Mobilising asset managers for the digital imperative
Whilst website design for asset managers has improved greatly in the last few years, and there are some companies with really good websites, too often visiting a fund management website feels like you’ve somehow slipped back in time to a period just before the internet became useful. For those companies, the ‘mobilegeddon’ announcement by Google – that they’re changing their SEO algorithm to favour mobile-friendly websites – will hopefully be the spur to improve their digital footprint. For those still unmoved, the news from Greenwich Associates that says social media can have an influence on manager selection among institutional investors may provide the necessary shove. This latter development should surprise no-one. Conversations with representatives from various family offices, NGOs and in-house pensions management teams over the last year or so revealed the growing importance of tools such as social media in understanding the investment landscape and its participants. Moreover, the listening generation are a group that value highly a company’s adherence to its stated principles, and tend to discriminate against those that they perceive fail to do so; so getting your social media policy right is paramount. Simply not engaging is becoming less of an option every day.
Obviously, for many this has been a difficult path to plot. Lack of clear regulation and penalties for getting it wrong have deterred plenty. The breakdown of silos has been slow at some of the larger asset managers, while others have simply not felt it relevant to them. When as august an institution as Greenwich Associates says that social media is important, hopefully a few more people will take it seriously. For such a great industry, it’s a real shame that the huge opportunity presented by digital hasn’t been grasped by more of its members.
There is a bigger issue at play here. Many UK-based asset managers have embraced digital, and are starting to see tangible benefits, whilst others have purposefully avoided it. The aggregate effect, however, is one of grudging, curmudgeonly acceptance. It’s not difficult to draw a direct parallel between the industry’s overall approach to digital media and its response to being drawn ever more into the glare of public scrutiny. As with social media, increasing perlustration isn’t going away any time soon – it really is a ‘secular’ change! And like social media, it should be seen for the real potential it offers not just the risks.
The ‘democratisation’ process that has begun is irreversible, but with greater social utility comes greater systemic ‘significance’ – if not actual importance (1). For some, it may also challenge their fundamental rationale for being in the business. But the opportunities it can offer are limited only by imagination. A glance to the U.S. shows us that. Some of the biggest names in asset management had humble origins around the start of the U.S.’s own retirement revolution. The UK may not have the same scale, but the chance remains the same for those who are open to it. Having a decent digital strategy is part of that.
(1) A little joke for any statisticians reading