Investment Podcasts 2.0—But Let’s Promote Them This Time

I love podcasts so much that I keep waiting for them to make a comeback in the investment industry.

Elsewhere, others have declared a podcast renaissance, driven in part by last year’s stunning 68 million-plus downloads of the Serial podcast. See this 2014 post for what else has changed too, though.

Combine fund companies’ desire to assert thought leadership with users’ heightened content consumption, including while mobile, and the argument for podcasts should be difficult to resist on both sides.

Quite a few firms tried podcasts early on and gave up, as can still be seen on dormant iTunes and Web pages. Blame it on clumsy podcast downloading requirements, less than engaging content, lack of user adoption but also—here's where you come in—a lack of promotional effort on providers’ part.

It's too soon and too spotty to call it a comeback, but there are some encouraging signs that podcasts are back on the radar.

Advisors Are Listening To Something

Advisor use of podcasts appears to have rebounded, according to data reported by American Century’s 2015 Financial Professionals Social Media Adoption Study (more on the study in last week's post). 

Podcasts were among the choices provided in a general (as opposed to investment content-specific) question, “Do you have a profile or account with any of the following social media?”

One out of 10 advisors, by the way, is the same number of advisors who say they read blogs.

Promotion-wise, note the support that Goldman Sachs gives its monthly podcast “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs.” As opposed to tucking it on a modest Podcasts page buried somewhere on a Website, Goldman:

  • Commits high level talent to the shows
  • Gives the podcast exposure on the firm's home page
  • Launches each new show with a splash on its Website and elsewhere, including where I spotted it on an interstitial ad on Stitcher, the streaming service. Goldman is buying pay-per-click ads too. And, having Business Insider cover the podcast content, which happened this week, no doubt provides a nice lift.

Yet To Happen: Consistent Discovery, Delivery

Firms that have returned to podcasting or have launched anew tend to go their own way on presentation and delivery. This is surprising given the standardization of most other fund company communications, especially those directed at a primary audience of financial advisors. Why not simplify the user experience?

The inconsistency in how podcasts get discovered and delivered may be containing overall pick-up. For example, if iTunes is the first result in a search for your firm’s podcast, you’re not doing enough on your own domain. With all due respect.

Goldman’s approach—including making the podcast available not just on iTunes but also to be streamed on Stitcher and elsewhere—represents the state of the art of podcast promotion today.

Below is a list of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms publishing podcasts that I’m aware of. If I’ve missed yours, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add to the list.

Asset Manager Podcasts

Also check out these related podcasts:

  • Between Sessions with Blane Warrene and Jay Palter. This is an occasional Google Hangouts-produced (but available on-demand via YouTube) discussion about #fintech and #finserv. 
  • Bloomberg Business ETF Report with Bloomberg reporters
  • ETF Gurus with Dave Nadig of FactSet. The August 26 show on the “ETF flash crash,” in particular, featured one of the most helpful discussions I’ve heard or seen.
  • The ETF Store Show One of my favorite business podcasts, this is an informative and informed discussion by a Kansas City-based registered investment advisor (RIA).
  • ETF Trends featuring ETF media veteran and publisher Tom Lydon.
  • FP Pad This is one of the many media properties of financial advisor technology expert Bill Winterberg; asset management marketers can learn from Bill.
  • Hearsay Social On the Air The social media archiving solution provider just celebrated its one-year anniversary providing financial social media content.
  • Morningstar A video and audio podcast are available. 

What's New For You In The Latest Research On Financial Advisors And Social Media

For an asset management marketer’s purposes, the best surveys of financial advisor social media adoption and usage are conducted by other asset management firms.

Their questions tend to be most tailored to what mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) businesses need to know. For example, fund companies know it’s important to capture the interest of advisors who are restricted by their firms from full participation. In fact, the latest data suggests that about one in five advisors consumes social media content passively.

And so, the release of two surveys—one from Putnam Investments and the other from American Century Investments—in the last two weeks presents us with an embarrassment of riches.

