During the last FundForum International in Berlin, I had a chance to sit down with Antony John to record a great video interview in which we dive deeper into how fund managers can run more successful and efficient meetings with investors.
Antony certainly knows what he is talking about because he is one of the pioneers of professional fund manager selection. He practically invented the practice when he set up IMS (Investment Manager Selection) in 2003 and grew it to one of the first leading fund manager selection firms. IMS was acquired by BNP Paribas in 2008 and became Fundquest, a veritable fund buying powerhouse. There's more information about Antony on his Linkedin page.
And even if you are not in the investment business, I think you will get much value from this conversation because if you are trying to build trust with B2B-type clients, these ideas are entirely relevant to you.
Here's an overview of what we discussed:
Before, Information didn’t flow that freely so you needed to be skilled at providing customers with the right amount of information. Today things are much different. We live in a world of widely available data so we need to get smarter about what and how we communicate with our clients. We are no longer a source of information, but rather our job is more about helping them makes sense out of the information they find.
There are an increasing number of platforms that pull information together and in the end, it makes all service providers (fund managers in this conversation) look alike so it is increasingly important to help your clients understand what makes you different, and most importantly, interesting.
Antony says what he is always interested in is to have a ‘non-factual’ discussion’, even if it is around the data that is out there in the public domain. He also points out that it matters to understand what makes things work as much as what causes it to fail.
After all, an investor meeting is all about delivering true insights that help the investor do his job: assess the risk of the investment.
So practically speaking, as the fund marketer, you absolutely want to make sure you that you understand what the investor exactly wants to learn from the meeting on beforehand.
During the interview, Antony mentions that he often came across the mistaken attitude of the fund manager wanting to seem clever by trying to control the content of the meeting. The reality is that by doing this a meeting turns out to be nothing more than a waste of time for both parties.
He argues that if the exact discussion points are known in advance, the quality of the dialogue only rises and has a chance to become even more nuanced. It even helps the investor make a better and maybe even a faster decision, which again is a benefit for both parties.
So, rather than being a sales process, positioning investments is essentially a process of building conviction, which really is another word for ‘trust. The best way to do this is by being honest, genuine and showing all the pieces.
In the interview, we also speak much about ‘alpha’. If you are not from the investment management industry, ‘alpha’ means the added value an investment manager's talent brings to the investment. Alpha is the reason a sophisticated investor would invest a fund manager rather than just take a position in the S&P500 index. The question is: what do you have that can make the risk of betting on your skill set worthwhile? A failure to clearly express this will make it difficult for a fund manager to raise capital.
By the way, the vast majority of investment managers fail to outperform the market so this is a big issue!
The problem is that we are all trained to cover up our weakness so providing an insight about them feels counterintuitive. But when you think about it, ironically, our willingness to openly deconstruct our weaknesses actually makes us look more confident. I have always been amused by how flawed our thinking around this is. Antony calls this the ’Stepford Wives’ effect, where we are all indoctrinated to always put forward our best side.
He also sums up the characteristics he recurrently saw in the best managers he worked with
- They are humble
- They know what they know
- The know what they don’t know
There’s much more we discuss in this 20-minute video such as:
- Understanding the accountability framework of the investor.
- How raise confidence before the meeting.
- The worst nightmare of the funds allocator.
So, take a moment to watch the interview. If you are involved in long sales cycles, I am sure you will pick up much value from it.