Building a Content-Rich Fund Website that Performs: 5 essential components of an asset management website
Digital has transformed how prospective investors discover and evaluate products and services. A well-designed website that articulates the brand and makes it easy to find product information is at the core—and it is no longer simply “a nice to have.” In the article below, Mash Patel and Jeff Hendren from Kurtosys, a Sapient Global Markets strategic partner, outline five key considerations for investment manager web sites.
In January 2013, Cerulli looked at marketing and branding in fund management. Their research cited strong client service, a recognizable brand and an effectual website as the three most important factors potential investors use when choosing an asset manager1. More than two years later, expectations are still rising.
Today, more investors demand transparency in their dealings with companies and want access to information 24/7. PricewaterhouseCoopers believes that by 2020, technology will become critical to “drive customer engagement, data mining for information on clients and potential clients, operational efficiency and regulatory and tax reporting.”2 Websites must perform a number of functions: sharing information, building trust and engaging with potential investors. However, building a website that fulfills the different criteria and the priorities of marketers, designers, investment teams and users can be difficult.
Forrester conducted research to assess what customers do when they canít complete a goal online, which highlights the importance of the user experience (UX). The results of the study showed that most people will go from a website to another information channel, usually the telephone; a large proportion of people leave the site and go to a competitorís website; while many give up on the online goal altogether.3
The challenge then, is to build a website that combines advanced data functionality with an optimal UX—a design that makes complex content easy to navigate. It must also be secure, scalable and easy to manage. This list of requirements demands a versatile platform and a team that understands finance.
Few fund websites actually succeed in being truly useful to their target users: investors and intermediaries. Making complex fund data both attractive and user-friendly can create big challenges. Developers may be skilled at coding and understanding the underlying fund data, but may miss the finer points of UX design. And traditional design agencies may not have the experience or requisite skills to understand the intricacies of data-driven content.
The first step in this journey is understanding the five key qualities of modern fund websites.
The Five Essential Components of an Asset Management Website
1. Beautiful Data
In serving asset management clients, Kurtosys has found that 70% of web traffic on financial sites goes to fund pricing, performance and charting tools, so presenting the right data in the right way must be a priority. Investors want to see accurate data in real-time so that they can make decisions based on actualities.
Presenting data in a way that is automatically updated, visually attractive and easy for potential investors to analyze requires a flexible platform with a straightforward content management system (CMS). Firms must understand if their CMS is suited for all the data and documents they need to share with their audience, and if their data can be periodically refreshed via automated processes.
Giving advisors and investors 24/7 access to fund data isn’t easy. To display fund ratings, performance charting or fund comparison tools, the data needs to be up-to-date, accurate and automatically refreshed. Perhaps more importantly, the user interface has to be fast, flexible and super easy to use.
Furthermore, pairing content management with a unified data model allows firms to tag and organize all content and data feeds (including industry benchmarks) using custom or standard categories such as investor type, language and country of registration. For example, certain documents or funds may only be relevant to particular organizations (advisors or wholesalers rather than end investors). To comply with financial regulations, some areas of a firm’s website may only host specific types of documents. An organized set of meta data helps it manage and streamline all of this content and ensure that it’s visible to the right users.
Every communication a client receives from a fund manager is designed to convey complex information in the best possible way. Visuals—graphs, graphics and infographics—can be used to tell stories and make detailed information far easier to process than just words. The Web Marketing Group found that 40% of people respond better to visual information than text alone and also report that 90% of the information our brains take in every second is visual4. Therefore, data visualization makes data more accessible and websites more engaging. A few data visualization tips include:
- Present data as simply and as beautifully as possible—design is key
- Graphs and other web graphics should be high resolution, but fast loading. A vector graphics API can help render quality SVG charts on screen or when printed
- Custom web fonts can be used by inserting a short piece of CSS in the stylesheet5 designers no longer have to use only “web safe” fonts
Internet usage on mobile devices started to exceed that on PCs in the beginning of 2014 and is expected to continue growing6. Therefore, it is essential that firms’ websites display correctly on all mobile devices and tablets to increase traffic, lower bounce rates and satisfy users—including potential investors. Web pages should be based on a responsive—first design strategy for all devices and screen sizes.
The second key requirement for asset management firms to consider is security. As a financial institution, online security is key but if it acts only as a secure portal for wealth management, a website won’t build relationships and convert site visitors into clients. Because every site needs a variety of visible pages that aren’t guarded by a login wall, the site’s overall security has to work in concert with engaging data-rich content.
A 2013 study showed that more than half of the biggest banks in the world have been hacked7 and a quick search on Google shows how often banks and other financial organizations are targeted. For example, in October 2013, Chase Bank was hacked and information from 83 million accounts was stolen8.
As hackers devise ever more sophisticated ways of attacking websites and are determined to cause massive disruption to businesses and reputations, security measures have to mitigate the threat of hacking without knowing exactly what the next threat will be.
Design partners or vendors must be able to demonstrate their commitment to security too
- Backup & DR: Advanced backup and disaster recovery, which is essential with cloud-based hosting technology
- Certification: A documented information security management system and ISO 27001 certification
- Protection: Ability to minimize threats from hackers, viruses and internal mishaps through a systematic, managed framework
It’s also important that all plugins are certified and their security is verified otherwise they can compromise a firm’s site’s security, change its appearance or bring the whole site down.
