Automation key as fund firms seek to boost digital content

‘Huge opportunity’ for asset managers to improve data marketing, automation providers say

Asset managers have an opportunity to improve their data automation and free up their marketing departments to spend more time differentiating the companies, driving new business and outthinking competitors, data automation CMOs said.

The quicker that asset managers can send along clean data to their marketers, the faster those companies can update their content, populate investment databases and enable their distribution teams, Emilie Totten, CMO at data automation provider Synthesis Technology said during a May 12 webinar.

“If automation drives scalability and differentiation, and data velocity is really the number one driver, then the industry really has a problem,” Totten said.

According to a survey that Synthesis conducted with Fuse Research Network, published in December, 95% of AMs are automating their content. But just 25% reported being satisfied with the data processes fueling these content marketing programs, Totten said, and 43% of cited manual data intake as their greatest impediment to meeting content deadlines.

Dan Quinn, CMO at APX Stream, called the 43% statistic unsurprising, but “mind-blowing” as well. He said it is common in the asset management industry to see a firm with great performance and  “terrible” AUM.

“What we do see time and time again is investment managers want to spend time picking stocks, they want to be managing portfolios, they want to be doing all the things they really like to do,” he said. “The marketing side of it tends to get a shorter shrift, and that’s really unfortunate, because automating so many of these processes can just take so much off the plates of the investment manager.”

The discussion came after fund groups spent 2020 strengthening their marketing capabilities by focusing on better engaging clients and prospects using virtual, digital, and news coverage, Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, previously told Fund Intelligence. Developing content in a timely manner is especially critical as firms look to stay in front of clients and prospects, he added.

Janus Henderson CMO David Master said in January that the firm organically started supporting virtual activity to a much greater degree in 2020. Vince Grogan, director of marketing for Lord Abbett added at the time that the firm made senior portfolio managers and CEO Doug Sieg more available to share their views on the markets and investment decisions.

The content automation survey by Fuse and Synthesis found that 64% of managers are choosing to put out thought leadership monthly, showing that firms are acknowledging that websites must be regularly refreshed with informative and timely commentary.

“If software and automation is designed to increase efficiencies and increase scalability and ultimately drive down costs over time,” Quinn said, “that’s kind of the holy grail.”

While some firms attempt to stand out by systematically generating monthly factsheets, others, often smaller asset managers, seek to differentiate through the volume and frequency of capital markets updates and thought leadership, according to the study.

“Noted increase in demand for thought leadership and market outlook pieces reinforces needs for content automation to facilitate timely production of routine, data-heavy content so staff can be applied to the more creative, engaging, narrative-based messaging pieces,” the report states.

Of the 95% of respondents that use some form of automation tool, their use of such capabilities is most prevalent in fact sheets and pitchbooks.

Only 9% of fund firms are using artificial intelligence and robo-writing, the survey found, though 18% plan to do so in the next 12 months.

As for future marketing budgets after 2020, marketing leaders at 68% and 59% of firms expected reductions to print fulfillment and print advertising, respectively. Fifty-nine percent of managers foresaw an increase in website and SEO spend, while 77% said their firms would increase digital advertising budgets and 64% said they would allocate more money for content production.

Grogan told Fund Intelligence at the beginning of the year that Lord Abbett’s marketing spend would likely increase by about 20% year over year to build out digital resources and content personalization. Master noted that Janus Henderson was putting “an enormous amount of time and money” into technology systems and platforms to be able to support more sophisticated tracking and analytics.