Digital Marketing Simplified

As most marketers in the asset and wealth management industries know, you must have a strong digital marketing strategy to stay relevant, promote your brand and generate leads.

Digital marketing for asset and wealth managers can take many forms which often makes it difficult to know just where to start. One easy way to think about digital marketing is in terms of the type of media that you are generating.

Paid Media – this includes all advertising and paid sponsorships, including display ads, search engine ads, such as Google Ads, remarketing and retargeting of ads, and social media ads, including direct ads, sponsored content, targeting and boosting within specific platforms.

Owned Media – this includes all the media that your firm develops and promotes on its own. It includes your website, blog, email content and social media pages and posts. It may also include webinars and podcasts your firm develops and hosts, either on its website or through a separate platform, for example, a dedicated YouTube channel.

Earned Media – this can be thought of as any likes, reposts, retweets and other commentary about your firm on third-party sites. It also includes testimonials and media coverage of your firm. The success of these efforts is highly dependent on how active your firm is on social media, the quality and regularity of your content, how much effort (and potentially dollars) are invested in SEO strategy, and other factors.

For asset and wealth managers, the most successful digital strategy incorporates elements from all three sources. Taking one facet away from your digital program significantly reduces the opportunity to drive more traffic to the others, to your website, and ultimately lead generation activity.

For instance, an effective paid media program that incorporates display, search and social media can help drive traffic to your owned media such as your website and your blog, as well as to online events such as podcasts and webinars. It can also help to generate earned media in the form of reposts and likes. A strong owned media program comprising an engaging website and compelling posts, emails and blogs can also help to drive more earned media. The key is to devote sufficient resources to each strategy so that they work in concert to build your audiences and help drive more qualified leads through your marketing funnel.

Abigail Adams, First Lady (of Bonds) and Others

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8, we thought we would highlight five women leaders and pioneers in finance.

Muriel Siebert, first female owner of a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
For many of us, Muriel Siebert is a legendary groundbreaker and proof that women could be successful on Wall Street. In 1967, she founded Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc., which sold institutional research and financial analysis. In addition, she applied for a seat on the NYSE. This requires a sponsor, and, of the ten investors she asked, only one agreed to do it. After finally gaining her seat, she had an extremely successful career, taking a break in the late 1970s to serve as Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York, during a precarious financial time; notably, no banks failed in New York State during her tenure!

Rosemary McFadden, first female president of a U.S. stock or futures exchange
Long before Adena Friedman became president and CEO of NASDAQ in 2017, Rosemary McFadden broke ground by becoming the president of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) in 1984, an unexpected move at the time. A growth-focused innovator, under her lead, new contracts in crude, heating oil, and gasoline were introduced, and trading volume grew from 5MM to 34MM contracts. When asked if she could change one thing today, what would it be, her reply was “It would be that more women occupy the “C” suites, have parity on Boards of Directors of Fortune 500 companies and holding more senior elected offices.”

The Rise of the Retail Investor

In late February of this year, Morgan Stanley CFO Jonathan Pruzan said that client trading activity at his firm’s platform for self-directed investors – the recently acquired E*Trade – has been “off the charts” in 2021. Daily average trades have moved 50% higher this year from record fourth quarter levels, and DIY investors have opened more accounts at Morgan Stanley to date in 2021 than in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 combined.

But Morgan Stanley is not alone in experiencing a dramatic increase in trading volumes in recent months. E-brokers such as Interactive Brokers and Charles Schwab have also reported unprecedented trading volume, mostly driven by retail investor activity. The average daily volume of the largest e-brokers in December 2020 was 6.6 million shares, a record. In January 2021, average daily trades hit 8.1 million, a 23% month over month increase.

According to analysts at Piper Sandler, average trading volume across the major U.S. markets in equities is way up this year, as the chart below indicates:

Year over year, January volumes are up 92%, and from December, they are up 33%. Options trading is experiencing a similar trend, with the number of contracts traded up almost 18% from December 2020 to January 2021. 

These recent trends raise two important questions:

• How long will the DIY growth trend continue?

• What longer-term impact will this increased retail involvement have on the markets?

The answers to both questions are unclear.

Admittedly the pandemic created perfect storm conditions for day traders, which may subside as the economy and people’s lives normalize. However, the extraordinary and well-publicized success of a small group of traders and their deft use of social media to drive markets may have convinced some investors that trading can be profitable and that social media may provide the tools for success over the longer-term. Increased trading volume for shorter-term profit fueled by unpredictable social media events could initially lead to greater volatility. However, over the longer-term, it may also lead to more sophisticated integration of social media with investment decision-making and more fundamentally change the investment practices of retail and institutional investors alike.

Burger Brand Wars

In January Burger King (BK as it’s known) came out with a completely new rebrand. And guess what? McDonald’s just came out with a rebrand too.

