Client Services and Operations Director
Posted on August 13, 2015
We can’t deny it: the UK retail structured product marketplace has been through turbulent times since its inception over 15 years ago. Along the way and as a consequence of some poorly designed products and badly managed organisations attracting deservedly negative media attention (not all of it well deserved), advisers have been divided as to their opinions on Structured Products.
But the industry has survived and mostly prospered, and most commentators now agree that such investments should be considered as a valuable part of a well-managed portfolio.
As a result, in recent years there has been a proliferation of smaller, more boutique structured product set-ups: this is not so much only a playground ruled by large financial institutions anymore.
Even without the clout of the big guys, there’s a growing opportunity these days for small businesses to gain traction in the market. You might not have the budgets of the big banks but what you do have is the flexibility to create bespoke products crafted to individual clients groups’ needs and that can go a long way.
But how do you let your potential market know that you’re here and ready to offer them something exceptional? And, more importantly, how do you persuade them you aren’t a fly-by-night provider?
Develop a strong brand
Building a strong and professional structured product brand is the first step in making sure you’ll stand out in the marketplace. A strong brand matters: it cuts through the noise of the competition and provides a message that people can develop a sense of attraction and allegiance to.
Even though we’d think buying decisions should be 100% rational in B2B relationships, it’s worth remembering that it is still heavily emotionally-driven. What you look like, how it makes people feel: it matters. Think of your branding as a shop front: it needs to look professional and inviting.
There’s no need to conform too much, however. Don’t be afraid to step away from the standard city structure/building imagery often used in financial services. Investec broke the mould with their zebras. There’s no reason you couldn’t do something equally as different.
Work with someone who knows structured products
Deliberately seeking out agency collaborators who understand and have worked with structured products will ensure they know your audience and can develop a marketing strategy that will work and save you time and money. You’ll not only gain their expertise, you’ll gain an extra pair of eyes and the freedom to relax. You’ll know that your Account Manager understands the products you’re releasing and will be checking the fine details on your marketing collateral.
In the early days, the realities of agency pricing can be scary. There’s no escaping the fact that it will affect your bottom line. Given that it’s unlikely you’ll make any money for the first year while you cover your set-up costs, this means you need to find ways to be as efficient as possible without skimping on the wow factor.
Once you’ve picked an agency that understands structured products, work with them to streamline the process from the beginning. By creating documentation that covers you from a compliance and FCA perspective and is structured as a reusable template, you won’t have to start from scratch for each new product. This is especially important when you’re dealing with tight time frames: the longer you spend writing and tweaking copy, the less time you have to sell it.
A good agency will help you develop in-house tools for your literature: whether that’s using Word (you’ll be amazed what it can do in the right hands), PowerPoint or emails that you can edit and broadcast yourselves. Whatever software you work with, make sure speed and accuracy take priority. It shouldn’t take a week, or even three days, to get a brochure, application forms and fact sheets set up.
Build a website that will last
In the early days, it can be tempting to set up a website yourself to keep costs down. However, when marketed properly, your website will likely be one of the first points of contact for potential clients. Your website needs to be the flawless face of your structured product brand and company values, and that means not cutting corners.
Finding the right agency to take care of your design and set you up with a Content Management System (CMS) will enable you to take over thereafter, make changes easily and add new content yourself, keeping running developer costs down. Your agency should be able to guide you to developing web tools and SEO to help sell you in to clients and start to drive traffic.
But don’t feel you need to cram all of your content on there from the beginning. Focus on essential information: overviews of your company, products and services and contact details. As you develop and start to get feedback from clients and potential customers, your content can be developed to reflect your client’s needs and your business’ natural growth.
Working with a new structured products provider from the beginning is an exciting process, a journey we’ve shared in with Mariana Capital, Investec, Morgan Capital. Barclays and HPC Investment Partners, to name a few.
Whether you’re established in the market and need to simplify or revitalise your efforts, or are just starting out, we’d love to hear from you too.