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Growing importance of digital media prompts European managers to enlarge teams

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The number of digital media teams with more than 10 employees jumped by 15.5% in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to Cerulli Associates.

This increase suggests that managers are reacting to the latest technological trends by hiring specialised people, rather than pre-empting the changes by training existing staff to deal with the advances.

A total of 79% of managers expect digital media headcount to climb further-an increase of more than 50% on those polled the previous year. Only 21% of managers expect to keep their resources at the same level.

Company websites are the top digital media channel used by asset managers to target advisors, institutional investors, distributors, and end consumers, according to Cerulli research. Fully 100% of managers target advisors this way, while 80% of firms use their website to pitch to institutional investors.

It is no surprise that improving websites was asset managers' most important digital strategy for 2013 and 2014. Several managers surveyed by Cerulli said their company had customised the website with "microsites" containing material that was relevant to specific countries.

Meanwhile, social media strategies were rated less important by managers, compared with the previous year. Cerulli research found that many asset managers allocate fewer resources to social media because of its limited take-up among some channels.

Only 45% of managers use social media to reach institutional investors and 35% use it to engage with end consumers.

The challenge for asset managers is to connect with clients across all devices in real time. But social media is more challenging to use as a communications tool in the financial services industry owing to the intricacies of compliance.

"Compliance and regulation are always a big concern for asset managers and the industry in general," says Barbara Wall, Cerulli Associates' Europe research director. "Communication is tightly regulated and there is less flexibility to be playful or light-hearted when using social media, compared with other brands," she adds.

"As regulation, technology, and its users mature, this could change," says Angelos Gousios, an associate director at Cerulli.

"Several asset managers said that the institutional channel prefers face-to-face interaction and targeted industry information, which is easily accessible on blogs and company websites," Gousios says. "Social networking on a mobile device in Europe is generally more popular with younger age groups, so we might see usage of social media increase as the workforce ages," he adds.

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