NEW YORK—Asset managers looking to be included on sponsor brokerage platforms need to focus on one core value: relationships.

That was the message of speakers on a panel at Money Management Institute’s Fall Solutions Conference 2011 here Thursday, titled, “Uncovering Managers in Today’s Crowded Market: Accessing the Platform.”

Asset managers must, therefore, invest the time to understand the needs of a brokerage firm, starting with the researchers, product managers, due diligence team and wealth management specialists in the home office, all the way to the branch managers and advisers out in the field.

“I have been in the separately managed account business for many years, and it really is a journey with each asset manager,” said Greg Nordmeyer, vice president and general manager of managed accounts at Ameriprise Financial. “It takes a lot of communication.”

And a lot of time, between 12 and 24 months, before a brokerage typically agrees to a new relationship with a manager, added Barnaby Grist, executive vice president of wealth management at Cetera Financial Group.

“This is a complex process, getting to really understand us and work with us,” Grist said. “There is no dabbling. That is not worth your time. You need to make a real commitment, and you can’t do that with every broker-dealer on the street.”

One way to get onto the Ameriprise platform, Nordmeyer indicated, is to participate in one of the three to four investment management conference calls Ameriprise hosts for its advisers each year. “You can get involved. This is the primary way we try to get this relationship on a positive track,” he said.

Another key way is to first attract the attention of financial advisers with a timely investment solution, Grist said. “If financial advisers come to us and tell us we need to look at this and we see demand in the field, then we will encourage you to come and talk with our research and due-diligence folks, to go through the process of being added to our open architecture platform.”

Of course, a solid track record is key, noted Greg Nordmeyer, vice president and general manager of managed accounts at Ameriprise Financial. “That is the first step. Then, start pinging our research, product and adviser teams.”

Once on a broker’s platform, Nordmeyer continued, it is critical for an asset manager to be open and honest about what products are working for them, and what is not. Sponsor firms also want to know about changes to or problems with investments or operations. That is the start of effective two-way communication, he said.

Brokers are also keen to know what products are selling well at their competitors. The wirehouses want asset managers to bring them products that complement their current offerings, as well as new investment ideas.

Cetera takes the time to work with its asset management partners “to customize marketing plans, to help them get in front of advisers,” Grist said.

Cetera also shares successful investment product information with its opinion leaders in the field. “We can help you find some of our key opinion leaders and help you get them on your side,” Grist said. “That is disproportionately valuable.”

“Likewise, we have specialists to help you understand the needs of financial advisers,” added Thomas Latta, managing director and head of manager due diligence at Merrill Lynch Investment Management and Guidance Group.

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