Now, if you follow these sorts of things, which we do, not only are we watching burger wars, we’re also watching branding wars. Before you think that McDonald’s just copied BK in a month and a half, know that (first) it would be impossible, and McDonald’s started its rebranding initiative back in 2016. However, making the competition even more interesting are the similar styles the companies chose. Both are heavily based on flat graphic illustrations, using remarkably similar colors. However, design and branding experts are already giving BK the win on this one. Here’s why.

The BK brand uses a new customized typeface appropriately named Flame, constructed to be cool and “groovy.” The new typeface undoubtedly gives the whole brand an upbeat look and feel, especially because it is used generously, even on the packaging, describing what the product is (seriously, who wouldn’t want a Tasty Eggy meal?).

Image credit: Burger King Corporation

Image credit: McDonald’s

McDonald’s also went with colorful graphics, showing the essence of what the product is on the packaging. Although the McDonald’s packaging is meant to bring out the “joyful moments” consumers associate with the brand, the BK packaging is somehow, well, more joyful.

The BK brand is rolling out initially across the U.S. and will enter global markets in the next few years. The McDonald’s brand is going the opposite way, starting from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and eventually the U.S. within the next, you guessed it, two years.

Why do these burger brands matter? When iconic brands come to market with similar consumer facing visual identities, they create a trend that will likely start spreading to other types of brands at the same rate as their individual rollouts.

You may have noticed BK changed its logo and McDonald’s did not. Why would they? The golden arches are one of the, if not the single most recognizable logo in the world. So much so that the advertising agency Leo Burnett has done several campaigns in which you don’t even see the entire logo; even one golden arch says it all.

Source: McDonald’s / Leo Burnett

How to Talk So Clients Will Listen & Listen So Clients Will Talk

In 1996, co-authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote the ground-breaking parenting bible, How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk.

It’s a book about encouraging children’s cooperation through empowerment, compassion and understanding. However, the lessons apply universally and can guide the development of marketing content that resonates and motivates. 

This book has been translated into 30 languages with more than 3 million copies sold because its methods work. You can use many of their parenting strategies to build relationships of trust with clients and prospects and marketing content that inspires by:

Acknowledging their feelings
Saving for retirement and other long-term goals can feel overwhelming and stressful, even for those considered wealthy. Your content should recognize these concerns as normal and something you can help them address. 

Offering hope
Even as adults, we need to know that when we make a mistake, there’s an opportunity to correct it. Let your target market know that it’s never too late to plan for the future and that you can help guide them. 

Giving choices
Make clients and prospects aware that they have options, such as choosing a more aggressive investment strategy, delaying retirement or modifying the budget to achieve their savings goals – and that you can help customize their strategy to their situation and objectives. 

Providing a roadmap
Assure your audience that you follow a proven process that will help them along their journey toward achieving their financial goals, so clients and prospects know they can look to you for direction.

The Bigger the Better

When talking about RIA M&A activity, it appears that bigger really is better. According to The Echelon 2020 RIA M&A Deal Report, larger RIAs continue to be the most coveted by professional buyers as $1B+ RIA acquisitions helped buoy the continued torrid pace of RIA deal activity in 2020.

More record setting
According to Echelon, 205 deals occurred in 2020, a modest 1% increase in deal activity over 2019, and another record for annual RIA transaction volume. In addition, Q4 2020 set the record for deal volume in a single quarter with 69 transactions – a 25% increase over Q3 2020.

Larger deals lead the way
Leading the way were acquisitions of firms that had more than $1B in AUM. According to Echelon, 78 acquisitions, or 28% of deals in 2020 have over $1B AUM, with the average AUM of sellers coming in at $1.8B. 

Flight to quality
It should come as no surprise that RIA transaction volume continued to flourish in 2020, as more and more well-capitalized buyers enter the M&A arena. Interestingly, the number of larger transactions may indicate a preference for “quality” by the buyers. Professional buyers are increasingly looking for well-established firms who have developed sophisticated operations, processes and technologies with steady revenue streams – capabilities that are often lacking in sub-$1B AUM firms. 

What larger firms may lack, however, are formalized growth engines – including professional business development expertise combined with sophisticated digital marketing platforms – that can help them grow beyond the $1B AUM plateau. Professional buyers who possess these capabilities may be strong matches for relatively mature sellers, potentially portending the sustained strength of RIA M&A activity in 2021.

When the Game(stop) is afoot

It’s been difficult to miss the media coverage of the GameStop/Reddit/Robinhood drama, which has enthralled individuals of all ages, from elementary school to octogenarian. Regardless of which side you (and your clients) are on, this phenomenon represents an opportunity to engage proactively with investors on a variety of levels. 

