What asset managers should read to get more digital savvy

There’s plenty of content out there for digital marketers, but what about advice and thoughts specifically catered to those in the asset management and wealth management industry?

Here’s a couple on my list:

A few pieces of research that are good to have on hand as references:

  • I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post already, but Accenture’s framework on asset management is a good guide in resource allocation based on the chosen business model.
  • PwC imagines what the future of asset management will look like. All in all, North America still holds most of the AuM, although there will be a huge shift in the wealth of the mass affluents eastward.
  • The Economist sums up some of the trends taking place in the industry. Nothing is new to those in the business, but a good summary regardless.

Any other pieces of must-reads for someone starting out in the digital space in asset management? Drop your suggestion!

How to set up proper Google Analytics tracking for a global asset manager?

One of the first things an online marketer at an asset manager will need to set up is a proper measurement of how its various digital assets perform. In addition to transactional websites and apps, the most important customer-facing digital asset is probably its corporate website.

A global asset manager has a sprawling presence online. Its corporate site typically covers a number of regions and countries, and presents different information based on how customers self identify, e.g. institutional clients versus retail, some would further segment their customers into groups such as charities and intermediaries.

So what is the best way to structure your Google Analytics account so that data can be captured that gives you the level of granularity necessary for easy reporting?

1. The first thing I would do is to look at how many combinations of regions, languages, or business units are offered on your site. And then think about whether you would want to analyze traffic data based on regions/countries, business units, or languages. For example, would a business unit in a certain country want to see how its part of the corporate website is performing? If the answer is yes, then those are the dimensions through which you will want to track.

The thing to remember here is how Google Analytics is set up. Under every email-linked account, you can set up: Account (max 100), Property (max 50 per Account), and View (max 25 per Property).

Be mindful of GA account Property and View limits when first setting up account

Be mindful of GA account Property and View limits when first setting up account

Ideally, from my experience, it’s best to have each digital asset own its Account. For example, every individual website, app,  should have its unique tracking code. Under Account, each one of these combinations of region/business segment/language (should you want to add this dimension as well), should have its own Property, which is typically a subset of the Account.

It is a bit of a hassle to put in individual tracking codes into each one of the pages. It’s probably the easiest to sum up all the information in an Excel spreadsheet and pass it along to your tech team. I like to use Belgium as an example as it has multiple languages which will present the maximum level of complexity.

Setting up Google Analytics properly for an asset manager

Example of how to set up GA for a multi-region, multi-business unit asset manager

If you only track the overall site as a Property, and configure the individual regions/business unit as a View, then it’s very likely that you will run out of the 25 View limit quickly.

2. If there are less than 25 specific combinations of View that you are interested in tracking within a specific Property, then it’s sufficient to just configure it using the Filter functionality in View itself.


In the example below, I’m setting up a Filter to see the traffic to the English language part of the sub-site that receives visitors to the Belgian Institutional portion of the overall site. This is assuming that the Belgium Institutional part of the site has its own Property and tracking codes defined. If the region and business unit is yet defined, then the Filter might need to outline a more specific URL path such as BE/INST/EN.

What I’m reading: On growth startups, branding, and unhappy finance workers

I’m still rounding up links throughout the week. Here are some of those that stuck this week.

What killed the infographic? Nothing, it just got renamed to data visualization and is still ruling the content wars, if you can get creative enough with it.

What do fast growing startups have in common? Product, a better product, and free tools.

Xiaomi is following Alibaba and Baidu into the retail investment management business.

How branding is a waste of money for any businesses looking to to build a long-term brand.

Hell is other people. Why are finance and insurance workers unhappy? Mostly because of crappy co-workers.

And on a super somber note, what happens when you know your mind will die before your body, and the decisions that follow.

Setting up your wealth management site for analytics 101

If you are an online marketer for an asset manager like me, one of the first things you need to know on the job is whether your website has the proper tracking in place for data gathering and proper online funnel development and marketing down the road.

I’m outlining a few must-have tracking codes to put in place, just because the deployment cycles in a corporate IT environment can be seriously lengthy, it might be a good idea to get them in once and for all.

1. Google Analytics. No brainer. Go to Google Analytics and grab your codes.

2. Google re-marketing codes. Yes, Google can help you re-target your audience. Here’s how you can go to the Shared Library section of Google Analytics, and grab the Google remarketing codes.

