IS THERE ROOM FOR YOU?
In a world with thousands of mutual funds and multiple share classes, hearing that each typically favors only a few dozen funds at first sounded disheartening. But, all is not lost. These advisors noted they are always open to new ideas, wanting to ensure they are getting the best available for their clients.
Barbara and Shawn agreed that knowing the managers as best they could was key. While neither has much time for cold calls from wholesalers by phone or in person, they would relish speaking with portfolio managers. (One option is to call and ask for the firm's analyst. This is a great entree if the advisor's team includes one, and may be considered a compliment if they don't.) But, a well-timed, and perhaps lucky, call by a fund rep from a fund that recently caught their attention through media mentions, colleague referral or client request would merit a positive response as well.
Phone callers need to be respectful of the advisor's time. There may be front end screening staff or perhaps voice mail. In either case, leave a brief, yet detailed message and if you've offered something intriguing, the advisor may return your call.
THE GENESIS OF A NEW IDEA
Ideas may come from the tons of reading they do in publications like Investment News, advisor magazines, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and the like, as well as publications the clients are likely to be reading, like Money magazine. Barbara and Shawn also noted paying attention to emails - though the read is quick and they'll sometimes flag them for further review when time permits. But undoubtedly, most influential were referrals from their colleagues.
"We don't want to be stagnant," said Barbara. "I may add to my fund choices when I want to take advantage of a trend in certain area of the market, or if a manager retires or is no longer meeting our expectations or fits our clients’ objectives." Shawn said he's "always on the lookout for unheard of managers." He noted though, that they can't constantly be shifting, but are open and that finding managers that clients would be unable to find on their own is one of the ways they add value.
GETTING MORE INFORMATION
Once a fund piques their interest, their next step is to conduct their own due diligence. Barbara favored Morningstar for initial screening, while Shawn has found FI360 from the University of Pittsburgh to be his tool of choice. He noted inclusion in this tool is particularly important if you want to be active in defined contribution plan placements.
Advisors will check out the fund's website as well. Shawn and Barbara look for insight into the management team, particularly about tenure and depth of the team. Barbara also looks for holdings to evaluate overlap with other funds already in her clients' portfolios. Both presenters favored bullet points that are quick and easy to digest to share with their clients. Quick info about minimums, available share classes and platform availability is useful. Know when they are interested, advisors will reach out to you, so make sure your contact information is easy to find.
AFTER THE FIRST DATE
So, once you've caught their attention, both advisors stressed you need to provide them with your differentiators. "Tell me something different, some statistics I haven't seen, something your fund does differently," she said. Shawn added, "I like to see white papers and am always intrigued to see something I didn't know, but should."
Conferences often provide advance lists of attendees - and it’s a two way street. Advisors are trying to make the best use of their time just as exhibitors are, so again, if you can entice them to visit your booth or otherwise seek you out by having a portfolio manager available or some compelling reports there, a well-crafted email or direct mail program is not a bad idea.
While advisors don't necessarily expect a thank you for investing in your fund, it is a great way to begin a relationship and stay in the game. Advisors want to keep in touch, attend your manager calls or meet you at conferences if they've already decided to use your fund or have you on their watch lists.
"We need to be on the same team. I want to know my fund managers understand what's going on in the market and tell me what they are doing in difficult times. I want to feel we are on the same page," said Barbara.
"Being able to say I just spoke to the portfolio manager is a real win when I'm talking to my clients," added Shawn. He acknowledged it’s difficult for funds to have PMs making calls or even attending conferences, but the payoff to managing that balancing act well is there.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"We love to hear from you, but don't want to be your new best friend." It still is a relationship business. Perhaps one of the most effective ideas you can implement is getting to know the advisors you have better -- nurture those relationships, provide the value-add information they can use to be smarter themselves or use with clients. Invite them and their colleagues to meet your managers if feasible at conferences or regional advisor events. And know that if you've proven your value they'll more than likely spread the word on your behalf.
Looking for other ways to get your fund noticed? SunStar can help!