Database platforms are providing a major assist to asset managers looking to better organize their marketing and distribution strategies.
Technology solutions from vendors such as RIA Database, Discovery Data and Celera Systems are saving fund managers time and money by providing clear tracking of which stakeholders to reach out to. Utilizing these services enables asset managers to avoid allocating resources toward manually creating charts as well as having to update advisor moves to different companies.
"Having processes in place to track and keep things organized is critical," says Dan Sondhelm, a marketing consultant at SunStar Strategic who works with 40 asset managers on distribution and marketing strategies. "For firms interested in growth, there is no substitute for understanding your target market, knowing the advisors who you do business with and communicating and engaging both groups on a regular basis in a cost effective and time effective way."
Database solutions offered by RIA Database and Discovery Data breakdown information on advisors including name, address, date of birth, assets under management and whether they sell mutual funds. Technology providers like Celera, Access Data and SalesFocus Solutions provide sales reporting information on which advisors are purchasing certain funds.
Julie Cooling, founder and CEO of RIA Database, says demand for organized data formats has been high of late from both small and large fund firms. Cooling founded RIA Database in 2005 and has since launched similar offerings geared toward broker-dealers, family offices and bank trusts. She now works with 400 fund firms of varying sizes some who have eyes on different advisor channels with others who concentrate on one.
"The financial advisor marketplace is definitely a challenge to get for fund companies so being able to have a one stop shop for them has been ideal," says Cooling. "We try to take the burden of contact information off these firms."
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Intrepid Capital Management first signed up with RIA Database in 2008 three years after launching its first mutual funds. Matt Berquist, vice president at Intrepid, said the service has enhanced its ability to determine which advisors are already incorporating its products into client portfolios.
"We wanted to the best of our ability to know who owns our shares," says Berquist. "It allows us to prioritize who we need to be talking to."
Beverly Dube, who leads Celera's client operations teams, says the platform allows fund companies the ability to receive aggregated data from hundreds of trading platforms so that all intermediary transaction data is consolidated into a single format. Dube says in the decade since launching its data offering, Celera has specialized in working with small and fast-growing asset managers.
"One of our clients who manages a little over $6 billion, engaged us to do an assessment of where their business was coming from to help them sort through which channels were most productive and which broker dealers and RIA firms ought to be given priority," explains Dube.
"He just needed to have an extra set of hands to help him sort through the immense amount of data in order to make informed, smart decisions about where to prioritize his sales and marketing resources."
Joseph Halpern, CEO of Exceed Investments, says his firm is planning to hire either RIA Database or Discovery Data prior to its planned launch of new indexed funds planned in the next couple of months as a method of determining which advisors should be contacted with pitches.
"The databases allow distribution to filter on certain characteristics of an advisor, for example what percentage of a portfolio are in smart beta strategies and whether they use ETFs, says Halpern.
"Italso allows filtering by geography and countless other slices of the data. It is a great way to quickly find potential clients."
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD
In response to feedback by asset managers, Cooling added a new investment interest feature six months ago that allows providers to search data based on certain products and asset classes that advisors are interested in. Cooling emphasizes that data platforms have enabled smaller fund providers to keep pace with the big boys.
"In the world of digital marketing it provides a little more equal footing with some of the larger firms," says Cooling. "It evens the playing field to a small degree."
SalesFocus Solutions has worked closely with asset managers gaining access to sales reporting on its MARS platform. Michelle Sarmiento, marketing/sales associate with Alpha, Ohio-based James Investment Research, says she began using MARS three years ago and it has made a major difference breaking down which of the firm's funds advisors are attracted to.
"It really helps us track how well our marketing forces are working," says Sarmiento. "It's a huge time saver and it really helps us determine where we want to go."
Another asset manager solution that entered the market early this year was "Client Connect" from Sapient Global Markets. The program, which is powered by Kurtosys, allows asset management firms the ability to automate the distribution of marketing material including fund fact sheets and online fund information. Jarlath Forde, vice president of solutions at Sapient, says he expects both institutional and retail asset managers to continue taking hold of a data-driven concept for marketing and distribution in the years to come.
"This is now turning into a data-driven business," says Forde. "The ball is rolling down the hill and it's rolling fast."