New normal for client engagement
From sponsoring iconic flower shows to hosting wine tastings at high–end restaurants, corporate hospitality has always been an important part of asset managers’ approach to client relations.
Whilst fund groups have had to rein in on the lavishness of their hospitality due to regulatory clampdowns over the last few years, entertaining investors and their intermediaries is still a cornerstone of their sales strategy.
But as the pandemic has put an end to large gatherings for the foreseeable future, what now? Several industry figures have waxed lyrical about how their teams were communicating with clients more than ever thanks to video conference calls.
Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International, said they have been able to improve engagement with clients during the pandemic. “What will be interesting is whether we can sustain this in the next 12 or 18 months because people do get Zoom fatigue,” Richards said.
To avoid this fatigue and continue nurturing relationships, asset managers are having to think laterally and be more inventive when it comes to networking events and client entertainment. In fact, a recent FT article described that firms were in a “digital arms race” to keep remote clients engaged.
Every week, Neuberger Berman hosts a networking event where more than 100 people climb on to their bicycles and race each other through a range of picturesque locations. The only notable aspect to what would otherwise be a regular corporate event is that most of these people have never met each other, and race from the solitude of their virtual Peloton exercise bikes.
Moving onto sponsorships, as spectator sporting events have come to a grinding halt, Schroders has teamed up with renowned tennis player, Jamie Murray, to host the UK’s first ‘Behind–Closed–Doors’ indoor tennis tournament. Prime Video, who have the exclusive broadcast rights in the UK & Ireland, will live stream ‘Schroders Battle of the Brits’, a six–day long event, televised from the Lawn Tennis Association’s headquarters in Roehampton.
Looking ahead, fund management firms are likely to take a leaf out of the book of technology companies which are successfully moving large scale gatherings online. Take for instance, the Cog X “festival of A.I. and emerging technology” which was attended by about 20,000 people in London’s King’s Cross district last year.
To host an event of that scale digitally, the organizers created a bespoke virtual summit platform to recreate—as much as possible—the kinds of networking opportunities and interactions that physical, live events offer. This year’s CogX, which kicks off in London on Monday 8 June, will feature 18 different virtual “stages” and 324 hours of simultaneous programming on topics ranging from the future of work to technology and ethics to cybersecurity.
As out-of-the-box approaches to client entertainment become feasible and gain traction, it would be hardly surprising if asset managers retain them as part of their sales strategy beyond the pandemic. Furthermore, carbon neutral events will be more appealing as firms looks to bolster their ESG credentials.
Talking to Citywire Selector about how the current crisis will accelerate trends, Francesco Martorana, chief executive officer of Generali Insurance Asset Management, said “improvements in digitalisation will change the way asset managers interact with clients”. It is clear that these changes will extend to the realm of business entertainment.
Following the pandemic, it will be interesting to observe how asset managers strike the balance between retaining the human touch and offering compelling virtual experiences to their clients.
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