3. Google tag manager. This gives you, the marketer, power to “measure traffic and visitor behavior, understand the impact of online advertising and social channels, use remarketing and audience targeting, test and improve your site, and more.” All this without having to go through the IT department to add individual tags for you. Here’s Google Tag manager, where you can grab your codes and insert into the body tag of the site.

4. Other tracking programs that require some kind of code embedding might also be good to investigate. Check out programs like CrazyEgg, Visual Website Optimizer, Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, AppAnnie, Comscore, Quantcast.

5. Bonus extensions and tools that don’t necessarily require codes embedded: There are a number of useful extensions that would perform some quick and dirty analysis on your site or your competitor’s web properties.

  • Page Analytics by Google gives you a pretty good idea of how users click around your site through a Chrome browser
  • Some kind of SEO ranking tool that analyzes site content and gives you feedback on keyword performances. Most of the packages out there are free to try, with a paid version available to those that run through multiple sites.

What am I missing? Are there tools that you would recommend putting in place as soon as you can, to capture website data and user behaviour?


Lay of the land: Understanding the asset management space

For a newbie like me, it was tantamount to quickly understand the lay of the land in the asset management space.

Thanks to this Accenture piece of research, thousands of asset management firms have been neatly slotted into one of the five following categories of service providers.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 14.21.35

Asset manager business models against capabilities

Needless to say, very few asset managers fit neatly into one of the above categories without some level of overlap. But a few have visibly aligned their key competencies based on the business model pursued.

Here are just a few examples of what I’ve been able to observe on a purely superficial level.

Global solution providers are the conglomerates of asset managers, and typically will need to invest heavily in operations & tech in order to claim their space in this league. The undisputed champion of this league is BlackRock. Having mastered the operations game, BlackRock has become the Amazon of its industry, selling risk analysis and operational solutions to its peers and competitors. On a smaller scale, DeAWM has developed a device-agnostic microsite called CIO View that publishes its market outlook.

Focused Alpha firms don’t care much about anything else other than investment performance. Skagen Funds is a pretty example of this. It has a fairly non-descript website but its investment performance and awards shelf speaks for itself. It’s on the top 10 list in the 2014 Fund Brand 50 for Sweden (only Scandinavian country surveyed) and Netherlands.

Enterprise Value Creators are asset managers connected with banks and insurance businesses, thus capturing a large swatch of the customer base through its structure alone. Plenty of examples are out there, with the likes of Barclays, HSBC, or any investment arm linked to a financial services conglomerate occupying the space. An example of their breadth of service can be seen from the likes of Threadneedle, which maps out its extensive product range on site.

Threadneedle product range

Emerging Market Leaders tend to be smaller shops that need to win on distribution. Blackfriars, an AM focused on the Asian emerging markets, makes its funds available on various platforms such as Aviva, Cofunds, Elevate, Novia, Nucleus, Raymond Jaes and Transact.

Client Enterprise Champion is a pretty interesting category that a business doesn’t necessary become by default because of legacy (Enterprise Value Creator), size (Global Solution Provider), or product focus (Emerging Market Leaders). This is a space that almost anyone of a certain size can aspire to attain. But it is a decision that needs to be made consciously and followed through with conviction. Legal & General, has online monitoring, analytics and risk management platform that provides online asset and liability analytics for pension scheme trustees, employers and their advisers. The platform helps them describe risks in their defined benefit strategy, supports range of funds and services, and helps pension schemes de-risk by either moving towards a low-risk investment strategy or considering a buyout solution.

What’s coming up next

After a three and half year break from Investoralist, I am taking a tentative step back into the world of blogging.

Plenty has changed from when I first started writing from my own little corner of the Internet, to now. Having transitioned from a curious sideliner of the fast moving digital media world, to joining a start-up very much in the centre of it, to taking that experience to the two subsequent corporate jobs that I’ve had since, it’s been a great ride.

More importantly in the meantime, the financial services world has shifted a whole lot. After the turmoil of 2008 and the subsequent re-organization, stabilization, more stringent regulation and media scrutiny placed on the entire industry, the attention nowadays has turned to innovation. The one topic that is undoubtedly causing ever more confusion and anxiety in many boardrooms, is the coming “disruption” to the industry. It is expected that the harbinger of change will not be someone from within the industry itself, but in the form of a digital savvy brand (Apple, FB, Google gets mentioned a lot), or trusted distributors with the reach and trust factor (Amazon) that most financial services firms have yet to achieve.

