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The great and good in the investment management industry came together in Berlin last week for the annual Fund Forum conference. Aimed at fund buyers, institutional investors and fintechs, the exhibition hall was buzzing, the stands bright and inviting, and the conference programme full with themes ranging from ESG (Environmental Social Governance) and impact investing to technology transformation and AI.

Here are my highlights:

Diversity front and centre

It was very encouraging to see that diversity was embraced into conference programme this year with at least one female speaker on every panel. Dr Linda Yueh, CNBC broadcaster and Oxford Fellow delivered a keynote on the rise of emerging markets and its implications for politics and business. More than 300 women attended the event this year; the highest number to date, so clearly the asset management industry is taking the issue seriously and driving change.

The most inspiring panel session for me was the session “Responsibility, value and diversity”, which laid out the advantages of diversity (gender, age, ethnicity) for the investment industry. Not only does diversity drive financial performance, increase staff engagement and talent pools, but it also brings new ideas and different thinking, essential in the search for alpha today.

Asset managers referenced annual diversity targets that they need to meet when interviewing candidates for new roles or considering candidates for promotion.  But in order to make diversity sustainable in the long term, every company needs to have an inclusion policy and mentorship scheme in place, so we can all tackle our unconscious biases.

The industry also needs to have a sense of purpose; “we need as much innovation to build culture, as we do to build portfolios” according to Julie Chakraverty,  CEO of Rungway.

Women are the next emerging market

For an asset manager marketing to women is a huge opportunity. Women are an underserved client base when it comes to managing wealth and they are the next “emerging market” according to one panelist. By 2021, women will control 30% of global wealth ($18billion of assets) and their wealth is expected to grow 7% faster than men over the next 5 years. 67% of women control the family budget (I’m not surprised by this), with 62% open to switching wealth managers.

Women need to be approached differently to men, they don’t necessarily need different service or offering. As one commentator put it: “Women need to have a modern approach; women are not about an event or art gallery.”

This all rings through in my experience; a one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work. All campaigns need to be rooted in insights and analysis; you need understand your audience by developing personas, understand their user journey and create content and connections that resonates with them but through a personalized experience.

Much discussion also centred on the elusive “Millennials” and how to target them through a more personalised approach. Millennials have different expectations, they value experiences and they are interested in ESG issues.

AI stands for amazing innovation

AI, according to Manoj Saxena, Chairman at Cogitive Scale stands for artificially inflated or amazing innovation and both are happening right now. AI is poorly understood; while many think it will take their jobs away, the greater potential is in augmenting and amplifying the role of the asset manager.

This could include more precision within risk and compliance, smarter investment decisions within portfolio management and shorter trading and settlement times. 

But argued Paolo Sironi, fintech thought leader at IBM AI is not the panacea. The real value is the services and advice that asset managers will give; AI is the enabler for the digitization of knowledge.

See you in Copenhagen

All in all a great conference – informative, welcoming, good networking, lively after parties….

Clients who we supported at the event, deemed the conference a success. With such a captive and engaged audience, it was for some invaluable for brand awareness and relationship building. If you weren’t there and are considering the conference as part of your marketing strategy for next year; we are here to help.

We supported and helped a number of our clients prepare for the event; delivering digital marketing and messaging support, executive interviews with global media, content and social media strategy