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February 2021

Is Your Sales Team Fortified with the Right “Exoskeleton”​?

My previous blog on “What is your playbook for Insti-Retail Sales? touched upon how the game has changed in the wealth/intermediary asset management world. It’s one thing to know or suspect that to be the case…it’s another thing to pursue or take action. On the heels of our third webcast with Pensions & Investments on our paper “The Institutionalization of Retail” (https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1425678&tp_key=c5959fe48f), let’s explore what we only scratched the surface of covering in the webcast.  

How prepared and supported are your sales teams to compete AND win in the wealth/retail/intermediary asset management space? 

It’s imperative to hire/retain the right people.  

The skill sets needed today extend beyond someone with a knack for opening doors and engaging prospects. While opening doors certainly has never been more difficult in the midst of a pandemic, it’s keeping the door open that requires different, more nuanced skills. As distribution teams seek to drive better outcomes, there is a greater acknowledgment that the very “doors” needing to be opened require the salesperson of today to bring deep investment knowledge to match the growing sophistication found at many of these wealth/intermediary platforms. More progressive asset managers are hiring sales professionals with CFA’s, CAIA’s, MBA’s, and/or CFP’s in addition to the usual FINRA licenses. Sales individuals who can drive portfolio construction, risk management, and asset allocation discussions with prospects, are in demand. Marrying this investment depth with natural commercial instincts is the “killer” combo. There are individuals who understand how to navigate gatekeepers, product teams, senior management, and other stakeholders to drive sales activity. Increasingly, compensation is shifting from commission/formulas to a more discretionary structure that mirrors what is often found in the institutional pension distribution space creating more alignment between asset manager, salesperson, and prospect/client. 

Adding a technology “exoskeleton” to today’s salesperson has become table stakes.  

Only 13%* of asset managers achieve their “target state” CRM usage. 75%* of clients want more service customization and 76%* state “client experience” as the contributing factor to manager terminations. Many asset managers do not have a single view of their client—often attributed to multiple databases and systems that are not linked. Wealth and intermediary clients have invested in technology at a pace that has outstripped many asset managers. In some cases, these intermediary platforms know more about the asset managers soliciting them for business than the asset managers know about themselves. This has forced a bit of a technology “arms race” among asset managers vying for new business from these platforms. 

What should this involve? There are essentially three critical layers: 

1) Data (i.e., an integrated repository to centralize data from different sources);

2) Client analytics (i.e., a technology engine to uncover client needs and preferences in a predictive fashion);

3) Client experience applications (i.e., applications that deliver mass-customized services/reporting in real-time).  

Ultimately, technology is about making it easier for your client to do business with you. In the end, a technology “exoskeleton” is a combination of CRM system integration; IP-driven sales tools; mobile cloud-based sales collateral, digitized relationship knowledge, real-time sales notes, and digital onboarding. 

As my co-panelist, Dan McGee of Barings said, “There is no finish line when it comes to technology.”  While all this may seem daunting…even tackling the challenge of a fully optimized and utilized CRM system will put you ahead of the competition. Over time, other technology investments and training can be layered into sales team activities.  In short, focusing on fortifying your team with investment content and training and becoming agile users of technology will go far to delighting clients and growing your business.

*Casey Quirk: “Distribution 2.0 How technology will redefine relationships with asset management clients”