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Leslie Walstrom, Top Women in Asset Management Awards winner

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Leslie Walstrom’s first major role as a financial marketing professional — organizing an event in London for financial planners — was marred by the negative comments of some of her superiors.

“I had internal critics saying I was not up for it,” says Walstrom, who now serves as head of North America marketing for Columbia Threadneedle Investments, where she manages a team of 75.

Since joining Columbia Threadneedle in 2015, Walstrom has rebuilt the firm’s in-house creative agency. She says she is attempting to elevate the role of marketing beyond its traditional position of sales support.

“Building a brand is about the people behind the brand,” she says. “We have cultivated the idea that not everyone [on the team] has to be from the asset management industry. Different backgrounds offer different points of view.”

Walstrom’s focus for the next few months is to “create a more personalized digital experience… to help [clients] find what’s relevant for them when they log in.”

She says website developers should work to better understand their clients, and target investment content that would actually be useful.

Walstrom has also sought to increase visibility and perception of the firm, which rebranded shortly before she joined. She spearheaded a new advertisement strategy that has contributed to a surge in brand awareness in the U.S., up to 61% in 2018 from 42% in 2017. Part of this strategy has been to negotiate an extended sponsorship of the Boston Triathlon, which will run through 2023.

Prior to joining Columbia Threadneedle, Walstrom was a senior vice president at Natixis Global Asset Management, where she led the development of marketing strategy and managed the firm’s internal agency.

In her spare time, Walstrom serves on the board of ImprovBoston, a nonprofit theater dedicated to serving the community through laughter.

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