Maximising success on the front line of Asset Management with complementary teams

The Chal­lenge for Asset Man­agers: Dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion to ben­e­fit customers.

Tight­en­ing com­pe­ti­tion, shrink­ing mar­gins and ris­ing client demands. Due to these pres­sures, a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed posi­tion­ing and the achieve­ment of real cus­tomer engage­ment are of cen­tral impor­tance for asset man­agers. So how do com­pa­nies tack­le these chal­lenges or even use them to their advan­tage? Chris­t­ian Haas, from Haas Asso­ciates and Mike Hakkens from WATC Con­sult­ing AG share their views on how com­pa­nies and exec­u­tives can pos­i­tive­ly approach these chal­lenges with the intro­duc­tion of com­ple­men­tary client-fac­ing teams.

The client per­spec­tive: Invest in me, and I will invest in you.

Clients expect new insights and solu­tions from sup­pli­ers. In addi­tion to know- how, this requires above all a sus­tained inter­est in the sit­u­a­tion of the client. Whether insti­tu­tion­al client, dis­tri­b­u­tion part­ner or direct investor, the trust in the asset man­ag­er deter­mines the com­mer­cial suc­cess of the rela­tion­ship sig­nif­i­cant­ly. The dynam­ics of this rela­tion­ship are chang­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly though. For exam­ple, due to chang­ing client needs and expec­ta­tions, the ‘hyper­adop­tion’ of advances in dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy and the con­tin­u­ous stream of reg­u­la­to­ry ini­tia­tives and the imple­men­ta­tion there­of. The clas­sic prod­uct-ori­en­tat­ed sales push is no longer accept­ed. A con­sul­ta­tive approach, start­ing from the per­spec­tive of the client, needs to be applied to achieve the trust­ed advis­er sta­tus, over time. Besides the devel­op­ment of process­es and sys­tems, the adap­ta­tion to this new real­i­ty above all requires inno­va­tion in human cap­i­tal man­age­ment. To live up to the com­plex­i­ty of this new kind of rela­tion­ship man­age­ment, we sug­gest the intro­duc­tion of a com­ple­men­tary, het­eroge­nous team com­po­si­tion to suc­cess­ful­ly face the stat­ed challenges.

The employ­ee per­spec­tive: Empow­er me to engage me.

In our roles as cus­tomer man­age­ment and human cap­i­tal con­sul­tants to the asset man­age­ment indus­try, we con­sis­tent­ly hear from suc­cess­ful sales and rela­tion­ship tal­ent, that they look for three require­ments to deliv­er top results:  1) to receive respon­si­bil­i­ty for the assigned mar­ket and to fur­ther devel­op brand aware­ness; 2) to have the abil­i­ty to devel­op cus­tom client solu­tions; 3) to man­age client rela­tions in one’s own indi­vid­ual way. Addi­tion­al­ly, employ­ees require a per­spec­tive. They need to be able to iden­ti­fy them­selves with the com­pa­ny cul­ture and strate­gic vision with­in their own beliefs and val­ues set. That these find­ings are not new, makes the sig­nif­i­cant poten­tial that we have iden­ti­fied in the analy­sis of the indus­try and indi­vid­ual asset man­age­ment organ­i­sa­tions even more remark­able. These pos­i­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics, which clients expect and see as added val­ue from sup­pli­ers, are often nipped in the bud, as they are deemed not to be aligned with the inter­nal work­ings of the organ­i­sa­tion. A metic­u­lous­ly curat­ed team with com­ple­men­tary skills, from all rel­e­vant parts of the organ­i­sa­tion, can pos­i­tive­ly coun­ter­act this situation.

The com­pa­ny per­spec­tive: There is noth­ing “safe” about an undif­fer­en­ti­at­ed brand any­more. Com­pa­nies need to posi­tion them­selves in a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed and prof­itable man­ner. They must also estab­lish a valid cul­tur­al DNA that car­ries the com­pa­ny to achieve its objec­tives and val­ues the unique­ness of indi­vid­ual employ­ees. This is the fine line that lead­ers need to define and use as the ‘north star’ to guide deci­sion-mak­ing and exe­cu­tion. We rec­om­mend com­pa­nies to aim high: ral­ly the organ­i­sa­tion around a com­mon, top-lev­el objec­tive and build non-homoge­nous teams that are made up of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and dif­fer­ent skills sets.

In work­ing with sup­pli­ers, clients want to learn and gain new insights. They want sup­port in answer­ing com­plex ques­tions and solu­tions for com­plex prob­lems. We firm­ly believe that only com­ple­men­tary teams can pro­vide all this effec­tive­ly, in today’s world.

Dare to dif­fer: Seiz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties with com­ple­men­tary teams.

So how het­ero­ge­neous should or must front-line teams in asset man­age­ment be? In our dai­ly work we con­tin­ue to see that most peo­ple have a desire to devel­op and change over the life­cy­cle of their career. For exam­ple, a fund ana­lyst that wants to move into insti­tu­tion­al Sales. Or an insti­tu­tion­al sales man­ag­er that wants to switch to whole­sale dis­tri­b­u­tion. Will these peo­ple, with their het­ero­ge­neous skills, enable exist­ing teams to be more suc­cess­ful in serv­ing clients? The answer is yes, of course.

