Distribution 3.0: Building a Strategy for the Long Term

FundForum Ann Prendergast

In a crowded market, managers are looking for any competitive advantage to help them stand out while meeting investors’ increasingly complex demands.

July 2023

At this year’s IMpower FundForum, a panel of experts that included State Street Global Advisors’ European Union head Ann Prendergast agreed that managers will best differentiate themselves through establishing an authentic, credible and effective client engagement strategy.

“Increasingly, our largest clients don’t come to us with a set of questions, but rather with a broad agenda. They are ready for some blue-sky thinking,” said Prendergast, who was joined on the panel by Florian Uleer, head of EMEA Wholesale at Columbia Threadneedle; Renato Guerriero, deputy CEO, head of Global Development and Distribution at Candriam; and Ryan Blute, MD, and EMEA head of Global Wealth Management and Product Management at PIMCO.

“Similarly, we don’t simply take a set of products to them; we focus on addressing macro issues and the challenges clients are facing,” Prendergast added. “This problem-solving approach has become more valuable in a world where there is so much uncertainty.”

Below are highlights from the panel’s discussion.

Stay true to your strategy for growth
It can be tempting to chase short-term fads, but by linking long-term investment views and goals with products and solutions, you anchor your approach in credibility and demonstrate to the market that you are committed to your mission and values.

“When reacting to market events, clients appreciate we may not always have complete information, but they nonetheless value our insights and guidance,” said Prendergast. “Acting with integrity helps us to build deeper and more enduring relationships.”

Anticipate client expectations and have a plan to meet them
Be in the market. Be present. Understand the local culture, business practices and evolving client needs, and stay up to date on regulatory changes that impact your clients’ investment goals.

“We can calibrate around market differences,” said Prendergast. “Our clients don’t just expect us to deliver on their investment objectives; they want us to bring our expertise and flexibility. It’s important that we can work with them in a way that suits their specific needs – wherever they do business. Lastly, we can stand out by considering not just their needs today, but also the challenges that will face them in one, five, even 10 years.”

Don’t just say who you are – show and reaffirm it
Sharing your research, insights and other content can help showcase your expertise and leadership, while demonstrating your ability to deliver the right solutions at the right time.

During the discussion, moderator Toby Finden-Crofts, CEO and founder of data provider Research in Finance, offered highlights from the firm’s European Fund Selector Study. Conducted in spring 2023, the study showed that the majority (89 percent) of respondents greatly valued market insights and thought leadership from their managers.

Harness the power of your people
When it comes to standing apart from competitors and building strong client relationships, never underestimate the value of your teams and their ability to serve clients, even in the most challenging situations.

The European Fund Selector Study results showed that the second most valued communication method for clients – at 86 percent – was meetings with the managers themselves.

“Technology is instrumental to all aspects of our business in terms of how we execute our business, how we manage portfolios and how we engage with clients. However, it is no replacement for in-person communication,” said Prendergast. “During COVID, technology got us through, but we all welcomed the return to in-person meetings again.”


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