November 2013

OPINION: Digital engagement for dummies

Digital engagementUnlike fools and their money, fund managers and their jargon, in my experience, are not easily parted. When not penning irksome columns, I train finance folks to write nicely. Having paid good money for this, they often cling to their beloved jargon like drowning men to a life raft.

And yet this is the age of content. Nowhere is good, clear writing more important than on the internet, because web users have miniscule attention spans and no patience. Crisp copy written in an informal, friendly tone is essential to a successful website. It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that two-thirds of asset management firms do not believe their websites are any good.

This nugget of depressing information is contained in a new study from Kasina, a New York and Boston-based consultancy. The study concentrates on how asset management companies interact with financial intermediaries on the internet. Not very well is the answer.

“The vast majority of asset managers understand that the website plays a pivotal role in an advisor’s decision to purchase and recommend their products, but less than one-third of firms think their websites are actually capable of achieving that goal,” says Julia Binder, director of e-business at Kasina.

Top firms use their websites as “the engine of integrated digital engagement strategies to build brand awareness, nurture loyalty and earn consideration among advisors”, says Kasina. But there is a gap between “the role firms believe their sites should play and what their actual capabilities are”.

This is the tip of the iceberg, in my view. Many asset management company websites do not achieve the simple goal of telling people what the company does, never mind acting as the engine of integrated digital engagement strategies. Instead, passers-by are assaulted with a load of  irrelevant garbage about how perfectly aligned the company is with its clients’ goals, how talented its staff are or how leading its edge is.

Cutting edge – which at least has some basis in the material world – is out, it seems. Leading edge, an entirely meaningless term, is in.

Kasina, I have to say, is no better. I shouldn’t take any lessons from it if I were you. The words “Kasina, a New York and Boston based consultancy” were easy to write but hard to research. I wrote them, in fact, out of sheer desperation. That Kasina has offices in New York and Boston was pretty much the only concrete information I could find on the company’s website. I made the bit about it being a consultancy up, guided by the balance of probabilities.

Instead of facts, the “About us” page on its website furnished the following information:
Kasina’s mission is to improve financial services companies through innovation.
Kasina was born when Steven Miyao decided to start the company he’d always wanted to work for.
Kasina was founded to challenge conventional wisdom. Its ability to ask the tough questions enables it to find and develop unexplored opportunities within companies in need of strategy overhauls.

This helps explain why Kasina’s list of ideas about how asset management companies can improve their websites does not include: provide clear information. Instead, you are encouraged to fuel the digital engagement cycle and invite product universe exploration.

Kasina clearly isn’t going to solve the digital engagement problem for you, and so I’d like to help you out with some homework. Go to the “About us” section of your company’s website. Using only the information on that page (no clicking on to sub-pages) compose a sentence of no more than 15 words (10 is better) that begins “XYZ company is” and tell the world what your company does. Not how talented or leading edge is it. Just what it does.

If this is possible, you’re well on the way to fuelling digital engagement.

Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe

©2013 funds europe