It goes without saying that product performance is central to the success of any asset management firm. However, performance is only one part of the story. To stay relevant, asset managers also need to ensure that they are staying on top of product trends—and, most importantly, delivering products that their clients want and need. Platform placements are a key component of this process, and in order to get products onto distributor platforms, firms need an in-depth understanding of distributors’ needs and criteria. National accounts leaders are well aware of the importance of keeping their firm’s product set fresh and relevant to distributors, so it’s no surprise that many attendees at SS&C’s recent Virtual Roundtable for Heads of National Accounts listed product-related initiatives, particularly vehicle expansion into ETFs and SMAs, among their key strategic goals for 2022.
In fact, many distributors, having aggressively rationalized their platforms in recent years, are once again looking to add products to their line-ups. In 2020, the percentage of distributors looking to increase the number of funds available to financial advisors nearly doubled compared to the previous year, from 17.4% to 29.2%. Meanwhile, the percentage of distributors looking to reduce the number of available funds also fell significantly, from 30.3% to 20.9%.
When it comes to the number of fund families available on distributor platforms, the story is similar. In 2020, one-quarter of distributors planned to increase the number of fund families available to financial advisors, compared to just 13% in the previous year. In other words, opportunities for new platform placement approvals are looking up, whether your firm has an existing relationship with the distributor or not.
To maximize their chances of securing new platform placements, asset manager product teams need to ensure they understand what distributors are looking for. National Accounts teams are a key source of insight when it comes to understanding distributors’ needs. Despite this, however, alignment between national accounts and products continues to be a challenge for many firms. In our recent survey of asset manager product teams, just 20% of respondents selected “addressing specific distributor or platform demands/product needs” as a top strategic initiative for 2021.
For those firms who are able to integrate national accounts' feedback into the product development process, this presents a significant opportunity. With distributors once again looking to add funds—and fund families—to their platforms, asset managers who make the effort to tailor products to distributors’ specific needs will be a step ahead of the game.