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Cerulli: Demand for institutional asset management distribution set to return to pre-pandemic levels

Friday, July 23, 2021
Opalesque Industry Update - As institutional asset managers create their "new normal," in-person interaction and head count for specialist sales roles are expected to increase, according to Cerulli's latest report, U.S. Institutional Marketing and Sales Organizations 2021: Finding the New Normal in a Post-Pandemic Environment.

COVID-19 has been particularly impactful on institutional sales teams-35% of asset managers report that travel bans due to COVID-19 were a significant challenge in client acquisitions in 2020. "Travel is key to the institutional sales and marketing process. Prospecting and marketing programs would need to be overhauled significantly should travel not return and virtual meetings be the future of institutional sales," according to Laura Levesque, associate director.

In-person meetings (89%) and events (63%) are important marketing channels for institutional managers. Nearly all (94%) have specialists, salespeople, and other subject matter experts speak at conferences, and another 72% of firms polled sponsor these events and trade shows. For asset management firms that choose to reduce in-person appearances, careful thought should go into any changes that need to be made to marketing programs, especially those dependent on content distribution. "While content distribution didn't have an effect on asset managers during times of travel restriction, those that choose to participate less going forward may be at a competitive disadvantage to those that return completely to pre-pandemic practices," adds Levesque.

In addition to assessing in-person meetings and events, distribution teams will need to evaluate staffing requirements. According to the research, 47% of firms expect to increase their overall headcount, citing increased demand from clients and prospects. Distribution executives with specializations in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies or outsourced chief investment officer (OCIO) providers will be sought after.

As the industry emerges from the pandemic, managers will need to deploy both technology and resources that optimize client relationships. "While institutional teams were able to quickly pivot and adjust to the remote working environment, technology can only go so far in providing the experience of face-to-face interactions," adds Levesque. "For those that choose to reduce the number of in-person meetings or cut down on conference attendance, it would be wise to pay special attention to the efforts and needs of RFP and marketing teams," she concludes.

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