Want to keep your clients interested in your investment reports? Change the narrative.
The need to achieve or exceed service level agreements (SLAs) is obviously very important to asset management firms. Meeting client expectations is a fundamental part of any business and asset managers take the promises they have made to their investors very seriously. That said, I do sometimes wonder if, in the area of investment reporting, there could be more creativity in SLAs than simply formats, dates and volumes – especially when one considers that it is such a critical delivery of information.
Historic vs future
For example, how much of your reporting is historic and how much of it is helping the investor to understand what you (the asset manager) are going to do next month, as a consequence of this retrospective data? In other words, could you follow a structure of: ‘this is what has happened, this is what we have learned, and this is how we are going to change things going forward’.
Take quarterly reports. Rather than simply reporting on the stats for that period in the same way as a monthly report, could a different approach be taken? Perhaps, for two months in the quarter, reports could provide the usual, standard investment update, but every quarter, the investment manager could alter its approach and tell the investor something different.
I have never known an asset management firm attempt this, simple though it is conceptually. The March report could cover lessons learned over the three months and explain how the asset manager will amend its strategy, looking forward to the coming quarter. This might involve introducing more information from the Research department of the fund manager.
Changing the narrative
This kind of variation would achieve two outcomes. First, it does more to engage the interest of the investor and second, it would begin to address the question of what is of interest to the client – by changing the narrative.
If investors are reading exactly the same format of report every single month of the year, year in year out, will they ultimately reach the point where they look at the document and think: ‘Well, this looks just the same as the last one so I’m only going to skim it this month’ – and the 25 pages that were so carefully constructed by the Client Reporting team are effectively almost wasted.
In the context of fund factsheets, this variation is less important because a factsheet is a sales support tool for the intermediary or broker and therefore has less impact in that environment. In a client reporting context, however, whether you are reporting to an institution or a wealth manager, it is far more pertinent to introduce a change of approach.
Customisation as standard
Asset managers are often asked to explain why they can’t or why they shouldn’t issue custom reports – and often the reason lies in the amount of money the institution has entrusted to the asset management firm. An institution investing only £10 million will generally not have the same options available for the customisation of reports as the institution investing £10 billion. My response to this is that the asset manager has no excuse for denying the smaller investor a heavily customised report.
If an asset manager is working with a reputable vendor that offers a modern, automated reporting system, there is no reason why the smaller client should not be given the same degree of focused content or variability. Yes, there is a limited period of ‘pain’ in setting up the process, but once it is established, with the kind of flexibility that reporting systems have today, deep customisation can become the standard. For example, in one quarter the emphasis requested by the investor may be on Emerging Markets, while in the next quarter it may be on ESG. With a feature-rich solution, that should not be a challenge.
Technology should never be the inhibitor – it should always be an enabler. Your ability to engage with your investor is the bigger inhibitor – so change the narrative.
Abbey Shasore, CEO, Factbook
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