As fund companies tighten their belts, distribution and marketing executives are exploring ways that data mining can help refine their strategies.
“Asset managers are sitting on a treasure trove of data, but marketers and sales managers haven’t until fairly recently been able to get their hands on it,” says Julia Binder, director of ebusiness research at Kasina.
Fund purchases and redemptions, wholesaler visits, call logs, web-browsing trails, social network messages and sales and market-share data are just a handful of examples of data that can be used by asset managers. Armed with this kind of information, fund management companies can mitigate the risks of creating inadequate products or overlooking good prospects, Ms Binder says.
“Business intelligence and data analytics teams are being built in sales and marketing and customer service departments. Rather than centralising them at the firm, people are residing in each of the customer-facing businesses and developing data initiatives that are specific to their needs,” Ms Binder says.
In fact, according to a recent survey of 15 asset management companies by Kasina, 47 per cent of the business data initiatives are being managed by sales and 27 per cent by marketing departments.
“That tells you something about where the sense of urgency is in an organisation,” Ms Binder says. “It is very high on sales, but there is also pressure in marketing to justify the rising costs that marketing is experiencing and to justify how budgets are being spent.”
Advisers are turned off by fund managers that do not understand their businesses, says David Swanson, founder and managing partner at SwanDog Marketing.
Companies are looking for data internally and externally from various sources. Calvert Investments, for example, is using data to segment and target financial advisers and prospects more sharply.
“Distribution is a numbers game and to create impact and drive sales, we can’t be everything to everyone,” says Matthew Alsted, vice-president of channel marketing and brand strategy at Calvert Investments.
Calvert identifies advisers who are buying significant shares of funds in a given strategy and the companies with the largest market share in these strategies. Then Calvert compares its own market share with competitors in the strategy in order to devise plans to grow its own share.
External and internal data sources are used to determine which broker-dealer firms and product types represent the best opportunities. At that point wholesalers judge whether it is worth spending the time on a call or a visit to a given adviser, Mr Alsted says.
“Just recently these external data sources have come to fruition,” he adds. “But figuring out the right way to integrate them into an internal targeting process and selling system is the real challenge and opportunity.”
It may still be early days in crunching big data for asset managers, but Calvert has seen a positive impact of the strategy.
“We are discussing success stories weekly where this targeting approach has revealed a sales opportunity that has resulted in meaningful business for us,” Mr Alsted says.
In this embryonic phase of incorporating data logic into sales and marketing strategies, asset managers are imitating strategies already used in other industries, especially from pharmaceutical and retail companies.
Asset managers are also seeking talent coming from these industries, Kasina’s Ms Binder says.“They want to hire them from Target and Walmart and Apple.”
Until recently, marketing or sales leaders would be entirely dependent on information technology departments to access data. And the process of gathering information in a user-friendly format was usually time consuming.
“The barrier between information technology and the business units is crumbling, especially in the face of what is being called big data,” Ms Binder says. “Data [are] being generated on a speed and volume and variety that is unprecedented.”
But navigating the information is no easy task. Therefore it is essential to have clarity about what problems or issues are being tackled, executives say.
The process of aggregating different data sets is also bringing different departments closer.
“We are working even more closely with our IT partners. The value is that our IT partners get some of the business perspective and business context and understand how other companies are doing this,” Mr Alsted says.