What’s going on?
Is it really David versus Goliath? Has David become Goliath? Your clients may wonder whether this is a temporary occurrence or has long-term implications. And, of course, the overriding concern they probably have is whether it is “good” or “bad” for the markets and should they be doing something. As their financial advisor, you can provide direction, lay out the facts in a neutral manner, and reinforce the benefits of following a plan tailored to their needs and circumstances, not chasing trends or the market.

Talk about it.
The events also lend themselves to a discussion on the connection between risk and the potential for significant reward, but also significant loss. A little knowledge about investment strategies, risks, gains and losses drawn from awareness and interest in GameStop can provide a foundation for more substantive and thoughtful discussions between investors and wealth managers. Through these discussions, wealth managers can also reinforce the value of their advice and the depth of their expertise. 

Put it in perspective.
This is not the first time events similar to this have happened, but the rapid dissemination of information and, sometimes, misinformation, today magnifies the impact and is an indication of the rising involvement of the public in investing and the proliferation of investment-related information available from a widening range of sources. Putting the situation in perspective by citing previous incidents and their outcomes can provide context and a foundation for the sound advice and guidance provided by a financial advisor.   

Exactly how the GameStop story will play out remains to be seen. In the meantime, showing your clients that you are monitoring the situation, thinking strategically, and actively engaging with them is a scenario we believe is likely to have a positive outcome.

ETFs on the Fringe

This week, Horizons ETFs Management Inc., a Canada-based provider of ETF solutions, launched the world’s first ETF focused on the emerging psychedelics market. The ETF is traded on the NEO stock exchange and tracks the North American Psychedelic Stock Index, which comprises 17 North American life science and pharmaceutical companies.

Growth of thematic ETFs
Horizons is hoping to piggyback off their introduction of the world’s first cannabis-focused ETF in 2017. Both psychedelics and cannabis represent just a portion of the “thematic” ETF categories that are now available to investors. Others include opportunities to invest in the burgeoning space economy, companies that appeal to millennials, the Internet of Things, robotics and the genomic revolution, to name a few. This availability indicates a growing trend among ETF providers to expand their offerings into more and more “micro” segments or themes as they continue to launch increasing numbers of ETFs even amid less than promising market trends. As the charts below show, while 2020 saw a record number of ETF launches, there was also a record number of ETF closures, either by delisting or liquidation—a trend that did not spare even the most prominent ETF providers.


Furthermore, data from September 2020 shows new ETF products launched in 2020 garnered fewer assets than ETF introductions in past years.

Still, even amid massive numbers of closures within the $5 trillion ETF market, and a failure to attract significant inflows to new ETF products, ETF providers were not fazed. We expect this trend to continue as ETF providers look to launch even more products—including newer and more esoteric theme-based ETFs—to respond to market demand and ultimately give more choice to investors.

Color Matters

There has been a lot written regarding the color purple, worn in several different shades by Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris. One of the most discussed theories is that Democrat blue and Republican red together make purple. This is a wonderful idea suggesting unity and collaboration.  

Apparently, Vice President Harris often wears the color purple to honor Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first Black candidate for a major party’s presidential nomination. But one does have to wonder if Harris, Obama and Clinton all got on a Zoom call and agreed on which shade of purple they would wear. Wouldn’t it be great if they did, knowing that there is meaning and pre-conceived notions of what colors represent. Whether it be fashion, packaging, branding or marketing, color really does matter.

Some of the psychological associations with the colors worn at the Inauguration are:

And last but not least:

A Note on Creative Messaging

Have you been to a museum lately? Probably not! But don’t worry, classic paintings like Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer still hang safely there. In late 2019 and through 2020, Invesco launched a “Times Change” campaign that may have confused some who are worried about the Girl’s pearl earring because in the ad it was replaced with an Apple Airpod.

The campaign showcases a series of replicated Old Master paintings to support the tagline “Times Change.” Invesco’s advertising agency, LIDA, commissioned each panting and conceived it to align with different Invesco investment solutions. For example, LIDA added modern windmills to Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Andrews to highlight Invesco’s ESG offerings. The alignment of old and new worked well with the tagline, while at the same time conveying Invesco’s heritage alongside its ability to offer something new. The campaign included both print and digital and ran throughout Europe.

In its recent Global 100 2020 ranking of the world’s largest asset managers in integrated marketing communications, Peregrine Communications used Invesco as a case study, saying: “…the campaign saw a dramatic increase in brand engagement, with branding growing by 32.5% in the week after the campaign launched. The fact that the campaign was able to generate the peak brand awareness in the last 12 months demonstrates the ability of well-thought out creative and messaging to engage institutional and retail audiences alike.”

Effectively marketing financial services, including wealth and asset management, is challenging. It takes creativity, an understanding of the financial services industry and the goals of its core target markets, to execute successfully. We congratulate LIDA on this innovative concept and always celebrate the ability of great creative to make a difference.

Advertisement images are from LIDA, part of M&C Saachi Group.