Linda York

About Linda York

Linda York is a senior vice president in the Syndicated Research division where she leads the Wealth Management Syndicated Research & Consulting practice. She has over 20 years of experience in financial services spanning responsibilities in finance, marketing and business strategy. Before joining Market Strategies, Linda was the practice director of Syndicated Research at Cogent Research, where she managed the product development and execution process for syndicated research projects and consulted with dozens of clients in the retail and institutional wealth management space. She earned an MBA in marketing from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College. Linda is an avid equestrian and a two-time finisher of the Boston Marathon.

Pinpointing Growth Opportunities in the Institutional Market

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While an understanding of current asset allocation practices is always valuable for asset managers, uncovering the asset classes institutional investors will look to in the future provides key insight into potential areas of growth and opportunities to expand a firm’s share of institutional assets. This year’s US Institutional Investor Brandscape report includes an analysis of anticipated changes to asset allocation by asset class, uncovering the areas of most demand for future mandates.

Overall, demand for active fixed income and alternatives is on the rise among both pension and non-profit institutional investors. However, breaking down each group’s top three asset classes poised for growth in the next three years shows pockets of even greater opportunity. It’s important to note that these figures represent the percentage of institutional investors forecasting changes in their use of particular asset classes and NOT the percentage of assets they are likely to move.

Pensions

US fixed income, both actively and passively managed, will continue to be in demand among pension investors across all asset size segments in the next three years. Notably, the use of alternatives is attracting more interest among this group this year than in the past, with an expected net increase of 24%. $1 billion-plus pensions report the highest anticipated positive net change in alternatives (35%) and passively managed US fixed income (33%), indicating rich opportunity for asset managers. An increase in one asset class inevitably leads to a decrease in another—24% of pension investors intend to draw down their allocation to US equities in the next three years, a trend from previous years. Continue reading

The Power of Brand Identity Research

The Power of Brand Identity ResearchEvery impression counts when promoting and maintaining a successful business, and managing your brand identity is a major factor in that success. Whether it’s your logo, your website or your business cards, your customers build an impression of your company through every interaction they have with it. Each touchpoint adds up to create your brand image. But in today’s dynamic digital market, customers have more ways than ever to engage with brands.

New and evolving technologies demand that businesses account for the myriad of platforms that can promote as well as demote their brand. Brand research across a diverse range of markets has shown that your customers’ opinions, needs and expectations can turn on a dime, particularly in the court of social media. As a result, the challenge for businesses is to navigate these platforms to ensure they don’t get lost in the crowd, or worse, stand out for all of the wrong reasons.

What Is Brand Identity and Brand Image?

Brand identity is the way a business defines itself to their target audience. Every element that helps define your brand, from name and logo to color scheme and even the language you use to communicate with your audience come together to create your overall brand identity.

On the other hand, your brand image is the perception that customers have of your brand. It is the aggregate of every experience, interaction and association that people have with your organization. Continue reading

Going Beyond Consideration

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Understanding the Institutional Investor Journey When Selecting an Asset Manager

Institutional investors yield considerable decision-making power and often involve an extensive list of resources in their process of vetting and hiring a new asset manager. The firms vying for attention need to effectively differentiate yet not over-complicate their unique value propositions. Given the intensity of competition in the institutional market, asset managers need to make the most of every potential mandate to position themselves to win new assets. While many struggle with the challenges of building brand awareness to even get a chance to be considered, the most successful firms arm their sales, relationship management and product teams with insight on the decision-making process in order to maximize their opportunities of being selected.

Common triggers prompting asset manager searches include multiple periods of underperformance, investment team turnover, style drift, and corporate merger/acquisition activity. That said, new-manager hires are not always the result of the need to replace an incumbent, as institutional investors and consultants are open to opportunistic searches for new strategies that could enhance the overall portfolio. While performance and price along with familiarity and strength of the brand are integral in the evaluation of asset managers, a variety of more subjective factors weigh heavily in the final selection decision.

In the process of hiring an asset manager, all institutional investors follow a similar journey, with each type bringing its own nuances to the overall process. Along the journey, asset managers can leverage a number of points of influence to maximize their potential for selection. The people and additional sources of information also involved in the journey vary by type of institution, offering opportunities for asset managers to target their ongoing outreach to specific audiences. For example, consultant recommendations are by far the most influential factor for defined benefit (DB) pensions, yet peer recommendations, either formal or word-of-mouth, can be a gateway for endowments.

Continue reading

Is There a Future for Financial Wellness Programs?

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Financial wellness programs were greeted with great hopes when they first debuted. But is the prognosis for their long-term success starting to flag? Amid signs that such programs have not been as impactful as expected, our latest white paper takes a 360-degree look at three sets of stakeholders—plan sponsors, plan participants and retirement plan advisors—to construct a clearer picture of the state of financial wellness initiatives. Here’s a sneak peek!

The Employer View: Enthusiastic Adopters

Preparing employees for retirement is a high priority for plan sponsors. Indeed, 40% rank it as one of their top three priorities for the year. It’s no wonder then that employers embrace financial wellness programs with enthusiasm. Adoption rates among plan sponsors jumped from 16% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. And interest in offering a financial wellness program is strong, with over one-third of plan sponsors likely to consider implementing a program in the future. Continue reading

Satisfaction With Institutional Asset Managers Has Taken a Hit

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Satisfaction with Institutional Asset Managers Has Taken A Hit | Cogent Reports

It’s no secret that 2017 closed with a period of remarkable and sustained market expansion. Capping a year that featured strong economic growth, an improving job outlook and bolstered consumer confidence, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index hit record high after record high in the fourth quarter.

