In the past, inperson wholesaler educational events with advisors were at the heart of awareness building for mutual fund companies. Not anymore. 

A recent study from J.D. Power confirms the trend toward virtual and digital engagement with advisors. Asset managers “need to provide easy access to relevant content and resources across multiple digital channels, including content that can help them do their job more effectively and build their practice,” according to Mike Foy, senior director of wealth and lending intelligence at J.D. Power.

The J.D. Power study found:

  • Asset managers that build strong digital relationships with advisors see the highest asset flows.
  • Digital engagements that provide advisors with easy access to content and resources were most impactful, especially with advisors pressed for time.
  • Webinars saw the largest increase in advisor engagement, with 56% of advisors saying they attended asset management webinars this year, up from 34% in 2019.
  • Many advisors are looking for signs of asset managers’ commitment to environmental, social and governance issues (ESG), with 55% saying they are more likely to invest with those committed to ESG. But they remain skeptical, believing only 15% of asset managers are genuinely committed to this issue.

These outcomes are no surprise.  We saw many asset managers pivot during the pandemic to quickly provide timely content delivered both digitally and in webinar format.  We also found that the most successful asset managers made their most senior people available to talk with clients and the media about what they saw happening as conditions rapidly changed.  Rather than laying low, these asset managers were willing to offer their insights, despite significant uncertainty.

Looking ahead, here’s what we predict will be important for 2021:

  • Effective thought leadership will continue to matter.  Asset managers should try to create truly educational content that helps advisors understand the market an asset manager serves and how it was influenced by the pandemic. Thinly veiled sales material will be seen as such and disregarded. Material that is truly educational and not self-serving can also be leveraged for earned media opportunities or owned media placements in key publications read by advisors.
  • The challenges of 2020 will continue to fuel interest in ESG.  The pandemic only widened social issues and interest in positive impact investing.  And during the height of pandemic-induced volatility, ESG funds in many cases held up better than their traditional counterparts. As more clients ask advisors about ESG investing, be prepared for advisor due diligence on your ESG processes.
  • As the pandemic wanes and social distancing restrictions loosen, more advisors may return to the office. But many may continue to prefer the efficiency of zoom meetings with both clients and wholesalers. We expect more communications to remain virtual. Continue to up your game when it comes to virtual meetings and webinars in order to find ways to be timely, relevant and memorable. Asset managers can add additional value for advisors by getting their webinars qualified for continuing education (CE) credits.
  • If your investment style has been out of favor, that could shift in 2021.  Markets that have been dominated by leading US growth companies could broaden to include more small and medium sized companies, more international names and more undervalued companies. Strategists at the Leuthold Group and Cambiar Investors expect small companies and value names to do better in the coming year.
  • Being thoughtful about your message across your digital platforms will count.  Leverage your thought leadership to your website, social and into earned and placed content to help build awareness for your products and brand.  As advisors sort through an increasingly crowded digital space, breaking through the clutter with your key messages will be increasingly important.