brand pillars of independent mindset, big-picture thinking and extraordinary teams.

2023 sees us build on this foundation with a focus on driving brand awareness and engagement. Our core target audience is the Professional Trustee segment and we are engaging with CFOs so we are adopting a buyer-based approach with tailored marketing plans for each buyer group.

Having acquired ACTIAM a Dutch impact investor – at the start of 2022, sustainability, having always been important from an investment philosophy, gives us access to a broader range of subject matter experts. From a marketing point of view, this gives us some exciting content and thought leadership opportunities to help better support our clients.

In terms of my role specifically, we recently re-structured the marketing team, led by our Group Brand & Marketing Director, into a capability led structure. This has enabled us to be more joined up across the different business units from a prospect and client experience perspective. I am responsible for all UK events, partnerships and sponsorship.

So my focus for 2023 is to deliver brilliant client experiences, develop strong partnerships with appropriate third parties and ensure we are driving brand awareness and engagement through all of the activities.


Tell me about your brand and the “value of different” tagline.

We undertook a rebrand in 2021. Having acquired Lincoln Pensions in 2016, we recognised there was huge synergy between our Investment and Advisory businesses and that we were stronger together and now market ourselves as one Cardano.

The value of different brand proposition is the result of brand research carried out in 2020 as part of our re-brand progamme. This was an opportunity for us to speak to our own people as well as clients. It was so interesting to hear what people had to say about our brand. Unprompted we were hearing similar things such as how we think outside of the box.

The outcome of the brand work led to our value of different proposition.

To support that we have three brand pillars: extraordinary teams; big picture thinking; independent mindset which underpin our marketing activity.

More than just phrases, these are being embedded within the business.


What role do changing demographics (100 year life etc) play in your thinking about pensions marketing?

In pensions, this is really important. We work with DB schemes and yes it’s a factor and it’s even more important for DC schemes.

The founder of Cardano produced a film titled ‘Your-100-year life’ which explores how people are coping with living to 100 years plus. It shows some harsh realities from across the world. On the positive it also gives some insight into innovative solutions.

The film is not currently in the public domain but there are plans underway.


How are your prioritising your marketing spend? What do you think is the best use of budget during a downturn?

As marketers, we’re always looking to get the ‘best bang for buck’ and to demonstrate ROI – whether that’s qualitatively or quantitively. Clearly now more than ever this is important given the economic climate.

In a downturn it’s hard not to ‘go dark’ as there are invariably budget squeezes. But it is important to be ‘front of mind’ as trustees and clients still need advisory and investment support – and actually more so at a time like now.

There are ways to continue deliver compelling comms such as through great content and different ways to share via social media. Relationships are key so events are also important and it’s interesting navigating this space in a post-Covid world. We are currently testing out face to face, versus virtual versus hybrid to deliver the best possible experiences for our clients and prospects.

A balance between brand building activity and tactical is really important so there is visibility for now and the long-term.


What role does the foundation and sponsorship/partnership play?

We work closely with some pensions organisations and publishers as part of sponsorship activity or partnerships. It’s a key part of our strategy.

Sponsorships allow us to get closer to our audience via established channels. We ran a few campaigns last year such as ‘the future of fiduciary’ and ‘ESG’ with key pensions titles.

Partnerships are closely linked but here we focus on a theme and run a range of activities to raise brand awareness or demonstrate our brand pillars like independent mindset and extraordinary teams.







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