Let’s acknowledge upfront, though, that advisors have been surveyed on this subject for years now. Little in the new work is eye-popping. What's impressive—and encouraging for social media strategies—is that adoption continues to build across the board. There doesn't seem to be the fickleness that’s been seen among consumer use of various social networks over the years.

The 2015 research offers a few incremental insights, and there are some differences in the findings in the two reports.

On the assumption that the advisor trade publications will well cover what the research has to say about advisory business gains, where and why (and extensive detail on those firm restrictions), below I offer a few parochial notes about what I see in this research.

I recommend you check out the complete Putnam and American Century reports, including their different methodologies. The third annual Putnam survey of more than 800 advisors was conducted in partnership with Brightwork Partners LLC. This is American Century’s sixth annual report, based on a panel of 300 advisors, a sample provided by Research Now.

The 22-page American Century report can be found here. As a supplement to its press release, Putnam’s AdvisorTechTips blog has teed up an infographic and some high level data. Putnam tends to leverage the research by publishing additional findings throughout the year. My thanks to the firm for making the full report to me.   

More Than LinkedIn

The comprehensiveness of Putnam’s data collection and analysis enables it to substantiate a fine point often overlooked in other broad-brush surveys: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the big three in the advisor's social toolbox and they are being used for specific reasons (click on the image to enlarge).

Putnam made the same point in its first survey two years ago, but the aggressiveness of LinkedIn marketing aimed at this space (and precious little targeted effort from the other networks) might lead you to believe that participating on LinkedIn will give you a lock on advisor attention. No.

The research found that advisor usage of Twitter for business and personal purposes grew 16 percentage points from July 2014 to July 2015. YouTube usage grew by 12 percentage points. That's my doing the math for you below on Putnam's graph.

And, according to responses to a separate question that explicitly seeks to understand any year-over-year change in platforms, Facebook is on top. 

Almost six out of 10 (58%) respondents said their Facebook use has increased. The leading reason: That’s where the advisors’ clients and prospects are active. Four out of 10 advisors—even more from regional broker-dealers and banks—say that Facebook plays a “very significant role in [their] current marketing.”

Advisors On Asset Managers

No matter how many surveys surface in the year, I believe I’m safe in saying that American Century is the only firm that 1. Asks advisors how asset managers are doing 2. Publishes the responses. Thank you for that, American Century.

You have to love the big strides noted in three of advisors’ four answers to the question about their opinions of asset manager use of social media (emojis added by me). 

A subsequent question gets down to brass tacks, leaving little room for doubt that advisors favor non-promotional non-firm-centric content. More than half say they’d follow an asset manager for content they can’t get elsewhere.

In another question, the ease-of-use of the social site is cited by 42% of the respondents, and that’s a datapoint I’d pay attention to. Whether via any one of the major platforms, content finds the social media-using advisor—the advisor doesn’t need to go to each (often password-restricted) site in search of what you're offering that's new and valuable.

American Century’s 2012 study was the first to report that LinkedIn Groups were the most important social media offering an asset manager could offer. I didn’t understand it then or in successive years, as it’s continued to be top ranked in the study above blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Hmm, dunno.

Did anything in either of the surveys catch your eye? Please comment below.

A Quick, Easy And Crazily Accurate Way To Detect Personality

Here’s a Website to check out if you don’t have the time or interest to use the old school way of getting to know someone. In fact, even those I meet in real life are usually vetted later by me against what Crystal knows. After all, I'm just a human, my impression is based on just one interaction.

Crystal, on the other hand, is a tool that uses a “proprietary personality detection technology. [It] analyzes public data to tell you how you can expect any given person to behave, how he or she wants to be spoken to, and perhaps more importantly, what you can expect your relationship to be like.”

A submission of a name on the free Crystal site initiates a query of thousands of publicly available online data sources to find information written by or about the person. Another potential input is from people who directly contribute, although given the age of the site and its relative obscurity, my guess is that’s not much of a factor yet. Crystal then runs what it finds against a personality detection analysis to match with one of 64 different personalities.

