Asset Managers – why do they all sound the same?

“We’ve heard hundreds of fund pitches. They all sound very similar and, while there are certainly cardinal points that need to be covered for most audiences, our impression is that many pitch teams hug the benchmark of a ‘safe’ client meeting.

How to make you and the team stand out in a way that different audiences, whatever their level of sophistication, can relate to?” – Templar consultant, Russell Ross-Smith

Asset managers, particularly those focused on equities, are having a tough time. There is a sense that economic shifts and political actors (elected officials or central banks) can at any time sideswipe even the most robust financial portfolio.

Not to mention that fund managers also have to contend with the secular turn towards passive investing, the anaemic performance of several value-orientated houses and declining fees.

In the current climate, competition for clients is fierce and for trustees, fund selectors or CIOs, the temptation to change the manager after a period of underperformance is likely to happen earlier and earlier in the relationship.

Templar Consultant, Russell Ross-Smith, shares his insight into how teams and managers can differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd.

Don’t show, sell

Fact: PowerPoint only hit mainstream business (Windows PC) in 1995. Before then,  human beings were able to discuss complex matters with limited visual material. Don’t fixate on the slides.

Unless there’s been a very prescriptive RFP, go into the meeting and talk to the client. Ask them what they’d like to get out of it. Handing over a copy of your deck might seem courteous, but it encourages disengagement.

Don’t go into the deck until it’s relevant. Start the conversation: when you’ve steered it to where you want it to be, that’s when you refer to the deck. For example, if your pack contains a graph that illustrates what you are trying to say.

Be upfront and Don’t be defensive

Poor performance? Explain it upfront – or at least be prepared to. Don’t imagine that burying it halfway through your presentation somehow cushions the impact. Admitting shortcomings and then explaining why your investment thesis is still valid is likely going to lead to a more driven conversation.


Performance is there to be talked about, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. Trying to conceal poor results simply makes it harder to emphasise a sound process, or people, or a unique angle on valuation metrics.

Remember that an existing client has already bought your thesis: you should focus on explaining how that thesis might play out, rather than on the thesis itself. They very likely understood what it was they were buying.


Unless you are hiring genuinely unique people, there’s a very good chance that your photographs and biogs are very similar to everyone else’s. Here we’re not talking about using Photoshop to cosmetically alter people to make them look younger or older. Avoid gimmicks, but consider making a greater effort to explain how these individuals will interact with the client.

Attributes like a CFA qualification might be of interest but it’s equally vital to bring the functions of your team to life. Explain how each individual will interact with the client, especially client-facing members of your team.

In short…

  • Be far more prepared to intelligently deviate from the normal ceremony of meetings; for instance, the ritual five minutes engaging in small talk that you will forget the moment you step out of the meeting. Instead, be in the moment.
  • Sum up your fund and how you see the world in three or four sentences.What you are unable to execute is almost as important as what you can.
  • Highlight anything that makes you or your colleagues unique, whether it be your temperament or experience.
  • I can tell how a fund is performing within 20 seconds of a fund manager walking into the room, just from the slope of the shoulders, so body language is extremely important.
If you’re an asset manager wanting help on how to differentiate yourself, your business or your services, contact us.

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