Asset managers are already good at change - here’s how to be innovative with data

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | By Jason Dauwen

Asset managers are already good at change - here’s how to be innovative with data

The asset management industry is quickly evolving. To survive, change is necessary. But, if you think you have to be more like Amazon, Google or Facebook to be innovative, you’re thinking about it all wrong. You are not competing against Silicon Valley (at least not yet), so stop comparing yourself to Silicon Valley. 

When I talk to executives in the industry, they recognize the need for change, but they often feel like they aren’t very good at it. They feel stuck following the path they know, the one that has garnered success for years. 

What does it mean to be innovative?

Although it may be true that Silicon Valley is better at transformational innovation, you are likely better at slow, steady change. The same leaders who profess they aren’t good at change also talk about the kinds of decisions they’ve made recently: swap out the CRM, create brand new roles on the sales team, develop a product no one else has, change the way compensation is calculated.  

These things may not seem revolutionary and therefore don’t register as being innovative, but they certainly are – at least over time – because they have the potential to change the way things are done over the long term.  

“Innovation requires an experimental mindset.” Denise Morrison, CEO, Campbell Soup Company

If you think you aren’t innovative, or aren’t good at experimenting, consider all the decisions you make in a day. Those decisions have the collective impact of changing the course of your organization.

In this respect, every decision you make is essentially a little experiment. You don’t sit paralyzed by the weight of them because you have the information to inform the decision-making process. You don’t have to be cutting-edge to be innovative, but you do need the data to inform the experiments so you know what decisions to make.

Understanding customers (advisors) requires data

For asset managers, there is so much data available about advisors that it seems reckless not to delve into it to determine how advisor needs and expectations are changing.

Take the following example:


From this small amount of data, you could discern that advisors working in teams may need a broader set of solutions given that they are servicing a larger number of clients who have, on average, 82 percent more investable assets compared to their counterparts working with advisors that operate individually.

Analyzing each advisor’s purchasing behavior, their position along the customer journey, and their content and engagement preferences creates a rich bed of information. You can use this data to determine what your sales, marketing, and product development organizations need to change and what changes will be most effective.

Once you have refined data into understanding, it becomes fuel for change.

Fueling Change

Take this data further by segmenting advisors based on criteria for influence, value and opportunity. Combining this information with qualitative data about advisors and their customers can produce a stark competitive advantage because it enables you to focus innovation on specific market needs. 

A small change in how sales and marketing engage advisors can make or break a relationship.  For example, try beginning advisor relationships with marketing campaigns that educate advisors about products they are unfamiliar with but would work in their portfolios or models. This small adjustment in approach can have a tremendous impact because the majority of advisor interactions with asset managers are through digital channels – especially in the first stages of the sales cycle.

Using the data available about the types of products an advisor tends to favor, for example, and adjusting the product content shared with the advisor in marketing campaigns (or the product set pitched to the advisor based on this understanding) can make a tremendous difference in the way advisors view your firm’s capabilities.  

Why does this matter?

Without knowledge, you cannot innovate. Data is the key to knowing your customers. Knowing your customers is key to delivering what they need and want at the price they’re willing to pay. Delivering value is key to growing your business. It’s as simple as that. 

“Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation.” Thomas Friedman, New Times Columnist & Author

Data isn’t just oil to be extracted; it must be refined through segmentation and customer journey mapping to become fuel for the innovation that will truly set your firm apart.

To learn more, please contact Jason Dauwen, Sr. Research Analyst, at

Asset Management, Research, Analytics, and Consulting