The “accuracy confidence" index returned with each result indicates 1) how much relevant data was found and 2) how much of it was able to be used to determine the personality.

Toward More Effective Sales Interactions

This is worthy of our attention not just because I want to lighten things up for you after what has been a rough several weeks. Crystal is yet another service that demonstrates what can be learned about clients and prospects online.

If part of your digital marketing work involves helping drive businesswhich includes helping Sales professionals sharpen their effectivenessyou might want to show them Crystal. Just be aware that near-term productivity will take a hit because this tool is addictive. I found it in April and have only now been able to tear myself away to mention it to you.

Below are a few of the “predicted personality profiles” of the zillions of profiles that I have run. I selected these individuals because:

  • They’re prominent in the investment space and you might know them.
  • They’re active online and there should be plenty of data to base a profile on.
  • These snapshots seem pretty consistent with what I’ve observed on my own. Then again, it’s been mostly online. I should say, I’ve met only one person in real life (hey, April).           
  • They strike me as good sports who won’t mind my showing their publicly available personality profiles here. 

Shown are just the tops of the profiles. On the Crystal site, you’ll also see insights for use when emailing, talking and working with the personality, as well as what does and doesn’t come naturally to him or her. And, depending on whether you’re a free or paid user, you’ll see some predictions on how the personality works with you and your team, including some insights on conflict. 

Insights Into The Personality's Coworkers, Too

A click on other people in the same company reveals a LinkedIn-esque feature displaying the availability of personality profiles of others who work there. For example, after I checked out the profile of LPL Financial's Mark Casady, I was offered a View all to see Casady's coworkers. Hmm, this could get interesting...

Don’t read too much into what’s said here about LPL, by the way—variations of success "at the expense of freedom or creativity” and “could discourage creative risk-takers” appeared for just about every investment-type company I searched.

Finally (and least helpful in my opinion), Crystal will help write a personality-appropriate email.

I know I should conclude by mentioning the risks in relying on technology. To be sure, there are some. For example, no matter how big the data gets, online services always tend to misidentify Pat Allen as a him. (On the off-chance that you look me up, my profile is 90% exactly correct except that it’s not true that I’m disorganized!)

In general, though, there are risks in not taking advantage of what technology can offer and how the insights provided can help warm up an encounter.

Go, explore, detect for yourself!

The Rise Of Advisor Teams

Count on the financial advisor “team” construct to throw a wrench in the best-laid plans of strategic mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketing.

In a perfect world, marketers would be able to use an integrated marketing automation/customer relationship management (CRM) system to link financial advisor response to marketing communications for sales follow-up, and overall sales and marketing reporting.

Teams confound attribution and analysis—the individual who sees and interacts with emails and Websites is not always the same person who:

  • Conducts investment product due diligence
  • Meets with wholesalers
  • Makes the go/no go decision
  • Ultimately enters the order

However, firms that want their advisor partners to succeed—and you know you do—will need to figure out a way to combine the communication and product usage data of multiple professionals to measure overall sales and marketing effectiveness. Because a whitepaper released by Pershing last week makes clear that advisors are prospering in teams. 

published last week by Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company

published last week by Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company

The rise of teams, also referred to as “ensembles,” may be even more of a challenge for broker-dealers, according to Pershing.

“Although advisory teams generate significant revenues, broker-dealers are still working to understand them. Often their affiliation models—from compensation to relationship management—still treat advisors as reps, rather than as talented groups,” Pershing says in Why Teams Are the Client of the Future for Broker-Dealers

See if the below passage (click to enlarge) sounds familiar.

Teams Have Larger Relationships, Grow Faster

While Pershing prepared the 24-page report to help broker-dealer clients adapt, it includes plenty of insights for asset managers. I recommend that you read it in its entirety. What follows are just a few noteworthy points the paper makes.