At the same time, the financial services industry, particularly those in asset management, are painfully slow when it comes to digitalization as a whole, and online marketing in particular. So as someone working in the trenches every day, I want to document the process and activities of online marketing for an industry that is very much focused on serving its institutional client base (at least in much of Europe), while concerned about reaching an increasingly important retail client base, all while having to navigate through legacy corporate structures and infrastructures, complex compliance and legal processes, and business cultures that are very much the antithesis of players viewed as imminent “disruptors” to the industry.

In other words, I’m going to be writing about my everyday work – from the nuts and bolts of data analytics, to user experience assessment, to reviewing good content and social practices, to sharing developments in the industry and highlighting innovative activities and projects.

To my old readers still on my mailing list – greetings, so good to still have you around, and I hope the topics covered are still of interest! To new readers that have stumbled onto this blog, welcome and I look forward to going on this journey of learning and discovery with you!

August 24 reading

Animals felt the tremours first. Red ruffed lemurs win hands-down, a full 15 minutes of warning, if you knew what was coming, that is. Flamingos were also pretty clear in their signalling. Pandas proved useless in this instance.

Rest of the world has to pick up the slack.

So resistance to maintain online annominity is futile?

Cheating on tests, cheating on taxes, principle is the same: when people over-estimate other people’s tendency to cheat, cheating becomes rampant.

Boys are maturing faster too, but we are in general all growing up slower.

Global competition doesn’t spare any specific industry.

And the centre of the world keeps shifting, east and southwards.

Adoptions and corruption.

It’s this time of the year again, amusement park rides and fair foods.

August 17 reading

Will more reverse endorsements like this come about in the coming years? Imagine if Burberry offered British soccer hooligans to stop wearing its pattern.

This will not be without consequences. (h/t JW)

Big Pharma in my opinion is scarier than Big anything else.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about Ron Paul either.

Yet another example of completely unintended progress, this time in Brazil. This is the hilarious 5 point plan in crashing fertility:

1. Industrialize dramatically, urgently, and late, causing your nation to hurtle through in 25 years what economists used to think of as a century’s worth of internal rural-to-urban relocation of its citizens. Brazil’s military rulers, who seized power in a 1964 military coup and held on through two decades of sometimes brutal authoritarian rule, forced the country into a new kind of economy, one that has concentrated work in the cities, where the housing is cramped, the favela streets are dangerous, babies look more like new expense burdens than like future useful farmhands, and the jobs women must take for their families’ survival require leaving home for ten hours at a stretch.

2. Keep your medications mostly unregulated and your pharmacy system over-the-counter, so that when birth control pills hit the world in the early 1960s, women of all classes can get their hands on them, even without a doctor’s prescription, if they can just come up with the money. Nurture in these women a particularly dismissive attitude toward the Catholic Church’s position on artificial contraception. (See number 4.)

3. Improve your infant and child mortality statistics until families no longer feel compelled to have extra, just-in-case babies on the supposition that a few will die young. Compound that reassurance with a national pension program, relieving working-class parents of the conviction that a big family will be their only support when they grow old

4. Distort your public health system’s financial incentives for a generation or two, so that doctors learn they can count on higher pay and more predictable work schedules when they perform cesareans rather than waiting for natural deliveries. Then spread the word, woman to woman, that a public health doctor who has already begun the surgery for a cesarean can probably be persuaded to throw in a discreet tubal ligation, thus ensuring a thriving, decades-long publicly supported gray market for this permanent method of contraception. Brazil’s health system didn’t formally recognize voluntary female sterilization until 1997. But the first time I ever heard the phrase “a fábrica está fechada,” it was from a 69-year-old retired schoolteacher who had her tubes tied in 1972, after her third child was born. This woman had three sisters. Every one of them underwent a ligation. Yes, they were all Catholic. Yes, the church hierarchy disapproved. No, none of them much cared; they were women of faith, but in some matters the male clergy is perhaps not wholly equipped to discern the true will of God. The lady was pouring tea into china cups at her dining table as we talked, and her voice was matter-of-fact. “Everyone was doing it,” she said.

Housewives and unintended progress

I can’t stop thinking about the interview I saw yesterday on Charlie Rose with SOHO’s billionare founder. One thing has stuck with me since, when Charlie’s asked her whether women fare far worse than men in China, and she answered that Chinese women probably fare the best in the world on a relative scale, when it comes to freedom and choices.