3. Ease of Use
Without a doubt, a website’s user experience is the top priority but content must be easy for admins to upload and manage as well. Even a small firm will have multiple team members managing web content, so a multi-author workflow should be possible, along with approval controls, and an eye toward compliance-required footnotes or disclaimers. CMS solutions provide a straightforward system for uploading and editing content, as well as more sophisticated features.
Keep in mind that fund managers and marketers are not all HTML wizards, so in-page editing needs to be simple for regularly updating text, adding pages,
uploading images and documents (such as fund fact sheets), and inserting charts, tables and graphs. Admins also need to be able to tag and surface all the documents for different regions and investor types.
An effective website is a conversion machine
Marketers need to be able to measure goals and returns on their investment. Tracking packages, such as Google Analytics or Omniture, make it easy to understand the user journey on a site. Using calls to action (CTA) strategically on each page can lead people around the site and encourage them to take specific actions towards converting them.
Basic reporting on conversion goals will show what site visitors are doing. A fund manager will want to easily aggregate and contextualize visitor data by product or investment vehicle, domicile, benchmark or any other relevant factor. This kind of data can drive better decisions on where to point the user next, showing visitors the information they need most.
Make the site discoverable
Optimizing the site’s titles and descriptions for Google is a must in order to be found by prospective investors and advisors. Doing so allows admins to analyze content and bring in more targeted prospects through organic search.
Differentiate between fund types
Understanding and differentiating between hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual fund providers online is important for investment teams. For a site to be fully scalable, each fund type should be treated differently, with sector-specific terms and tagged information in the page templates. Understanding and allowing for these differences can save countless hours of work.
Increasingly, asset management firms (and many other sectors outside the financial services arena) are moving to open source CMSs because they are so versatile and customizable. Proprietary software is losing traction but it’s important to mitigate all of the cons of open source software.
4. Integration and Scalability
Websites are no longer stand-alone tools. To be effective, they must be integrated with a range of external software, which can drive more traffic to a site, convert visitors and link it to other marketing platforms. Sites also need to be scalable and responsive to changes within the firm, the funds under management and within the wider context of the financial sector.
PwC predicts that global investable assets will increase from around $64 trillion to $102 trillion by 2020≠—that’s a compound annual growth rate of 6%9.
Three key factors have been identified as drivers of this increase:
1. The government-incentivized shift to individual retirement plans
2. The increase of high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) from emerging populations
3. The growth of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)
Even if funds simply retain their market share over time, investment managers need to think about future-proofing their sites, considering how (and whether) their sites can be extended and the lifespan of their sites.
In the same report, PwC expects assets under management in the South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East (SAAAME) economies to grow faster than those in the developed world, which brings with it the need to consider a broader visitor base. Sites increasingly require in-built, multi-lingual pages with auto-locale detection.
Asset management websites cannot exist alone. They need to be integrated with external software, such as:
Cloud services: Cloud-based content distribution networks (CDN), such as Akamai, provide fast performance and a flexible cache
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: Managing the firmís interactions with current and future customers requires an interoperable CRM system, such as Salesforce, that preferably uses a single sign-on
Marketing automation platforms: For capturing leads, then nurturing and scoring them, firms should align their site with marketing automation software, such as Eloqua, HubSpot, Marketo or Pardot
- Social media: Help site visitors easily share website content via social media platforms through plugins and widgets
- Site analytics: Firms can measure success by adding Google Analytics or Omniture to monitor and analyze web traffic
- Microsites: Firms can run separate marketing campaigns by building and linking microsites through the main company site
5. Speed of Delivery
The final key ingredient to building a website that meets asset management firms’ requirements is the speed of delivery. The average website (20 to 30 pages) takes between two and three months to build—from kick-off to sign off. Complex sites can take much longer than that (some as much as 14 months), which can not only mean a huge time investment from everyone involved with the project, but also create delays in digital marketing campaigns and overall strategy.
When it comes to fund management, the need for an effective website has never been greater. But “effective” doesn’t just mean a nice design. Firms that want to drive real results with their websites—and improve the way they service clients—need to create a site with the five key aspects of modern fund websites in mind.
- Cerulli, “U.S. Asset Management Edition”, January 2013
- PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Asset Management 2020: A Brave New World”, 2014
- Burns & Budivsky, “Websites That Don’t Support Customers Waste Millions”, August 2012
- “Why Every SEO Strategy Needs Infographics.” Web Marketing Group, February 2014
- Known as the ë@font-faceí rule, it is recognized on IE, Safari, Chrome, Opera and Firefox browsers
- “Mobile Now Exceeds PC: The Biggest Shift Since the Internet Began.” Search Engine Watch, July 2014
- “More than half top bank websites hacked, study shows.” Computer Weekly, November 2013
- “Chase Bank Hacked, Info Stolen for 83 Million Accounts.” Lifehacker, October 2014
- ‘PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Asset Management 2020: A Brave New World”, 2013
During a diverse career that’s touched many sectors of the global financial world, Kurtosys founder and executive chairman Mash Patel has become evangelical about better ways to do business. He founded Kurtosys to create digital tools that benefit the entire wealth community, drawing on his own experiences at Merrill Lynch, Societe Generale and Coopers & Lybrand, where his role overseeing strategic technology included projects in over 30 countries.
As CEO of Kurtosys, Jeff Hendren develops and guides Kurtosys, shaping its vision, culture and global business development. He brings years of experience in implementing new organizational and business strategies to the role, which he took on in 2012. Prior to joining Kurtosys, Jeff served as co-president of PerTrac, a leading provider of analytics, reporting and communications software for investment professionals. His in-depth asset management experience also includes roles at Reuters and Multex.