  • Teams are prevalent across all business models, according to data in a 2013 compensation survey cited by Pershing. Today's numbers would be higher, presumably.
  • The average productivity of advisors who are part of an ensemble team or firm was almost 12% higher ($565,000) than those practicing on their own ($505,000), based on data from the Pershing-sponsored 2014 InvestmentNews Financial Performance Study.
  • The typical $2 million ensemble firm grew at a rate of 17.1% in 2014 compared to 13.7% for solo practices.
  • “The size of the average client relationship appears to be a perfect function of the size of the firm, i.e., the larger the firm, the larger the average relationship,” Pershing says.

According to the report, firms with less than $1 million in revenue have the smallest client relationships with less than $4,932 in revenue per client (total revenue divided by the total number of clients). “Super-ensembles” attract clients with revenues three times higher (between $14,937 and $16,362 on average).

  • Today’s typical advisory team is three times larger than it was in 2001.
  • Close to 40% of the ensemble firms in the 2014 InvestmentNews Financial Performance Study are looking to acquire and merge other practices.
  • Broker-dealers that fail to adapt to ensemble firms are vulnerable to losing them to RIA-only or hybrid business models. 

Pershing cites the 2013 FSI Broker-Dealer Financial Performance and Compensation Study to quantify what's at risk: “...Much of the revenue broker-dealers lost in 2013 came from the loss of top-producing advisors: the average firm lost six relationships with over $500,000 in productivity each. If broker-dealers could stop the ‘bleeding’ of large relationships, this alone would increase their rate of growth by 50%.”

What all has to change in your firms practices in order to adapt?

This Time It Was Different!

Bravo to all the investment company marketers who dropped everything this week in order to orchestrate (whether writing, editing, routing, cajoling) a stream of market and even some product communications to an information-hungry following.

Having tracked the industry's real-time response (shallow and slowsee this post from way back when) to the seemingly much worse September 2008 turmoil, I’ve spent the week marveling at the output prompted by the August 2015 market swoon. It was a quarter’s worth of work in a week, and it has been magnificent.

What explains the difference in response this year from seven years ago?

Keep Calm And Communicate

Firms today are much better equipped to communicate in fresh, short bursts. Everything that’s been done—all the scoping and planning and building of a content publishing infrastructure—has led to this moment. Advisors, investors, the media all turned to their online news sources and (many of) you were there.

Of course, you accepted invitations to television and radio programs and other places where your investment experts were invited, and you sent emails with PDF updates to the advisor names in your database. That's old school. Most impressively, you found a way to get yourselves to where others were online and you contributed to "the conversation." Yay for you and everyone on your extended teams.

I’ll leave others to react to the substance of what your firms had to say. The notes below focus on what you did. 

Tweets, Obviously

Twitter, the pet platform for breaking market information, was the quickest, no-friction way for asset managers to communicate.

Starting on Friday, market-aware tweets were posted to deliver simple messages to investors, and to notify advisors of hastily scheduled conference calls.

Firms used Twitter to circulate information—see how Fidelity’s Jurrien Timmer tweeted a New York Times graphic that the @Fidelity account and 21 others then retweeted. Isn't it great to be part of a village?

I happen to love how Nuveen’s Bob Doll used Twitter to provide some added info around a CNBC tweet quoting him.

Nuveen Bob Doll Tweet.JPG

Those Blogs Come In Handy, Don’t They?

It’s wondrous what can get done when there’s a publishing system in place, with a known process and identified roles and responsibilities.

Of the 50 or so asset manager blogs I subscribe to (see related post), maybe half had published a market-specific post by Wednesday. In fact, I was surprised by a few that didn’t (why launch a fund 30 days ago if you’re not ready to use it for this?).

Each firm has its own challenges, I get it. But for those with content benches, this was the time to show them off.          

It wasn’t a surprise that the Eaton Vance blog was all over what was happening, given that volatility is one of its three investing themes. The firm posted no fewer than 13 updates in the last three days (nine on Monday alone). And, they had some recent Advisor Top-of-Mind Index survey work (more content marketing!) to be able to cite.

