Peter Beckett’s working life began in a very different place to asset management: an upmarket ‘bottleshop’ – that’s Kiwi for off-license. Starting in the stockroom at 13, he worked his way to the shop counter by 15, testing his knowledge by selling directly to the business’ wealthy patrons.
The wine trade left Beckett with an abiding love of fine wine, but more importantly allowed him to closely observe customer interaction, enforcing the importance of packaging and branding and develop a clear sense of a winning sales message.
In another life he might have stayed in the wine trade: “I would have much preferred to go into wine,” he says, before adding with a smile: “But the financial services industry pays a bit better.”
Having graduated with an eclectic mix of accountancy and marketing, Peter swapped New Zealand for London, working first at KPMG before later joining Schroders in June 2000.
Nearly 18 years on (with a two year stint at UBS in between), Beckett is still at Schroders. Yet little is the same at the firm that last year saw assets under management and administration rise to £447bn in 2017.*
According to Beckett, gone are the days when marketing executives placed advertisements in national papers including the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph and “the sales ticker would go firing up”.
In more recent years, even large scale events in the UK and abroad have become tougher to justify as a result of numerous new regulations and as a result marketing departments are having to evolve. In particular, marketing teams focus has shifted from advertising to content.
“When an intermediary sits face to face with the client today, all that is visible is a list of funds on a fund supermarket platform,” says Beckett who explains that ensuring an asset manager’s message is heard by key intermediaries such as Hargreaves Lansdown, Chelsea Financial Services and FundsNetwork, has become ever more important as direct sales to consumers have dried up over recent years. “We need to be one of those names that is recognisable and where the client says ‘yes, I am willing to invest with them as I recognise the brand’.
With the absence of traditional marketing methods that held Beckett in good stead early on in his career, today it is digital content that is walking the line between working for the intermediary and the end investor.
Indeed, it is content rather than advertising that is assisting in keeping brands like Schroders very much alive in the eye of the investor.
Beckett is in charge of a 30-strong headcount across content teams, from investment writing to editorial, alongside general marketing operations as well. For his team, Beckett seeks people with investment knowledge, who can write for the end consumer audience, as well as well-informed investment writers able to deliver market reports, fund information reports and fund manager commentary, plus thought leadership.
This has been seen in recent years via Schroders’ big name hires such as former Daily Telegraph personal finance editor Andrew Oxlade, who joined the team as head of editorial content.
With content specialists forming the bulk of Peter’s central team, they also assist in writing investment pitches with the sales team, as well as committing to long-term projects published over the course of the year such as the annual Global Investor Study (which reaches a staggering 225 million people globally).
“We genuinely don’t have enough staff to write it all – people have day jobs so there is a certain amount of freelance”, says Beckett.
Beckett admits this shift from advertising to content has resulted in there being less requirement for marketing generalists, while digital specialists, content specialists, and event specialists are in demand. He cites this change as “probably one of the biggest I’ve seen” in the sector.
Schroders tries as much as possible to track every piece of content produced by the team, but although working out how to calculate the ROI on this remains the ‘Holy Grail’, audience feedback and fund flows provide a good measure of success, although for Beckett, sales empowerment through quality information provision are better considerations.
More money is being invested in marketing technology, with Schroders recently shifting from Oracle’s Eloqua platform to Salesforce Marketing Cloud. This marketing technology is used to track user journeys between web pages and emails, with automated platforms connecting the dots of how prospective customers behave. Increasingly, this information is then passed on to the distribution sales teams to follow up on.
This is only the start for Schroders. Phase 2 of monitoring how well potential clients are engaging with Schroders’ content will be more about connecting content consumption intelligence with the distribution sales CRM platform (Salesforce) and delivering real intelligence on prospects.
Identifying core metrics such as ‘what events they have attended?’, ‘what fact sheets they have read?’ and ‘should we be spending more time with them?’ are all fundamental to ensuring the content the different teams are producing is not just reaching the target audience, but is engaging with them as well.
Schroders is arguably ahead of many other asset managers in terms of its content output; however Beckett believes the group is still at the early stages of its marketing evolution journey. He anticipates there are many more changes to come in this space.
“The past was all about personal relationships and people running round the country with briefcases full of presentations. Digital marketing and content is changing that. Fund selectors have often done their research before they speak to a sales manager and therefore marketing teams need to ensure analysts have all of the information they need. Sales is changing too. It is not about ‘hard sell’. It’s a much more consultative process, ensuring clients have all of the information, knowledge and confidence they need to invest in our products.”
*Source: Schroders 31 December 2017.