Equipping Client Portfolio Managers for Success

A recent FundFire article highlighted the fact that many asset management firms are changing the way the way they structure their institutional sales teams. Citing recent research from Cerulli Associates, the article points out that many firms are not only increasing the headcount of their distribution teams, but also creating new client-facing roles not previously seen in the industry.

Positive sentiment across the industry is helping this evolution take place. As reported, 80% of asset managers with $100 billion or more in AUM made changes to their distribution teams over the past two years, but not a single firm in the study said they had reduced their sales headcount. Rather, they are growing and changing the structure of their sales teams.

One major trend among asset management firms is a push to increase the bench strength of their client-facing teams. In particular, many firms have created a new key role called Client Portfolio Manager (CPM), and have made filling these positions a priority. In fact, 43% of the large firms and 41% of the smaller firms in the Cerulli study said that CPM hires are among their planned headcount additions this year. A quick check of industry job boards and firms’ career pages confirms this trend.

Client portfolio managers, or CPMs, typically sit between distribution or client service teams and the firm’s portfolio managers, and have direct responsibility for managing client relationships. Part of their job is to act as a go-between, communicating with clients on behalf of PMs (to save them time) while also advocating internally for interests of the clients. It is a complex role that requires a unique set of skills and a deep investment management background. So these are far from inexpensive hires.

Before going out and hiring new CPMs, however, asset management firms should take a step back and assess how they are going to equip those individuals. Do firms have the tools and technologies these individuals will need to succeed with today’s mobile and always-connected investors? Do they have the infrastructure, systems, and applications they’ll need to drive up client satisfaction and loyalty? Will CPMs have efficient ways to get their firms’ best and most relevant content to the right clients at just the right times – and deliver it in the ways the clients prefer?

For many shops, the answer is “probably not.” If their communication systems and content management tools are only 80% efficient, their five new client portfolio managers CPMs will only be able to deliver the results of four CPMs.

That’s why asset management firms would be well-advised to investigate the range of solutions now available that can give their CPMs much more effective ways to share content and communicate with clients. Beyond just hiring them, how firms plan to equip their CPMs to have more productive client conversations needs to be part of the discussion.

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