Not everyone could whip up visuals on such short notice. This may be one of those rare times when all you needed were words.

Notable: The Columbia Management blog had a table at the ready listing crisis events since 1929. I’d show you but the warning on the site about further distribution discouraged me and probably others from sharing.

I’ll also call your attention to a little visual relief on the Guggenheim commentary, which doubled as a readymade (and provocative) tweet. Clicking on the callout goes to the @ScottMinerd tweet and five tweets responding. My former colleague and buddy Todd Donat tells me it’s just a matter of HTML playing nice with the style sheet.

Cut, Print And That’s A Wrap

I believe First Trust was first out of the gate Monday morning with a video report (unembeddable—click on the link to view). “Yes, it is a correction…” is about as unambiguous as it gets.

And the directness of the Nuveen video, Bob Doll again, is quite effective.

For Facebook, Photos

Asset managers also reached out on Facebook, appropriately so as it was recently reported that Facebook is the leading source of news for affluent millennial investors.

Content posted was mostly images with and without links, as shown in these Putnam and Fidelity screenshots.

Putnam Facebook Image

Did Any Of It Make A Difference?

There can be a bit of skepticism when people see Marketing types hustling around the office trying to get something out. Does any of it really matter?

Consider this: That Bob Doll video mentioned above? From Monday to the close of business Wednesday, it attracted about 800 views—easily more than 99% of the months-old videos on Nuveen’s YouTube channel.

Others from Northern Trust and Vanguard saw similar fast builds. Franklin Templeton’s video featuring Dr. Michael Hasenstab, recorded Tuesday and published Tuesday as the others were, was closing in on 1,200 views this morning.   

I haven’t mentioned LinkedIn yet. That’s because I saw just a few asset managers jump on it Monday or Tuesday. Those who did posted a few links and linked somewhere else or cross-posted their blog updates to their Company pages. My impression of this week's content on the Banking & Finance channel is that it was prepared well before the breaking news.

However, LinkedIn appears to have been the site of most sharing of asset manager content published elsewhere. I say this based on a spot-check of Buzzsumo data, and it's consistent with what we've seen previously.

Franklin Templeton really got the word out as its Macro View About Market Volatility post seemed to be everywhere I turned, including Advisor Perspectives. Courtesy of its blog, here's a look at where the two-day-old post was shared.

On Twitter, it was more about visibility versus retweets or favorites. Accounts may very well have grown this week, if only because of heightened tweeting. Few investment company accounts were using some of the more popular hashtags (#ChinaMeltdown and #selloff).

A decision may have been made to communicate with existing followers as opposed to using descriptive hashtags to garner attention. That’s debatable, and I would debate it. 

And Product Updates, Too

Product updates are tricky for mutual funds, especially on the very day the market is tanking and the fund has yet to be priced. Still, Wells Fargo found an elegant way for their portfolio managers to say something on Twitter.

In the glass half-full department, a few firms saw fit to comment on the "absence of volatility" among senior loan products.

Direxion has been publishing daily "notable activity" reports, including notable one-day creation and redemption activity. Granted, Direxion is a firm that offers products, for traders, that benefit when the market goes in either direction. Still, this is added data (screenshot below is an excerpt) that I don’t recall seeing published in 2008.  

Props also to @DirexionINV for using Twitter to acknowledge pricing issues. Other firms with Twitter accounts had problems, too, but didn't think to use the channel. When something's not working on a Website, Twitter is the first place many people think to look.

Many tweets directed to ETF providers and about ETF tickers went unanswered. Next time—and let’s hope it’s not as soon as next week—I’d look for ETF product providers to be more responsive in close to real-time. In the near term, I’m guessing many of you will be firing up stop-loss order explainers.

Finally, I’ll close this with a nod to @AdvisorShares, one of the most consistently entertaining asset manager accounts. To data only the CEO has retweeted it, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in appreciating this tweet.

Is it Friday afternoon yet?