A fur­ther ques­tion is, why we speak about the need for more ‘out-of-the-box think­ing’ but only rarely allow it? The answer is obvi­ous: risk. Going ‘off bench­mark’ entails tak­ing more risk, which is also the case in invest­ment man­age­ment. Isn’t that exact­ly where the added val­ue for clients is hid­den? Very few firms in asset man­age­ment today allow fail­ure. As a result, very few lead­ers expose them­selves by try­ing new things because the risk of fail­ure is often inex­cus­able. The con­se­quences are obvi­ous:  inno­va­tion is nipped in the bud, inspi­ra­tion is absent and organ­i­sa­tion­al ener­gy is large­ly inward-focussed with client needs being a side-show.

We are con­vinced that, with the het­ero­ge­neous nature of their know how, prob­lem-solv­ing approach­es and per­son­al­i­ties, com­ple­men­tary teams can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the client rela­tion­ship, over time result­ing in high­er reten­tion as well as up- and cross-sell­ing rates. The suc­cess­ful prac­ti­cal imple­men­ta­tion requires courage. How­ev­er, not just risk, but also oppor­tu­ni­ty should be con­sid­ered to objec­tive­ly assess new ways of working.

The bot­tom line: Com­ple­men­tary teams can add val­ue for cus­tomers and asset managers.

Real added val­ue for clients is gen­er­at­ed ‘off bench­mark’. In cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment this means the involve­ment of dif­fer­ent indi­vid­u­als with dif­fer­ent skills and mind­sets that col­lec­tive­ly can ful­ly meet the needs of clients. This gen­er­ates new, inspir­ing approach­es and solu­tions that are the basis for true client engage­ment on their terms. Firms must decide if they want to go this route. A key deci­sion dri­ver will be the val­ue asso­ci­at­ed with het­ero­gene­ity. Change and uncer­tain­ty are the only con­stant in today’s world. Our clients are in many ways fac­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges as we do. They are look­ing for part­ners that take the ini­tial step and gath­er expe­ri­ences that add val­ue in solv­ing them. We feel that this is the time to try new ways to engage clients, start­ing with build­ing com­ple­men­tary client-fac­ing teams.

About the authors: Chris­t­ian Haas is the own­er of Haas Asso­ciates (, an exec­u­tive search firm spe­cialised in asset man­age­ment. Mike Hakkens leads the finan­cial ser­vices and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence prac­tices at WATC Con­sult­ing AG (, the lead­ing Euro­pean strat­e­gy con­sul­tan­cy spe­cialised in cus­tomer management.

Christian Haas

Chris­t­ian has more than 10 years of prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence in the field of Asset Man­age­ment. Dur­ing his time in the busi­ness he was active as, amongst oth­er things, the Head of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Insti­tu­tion­al Clients at Cred­it Suisse. In addi­tion, he built up M&G Invest­ments’ Insti­tu­tion­al busi­ness affil­i­ate in Switzer­land. After­wards, Chris­t­ian worked as a Part­ner at an Exec­u­tive Search firm and assumed respon­si­bil­i­ty for its Asset Man­age­ment practice.

Chris­t­ian holds a BBA with a spe­cial­iza­tion in Mar­ket­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences in Zurich (HWZ). He is a Char­tered Alter­na­tive Invest­ment Ana­lyst (CAIA).

His pro­found inter­est in the inter­per­son­al dynam­ics of cor­po­rate envi­ron­ments led him to earn a Master’s Degree in Coach­ing and Con­sult­ing for Change at INSEAD. He wrote his Master’s The­sis on Sales Dynam­ics and Effec­tive­ness in Asset Man­age­ment Distribution.

Mike Hakkens

Mike Hakkens builds cus­tomer-cen­tric organ­i­sa­tions to improve busi­ness per­for­mance as Part­ner at WATC Con­sult­ing AG. He is one of a few senior exec­u­tives in Finan­cial Ser­vices who has suc­cess­ful­ly led the end-to-end design and imple­men­ta­tion of a glob­al cus­tomer expe­ri­ence trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme span­ning all cus­tomer types, busi­ness units and regions. The pro­gramme deliv­ered sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in cus­tomer rela­tion­ships, mea­sured by +38 points uplift in NPS between 2011 and 2016, sus­tain­able improve­ment of busi­ness results and became inte­gral to Fideli­ty International’s busi­ness strategy.

Before this, Mike held sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al senior lead­er­ship roles in asset man­age­ment cov­er­ing client ser­vices, rela­tion­ship man­age­ment, busi­ness devel­op­ment and oper­a­tions. He is an Expert for the Kick­start Accel­er­a­tor pro­gramme in Switzer­land, mem­ber of the UK Board of Ambas­sadors of the Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Pro­fes­sion­als Asso­ci­a­tion ( and a judge for the UK Finan­cial Ser­vices Expe­ri­ence Awards.

Max­imis­ing suc­cess on the front line of Asset Man­age­ment with com­ple­men­tary teams: PDF Down­load