Despite this historic bull market that boosted performance for many investment strategies, institutional investors’ overall satisfaction with their existing asset managers has declined sharply from the previous year. Specifically, institutional investors surveyed in the eighth annual US Institutional Investor Brandscape® study report an average top 3-box satisfaction score of just 60%, versus 67% in 2016. Continue reading

The Secrets of How, When and What in Institutional Marketing

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Institutional marketing in the financial services space involves outreach to a  specific individual within an entity, company or organization with responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars. These individuals typically represent large pension funds, endowments or foundations who frequently consult with internal or external peers as well as investment consultants before implementing any changes in their investment strategy.

As you can imagine, marketing to this particular audience requires a degree of finesse that is best informed by understanding the client’s mission,  needs and current investment approach. Surprisingly, this is where many marketing projects begin to falter. Continue reading

Is ESG Investing Relevant in the Institutional Market?

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Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is continuing to impact the wealth management space. As individual investors become increasingly concerned with the ethics and environmental impact of the companies they are supporting, they are passing that concern on to the institutions that manage their investments. In fact, ProxyPulse*, a report by Broadridge and PwC, found a growing momentum of ESG proposals in proxy meetings in 2017. Following the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the report also suggests an expected increase in questions from shareholders on environmental impact and climate change in 2018.

To keep a pulse on the growth in the ESG category, Cogent tracks interest in and usage of ESG investing among all the audiences we survey: financial advisors, DC plan sponsors, affluent investors and institutional investors. Specifically in the institutional market, we added a new question to this year’s US Institutional Investor Brandscape report, fielded late in 2017 and publishing this month. We asked institutional investors in the US how likely they were to adopt ESG investing in the next 12 months. We found that, while few institutions have already incorporated ESG in their portfolios, usage is considerably higher in the non-profit sector, where the approach to investing tends to be more mission-based than is typical among pensions. Continue reading

European Pensions Jumping on ESG Bandwagon

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European Pensions Jumping on ESG Bandwagon

If there were any doubt as to the appeal of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) or Impact Investing in the European institutional market, it can now be put to rest. In a recent survey of defined benefit pension investors, Cogent Reports found that three-quarters or more of European pensions are likely to incorporate ESG investing in their portfolios within the next year. Moreover, this strong interest in ESG investing is evident across pensions of all asset sizes. Yet relatively few European institutions say they have already incorporated ESG or impact investing in their portfolios, suggesting that the category is poised for substantial growth.

A recent article* reported that Europe now accounts for over half (53%) of the $22.89 trillion in global sustainable investment assets. If the European pensions have anything to say about it, that number will quickly multiply, providing a welcome source of new assets to investment firms specializing in this area. Of particular interest to asset managers should be pensions in Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands, where Cogent found ESG investing earning the strongest appeal. Continue reading

The Key to Success in International Marketing? Location, location, location!

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For US-based asset managers seeking to grow their institutional business overseas, the challenges are many. Asset managers deciding where to focus their efforts, which investment solutions to offer and how to differentiate their brands from those of the established local firms are all critical decisions. But the one consideration that dictates all others is location—determining which countries or regions to target. And what better way to decide where to set up shop than to pinpoint where demand for new managers is greatest?

Earlier this summer, Cogent asked pension investors across Europe how many new asset managers they anticipate adding to their lineups in the next 12 months. Encouragingly, European pensions remain interested in adding new managers to their lineups. Compared with 2014, more institutional investors are likely to add at least one manager to their lineups in the coming year. Opportunity appears greatest in the Netherlands, France and the UK. Similar to the US market, $1 billion-plus institutions are primarily driving the increased interest in new manager additions in the coming year, lending fuel to the strategies of many asset managers that are focusing on the upper end of the institutional market. Continue reading

To Reach DC Plan Sponsors, Tap The Wall Street Journal

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Dozens of 401(k) plan providers are striving to increase awareness of their brands among plan sponsors, who are the ultimate decision-makers when hiring and firing plan providers or even initiating putting a DC plan out to bid. Advertising is a common tactic used to boost brand recognition, yet only 27% of DC plan sponsors recall seeing an ad for at least one of the 34 leading plan providers over the past six months. Part of the reason may be that the
ads are running in the wrong place.

Plan providers courting new business often turn to trade publications and websites to tout their recordkeeping capabilities among a targeted audience. Yet when we asked plan sponsors which print publications they read over the past six months, specifically for 401(k) best practices or 401(k) service providers, nearly half (49%) cite The Wall Street Journal. In comparison, just 13% point to Employee Benefit News and only 10% report reading PLANSPONSOR magazine.

Moreover, when asked to identify the online publications they viewed over the same period, wsj.com is just behind bloomberg.com as the most frequently cited website (30% and 32%, respectively). The New York Times, both print and online editions, is another common resource among plan sponsors, far ahead of trade-related publications such
as Pensions & Investments and HR Magazine. Continue reading