Now, social issues aside (let’s be clear that Chinese women, particularly rural ones, are seriously oppressed through marriage and traditional patriartical values, do in fact have the highest suicide rate of any female groups in the world), this is an interesting discussion to be had. Zhang’s arguement was that most middle-class Chinese women have a lot of support to learn on – child-rearing is supported by parents on both sides, and much household tasks can be off-loaded to affordable and readily available labour that migrates from the rural areas. This frees them up to pursue things outside of their homes, whether intellectually or in business matters. It is not hard to spot women in Chinese boards and high level executivie positions, nor are girls’ aspirations to make themselves a career anything to be surprised about. Compared to its East Asian neighbours, Korea and Japan, the female participation rates in the labour force is far far higher.

But consider how accidental this “progress” came to be – who could have predicted that in a still rather traditional and Confucius society, females in China have achieved what decades of feminist movements and thoughts in the West have fallen short in – an aspiration and a firmer grasp of economic freedom. Most of these are due to two events completely unrelated and unintended to have anything to do with female empowerment: 1) politics ordained official “equality”, and just like East Germany, this communist/socialist value pushed a lot of females into the work force, and 2) when China finally opened up post-80s, the working mentality had already been deeply entrenched in the Chinese female psyches for more than a generation, and urban females jumped on the career fast-track, courtesy of rural migration that bought to the cities wave after wave of available domestic help.

The cloest thing you see to the Chinese phenonemon is perhaps the US, where cheap Mexican labour has also freed up many Americans, men and women, to pursue more economically productive matters. In Europe, on the other hand, through stricter migration and labour laws, higher taxes (which makes it more worthwhile for you to take care of your own children, mow your own lawns, cook your own meals, and paint your own houses), and perhaps a higher level of complancy of females in knowing that their “equality” is realized through legal versus economic means, has practically barred its women from venturing back to the work force after having a family.  So is it Schadenfreude when the continent scratched its head and wonders what other tricks it has under its sleeves as to how it can best motivate and allow its highly-educated female population to become more productive members of society?

Monday Aug 15th reading

One of my university classmates once entered into an inpromptu debate with our labour relations professor on the merits of more private goods. I think I’ve found the perfect rebuttal.

This is the problem with super homogenous societies. Everybody does something out of habit regardless of whether they like it or not, now the silent minorities (or maybe majorities) don’t like it anymore, and have to invent societies to curb it.

Warren Buffet wants to pay more taxes.

Short TED talk for China watchers.  Also, as far as interesting interviews are concerned, search for Zhang Xin at Charlie Rose, the female billionare founder of SOHO real estate corporation in China, self-made from factory worker. Sometimes I worry about how much Europe misses out on the emerging economies, sole because there’s so much 1) navel gazing, and 2) constantly looking up to the US as the ultimate measuring stick, even when the US has long moved on to the next bright thing.

I’m reading again!

It’s been almost a whole year since I last blogged. There were a few reasons, the biggest being that I just simply ran out of things to say, and bloggin became more of a burden than a pleasure.

Now after a year of separation, I think I might be ready to get back to somewhat reguglar blogging again. There’s a lot to catch up on, but first things first, some interesting reading for the weekend.

Unintended consequences

Michael Lewis at it again

Things to think through before killing off a character

Culling of the Middle Class – see also deflationry effect of the Internet, and effect of immigration to the UK on the top and bottom strata of society (still searching for the piece)

American manufacturing strikes back

If you are interested in language and culture, Economist’s Johnson blog always has something amusing to offer

Finland turning into your average frozen and violence-obsessed midwest town

Non-violence - the Knotted Gun - United Nations
Image by Al_HikesAZ via Flickr

With multiple gun shootings in Finland over the last couple of years, a couple of which taking place in schools, Finland is now on high alert.

The response resembles more out of an inner-city school in some hard-knocked American industrial city, than that of a frozen northern tundra of a country famous otherwise for its mobile phones and sauna.

Getting through the door at Järvenpää High School requires an electronic key these days. Once inside, students leave their coats and bags at a monitored rack. Students too are under the close watch of video cameras.

The school’s pupils say the measures add a sense of security.

“It feels safe here, and we’re not afraid to come to school, especially in light of the school shootings. We know outsiders can’t get in,” says Sini Huuskola, a student at the school.

There we have it.  Scandinavia ghetto-rized, one cold corner at a time.

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