Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What to do when you can't NOT communicate - Day 1 of the PAICR conference

Communication 101

Communication is a learned skill. We’re all born with the ability but it takes real practice to be good at it. So opined David Grossman, Founder of the Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago PR firm.

Do I agree? Oh yes.

So what’s the upside of good communication asks David Grossman? Well it helps put strategy into action.

Done poorly? Misunderstanding, skepticism and damage to reputation

Why aren’t we doing it better?

Because we have beliefs that get in the way of working on the skills needed to be really good at communicating. Holding us back from greatness are beliefs and fear…
  •  We believe we are born good at it…therefore don’t practice…and don’t get better
  • We’re afraid of failing…and that fear stops us trying and learning new things or skills…or overcoming our blind spots
  • A belief that good communication is all “common sense”

Common sense it may be, but common practice it is not, says Grossman.

The ‘what does your boss want” question?

For example, ask yourself this…is your boss a “no news is good news” or “no news is bad news”? If you don’t know the answer Grossman says, you better find out. Your future, and theirs, may rely on it.

So how can it go wrong? In the “boss” example, if you have it wrong you’ll be working at cross purposes. Your manager may value, and want, one kind of communication but be getting something quite different from you.

Let’s say you’re an extrovert. Typically says Grossman, extroverts do a lot of talking. Extrovert = quantity of communication high, quality low (ouch).

Or an introvert? You’re likely to be communicating a lot less than you think you really are. Introvert = quantity is low, quality is high. But is everyone hearing you??

Game changers

Grossman offers three “game changers” particularly useful for leaders and communication people. They are understanding that:

  • 1.       Everything communicates…so being purposeful is critical
  • You can’t lead without communicating (really well). Or in other words, to be a leader you need followers!
  • Engagement is how you differentiate yourself…or “the boss makes the weather”…understanding how “watched” you are as a leader gives you the chance to control the consequences of your behavior and achieve greater engagement from colleagues.

So what’s the “new norm” for those seeking to communicate? 

From “me” to “we”

For employees we have to answer these questions…in order from 1 to 8.

In a way Grossman is suggesting it’s a goal to earn the right to answer the “we” questions.

  1. 1.       What’s my job?
  2. 2.       How am I doing?
  3.  Does anyone care about me?

  1. 4.       What’s going on?

  1. 5.       What’s our business strategy?
  2. 6.       How are we doing?
  3. 7.       What’s our vision and values?
  4. 8.       How can I help?

…and thus engagement results.

Great eight
There are “the Great eight basics” to help us as we communicate says Grossman...
  • 1.       Understand your audience
  • 2.       Make your messages clear, compelling and relevant
  • 3.       Plan your communication
  • 4.       Set context and make information relevant – something only the leader can do – answering the “why” we’re doing what we’re doing
  • 5.       Listen and check for understanding
  • 6.       Select the right vehicle
  • 7.       Communicate with truth and integrity
  • 8.       Match words and actions

A final tip for young players...

Conflict escalates faster and lasts longer on email than verbally. So STOP using “reply all”. Pick up the phone or walk the few feet up or down the hallway to “talk”. Yes Millennials and Gen Ys, there is a place for person-to-person communication. Walk & talk.

Fact or fiction?

Myths hold us back...according to Grossman they are:
  • 1.       Don’t have time to communicate
  • 2.       People won’t interpret…at BlueChip we call this the “people make stuff up in a vacuum” rule
  • 3.       Talking is communication…or put another way it really doesn’t matter what you say…it matters what they (our audience) hear

David Grossman has a bunch of ebooks and a blog. Based on what I heard today they’re worth a look.

Strategic Marketing in Asset Management - Day 1 of the PAICR conference

Great presentation today by Jeffrey Margolis based on his white paper “Inside a Successful Asset Management Firm: Building and Executing a Premier Marketing Strategy and Organization.”


Despite the lengthy title, Jeffrey’s workshop made the potentially complex, simple. I wanted to share some of his very practical comments with you because I know many of our clients (and other readers) have questions about how marketing can, and should, work within their asset management firms.


It’s not a bad guide for other areas of financial services marketing as well!


