By Fiona Maciver
As the demand for greater transparency has intensified across the fund industry, the role of marketing has become more pivotal to asset managers’ distribution success. Several providers have struck a chord with fund buyers when it comes to marketing and communications competencies, understanding what matters most to distributors, including the growing requirement for a more personalised approach.
Asset managers’ clients are arguably the best judges of how effective their marketing activities are – and it is precisely this audience that is interviewed on a rolling basis by Fund Buyer Focus. Almost 1,000 third-party fund selectors are asked to award gold, silver and bronze medal points to the asset managers they believe to be best in this field [the rankings are visible in the table on this page]. In addition to this quantitative measure, buyers are asked about the relative importance of 10different areas of marketing, the individual strengths of the medal winners in these areas, and what general marketing improvements they would like to see from the industry as a whole. The current top-five groups for marketing (four of which have held their position from last year) were recognised in the inaugural MackayWilliams Distribution Awards, presented at the ALFI Global Distribution Conference in September 2017 – but what lies behind their market leading status, and what sets them apart? The leading groups are very close together in terms of underlying points awarded – especially the top two –but selector feedback reveals some subtle differences between them. JP Morgan may rank second but it still outscores BlackRock on marketing to investment professionals, with qualitative comments from buyers high lighting perceived strengths to be the quality, relevance and depth of information / marketing material. But BlackRock’s overall edge seems linked to the quality of its operational reporting and advertising activity, as well as strong information provision and the timelines and frequency of delivery and contact. Sample comments about some of the top groups are featured overleaf. Fourth-ranked M&G narrowed the points gap with third-placed Fidelity during the 12 months under review. Both groups have a strong retail presence and enjoy broad recognition of their expertise in external communications; Fidelity is something of a veteran in this area with high support across most European markets but M&G is no minnow, selectors citing its brand visibility, quality of advertising and social media outputs as its key marketing strengths.