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Rating:Five Fundster Bigwigs Talk About Advisors Not Rated 5.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Five Fundster Bigwigs Talk About Advisors

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

Financial advisors are the belles of the mutual fund ball, with every firm trying to get in a dance.

Since these professionals have become essentially the gatekeepers to pretty much everybody, firms are devoting lots of resources to learn how FAs think, like buying research from the likes of FUSE and Penton on the subject.

Sometimes, mutual fund firms can be tone-deaf on the subject and instead of effectively courting these folks, their efforts start to feel like stalking.

Fortunately, the subject of financial advisors has been a prominent topic in recent MFWire conversations with fund firm leaders. These quotes have not been run in other MFWire stories.

These insights on advisors, consultants and influences are as follows:

Scout Investments [profile] chief executive Andy Iseman, most recently interviewed in this story on on his plans for looking up-market this year and his appetite for equity shops
For those institutional plans that are utilizing the consulting firms out there, consultants certainly act as the gatekeepers.

This is not a quick business. It would be naive to think that this will be just one meeting and you are out the door. This is something that takes a long time, a number of months or in some situations, years.

These consultants are dealing with a bevy of products out there. Their job is to sort through all of these funds for their clients. They are obviously being bombarded by a lot of different firms.

It is a better of having those relationships, building those relationships, to begin the discussion.

RBC [profile] head of U.S. distribution Matthew Appelstein, who was previously interview in a story on his 2013 expansion plans as well a story on his practice of sending sales people to bootcamp.
Consultants are a real big deal. You want to make sure you are covering that firm real well.

You are seeing consultants getting into the retail space, advising RIAs and helping platforms with picking managers for their approved lists.

It is a big focus.

What we are finding, what is going on in the world is that people are looking for alpha generating products. Consultants are really looking for managers who can provide sources of alpha.

We want to understand more about their plans, their clients. What is keeping them up at night.

This is really critical. There is a flood of products out there. How do you differentiate yourself. What makes you fit their plan? What makes you unique? What is your secret sauce?

Hancock's head of institutional sales Todd Cassler, who was previously interviewed in three stories: on the need for technically savvy hires; strategies for courting consultants, and embracing market segmentation.
Regarding the center of influence idea. There are other things, in the retirement space, besides an advisor or consultant that can influence a decision. It's important to figure what those things are for people.

The retirement market tends to have a slow sales cycle. It typically takes two years to have a broker category change. There have been a number of firms that have been replaced and have lost share in this market, depending on what market you are going with.

The value add side of the equation is critical. Firms are spending a tremendous amount of money in value add programs in retirement.

The types of programs include:
Big foundational programs in which firms go and build this huge resource for advisors.
The more tactical add programs, where they are trying to deal with a top of the mind issue for advisors.

The challenge for any distributor is this: We spend all of this money and invest in these programs. There is no mechanism for determine return on investment.

All distributors are wrestling with this idea: You need to deliver value ad content, but some can use your value ad program for their own practice, but they don't buy your product. It's a big problem.

Touchstone president Steve Graziano, who was previously interview in a story on how he plans to double his firm's AUM to $30 billion in three years.
We sell out funds through professional buyers, Family trust departments, large registered investment advisors. We also sell our funds through retail financial advisors.

Asset size is crucial. Gatekeepers like to see more assets in the funds that they recommend so their clients don't end up owning the majority share.

The Hartford [profile] chief marketing officer Marty Swanson who was recently interviewed in a story on how The Hartford is completely re-organizing its sales force.
First and foremost, we must effectively attack the opportunities that are out there. As you go out and approach financial advisors, it is really important that you think about how to do that in the most efficient and productive manner.

We really ramped up the amount of investment insights that we provide financial advisors.

At the end of the day, being a product pusher doesn't work. You really have to add value to financial advisors by providing them unique insights on the markets.

We have a relationship with MIT and the MIT age lab. Besides investment insights, we also do work with them on consumer behavior.

We are looking at the changing attitudes of customers. It is incredibly important to help them think about these changes and find techniques to more efficiently talk with their customers.

We have different practice management elements that we offer advisors to help them better manage their practices. These things are really important. It all comes down to the quality of the tools you are putting out there.

MFWire will continue to gather insights from fund executives on whether they court, or merely stalk, financial advisors going forward.  

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