First of all, how does Margolis define strategic marketing in asset management? Well it includes (and apologies for any liberties here as my notes are not be perfect) the following:


-          A definition of the firm’s capabilities and offerings: the core of what you do

-          Outlines the firm’s investment philosophy which must be:

o   Clearly articulated inside AND outside the firm

o   Understandable and repeatable

o   Provide a solid foundation from which strategies and offerings are developed

-          Defines the firm’s brand – who it is and what it offers – which evolves from soundly defined capabilities and offerings


Why bother with strategic marketing? According to Margolis we should evolve (and no one today felt they were there yet) to this way of managing marketing because…


1.       investment performance is no longer enough for success – strategic marketing is now crucial in the “new normal” market

2.       Articulated through a well-crafted plan, it helps managers reach goals

3.       It guides firms towards stated objectives – but beware marketing is only as strong as its continuous assessment against benchmarks and goals

4.       Designed to propel firms from good to great


Done well, Margolis believes a good marketing strategy can propel a firm from good to great.


So how to create such a strategy?


Start with a SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats assessment. Then, make sure you cover off the right plan elements:

1.       Strengths and weaknesses plus overall risks to the business

2.       Marketplace environment

3.       Product growth and retention projections

4.       Necessary resources


“Disciplined yet flexible” are words that came up again and again. Ideally the marketing plan is disciplined enough to set a strong direction and stop impulse decisions (hooray) but flexible enough to adapt to changes in market conditions, competitor activity or marketing context.


And Margolis’s top tip for improving the standing of the marketing function within the firm?


Do competitor analysis.


That analysis can include databases with investment statistics and track record, reviewing competitor presentation materials or RFPs (if you can get them!), looking at where the competition are, or are not competing. Then, bring those materials and the analysis, to the investment and sales team


Tips from participants?


-          Use SharePoint as a common platform for all inside the firm to share materials  – slide decks, previous RFP questionnaire,  and potentially current marketing materials

-          Talk to your peers – others in similar roles can stretch past the boundaries of competition to help with advice or experience around all sorts of topics


My favourite quote?


“Part of marketing’s responsibility is to really understand your audience.”




You can read the whole white paper on Jeffrey Margolis’s website.


Jeffrey was kind enough to offer to take PAICR members’ calls at any time for advice – I’m guessing that’s a somewhat limited offer in our time zone.

Global Trends in Asset Management - Day 1 of the PAICR conference

Day 1 of the PAICR conference in New York opened with a presentation by Kevin Quirk, Partner at Casey Quirk.


It suggests fundamental changes are altering how asset managers, the world over, do business.


Casey Quirk is a management consultant to investment managers, so well placed to comment on trends. While somewhat US-centric for Australian firms there was plenty of value in Quirk’s comment.


Six key trends will shape institutional asset management in future, he says:


1.       Demand for outcomes

2.       New investment frameworks

3.       Shifting asset allocations

4.       Target-date fund growth

5.       An emphasis on alignment

6.       Globalising clientele


Again this year we heard the plenary speaker talk about the “two camp” split in asset management. Last year it was described as commodity/utility providers versus boutiques or value add. This year it was described as “solution providers” versus “component providers”.


“Solution providers” in the Casey Quirk world, are those who emphasise portfolio constriction; achieve multiple objectives and use more balance-sheet wrappers. “Component providers” are those who emphasise specialist alpha; focus solely on return and provide returns within other packaged products


Other key themes:


-          Total portfolio outsourcing is on the rise for institutions globally

-          Demand for outcomes will lead to a multi-faceted investment approach (and challenges to conventional thinking such as CAPM & portfolio theory)

-          Investors & consultants are re-thinking traditional asset allocation frameworks – expected to mean, among other things, more money going to hedge funds

-          Demand is rising for non-correlated alpha and inflation-fighting product sets

-          Long-only, US equity-focussed allocations are in decline

-          Fixed Income may present opportunities for smaller managers

-          Target date fund growth will drive demand for additional asset classes

-          Investment management firms with lower staff turnover generally perform better

-          Similarly, Quirk’s numbers show better staff alignment results in significantly better revenue growth performance

-          Strong alignment has become a critical selection criteria for gatekeepers


…and more.


Quirk’s 19 slides were each very relevant to Australian investment managers and those who work with them.


Here I’ve only covered about two of the 19 in detail. This presentation alone is worth sharing more in person – and I will be doing so in Sydney and Melbourne before year’s end. Drop me a line if you’re interested in hearing more.