Standing out in a crowd

Mike Geller

Prosek Partners: Best PR & Communications — Firm Managing a brand in today’s fast-paced digital landscape, in which firms are increasingly being held to account for their impact on the world, means that asset managers are having to adopt a more sophisticated approach to communications.

The rise and rise of ESG in the investment industry has driven the need for strategic communications advice over the past year, according to Mike Geller (pictured), partner at Prosek Partners.

“Whereas many firms have long been talking about responsible investment, it’s no longer enough to say you are doing it. Institutional allocators now want to see the actions that investment firms are taking to make a difference, and they want to better understand the ways in which firms are taking differentiated approaches to making smart portfolio decisions and steering their businesses through considerable change,” says Geller.

Allocators are also looking much more carefully at the composition of investment firms’ workforce, including firm’s gender pay, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

Geller says: “The past year has placed an even greater focus on these issues both in the US and abroad. Firms must demonstrate that they are taking serious actions and steps to enhance their organisations. Transparently communicating and showcasing these efforts and commitments will serve managers well.”

As the asset management sector grows more crowded, firms of all sizes are concerned with ensuring that their value proposition and investment approach are well-defined and understood. Geller says this has led many managers to embrace new channels for marketing and communications.

“We have seen a significant uptick in firms utilising targeted social media campaign strategies, more dynamic mediums such as short-form video and making investments in their websites and digital footprints to reach core audiences in new and more dynamic ways,” explains Geller.

In the past, firms catering to retail investors have led the charge in proactively managing and maintaining their branding and reputation. More recently, institutional asset managers have joined the fray, making more concerted efforts to position themselves within the marketplace.

“The 2008 financial crisis accelerated this mentality, as allocators became much more stringent with respect to their capital allocations, and therefore created a greater need for asset managers to ensure they were properly understood by the constituencies that mattered the most,” says Geller.

This came to the fore again in the past year, as the pandemic put pressure on some managers’ performance. “As we know, performance isn’t always positive,” says Geller.

“Therefore, from a communications standpoint, firms should continue to spend time articulating their value propositions and ensuring that their investment approaches and philosophies are well defined, understood and differentiated. Doing so can help alleviate some pressure during challenging times.”

The communications and marketing toolbox is continuing to evolve to cover new channels and types of content. “With advancements in social media, digital communications, the 24/7 media environment, and ways in which allocators are consuming information, asset managers are now looking to move beyond commoditised PR activities and take advantage of better merchandising content, participation in long-format podcasts and more intimate events, and other creative platforms that can build trust and credibility,” he comments.

Prosek is “very bullish on the asset management industry over the short and long term”, and predicts that a destabilised investment environment will continue to create opportunities for active managers in the second half of the year.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created dislocation in many sectors, which in turn has created numerous investment opportunities for active managers to generate alpha and demonstrate their value to investors. We believe this trend will continue,” says Geller.

“To this end, we expect investment firms to spend more time strategising on how to get more credit and recognition for their work and results and determining new ways to stand out in what will continue to be a crowded industry.” 

Mike Geller, Partner, Prosek Partners
Mike Geller is a Partner at Prosek Partners, a leading financial communications firm. He advises founders, C-Suite executives and business leaders of private investment firms and publicly-traded financial institutions on strategic communications, including financial and corporate public relations, reputation management and leadership positioning.