Lansons' newsletter - Spring 2018
The big issues in asset management
David Masters, Director
A matter of time
Board director and asset management specialist David Masters looks at some of the biggest challenges facing the sector in the years ahead.
As Foreign & Colonial, the first investment trust, turns 150 this year there has been a little controversy around its mooted name change to F&C Investment Trust. Despite the fact that its current appellation is a bit of a turn off to a younger generation of investors, it seems there is a cohort of traditionalists for whom this is a step too far. If all this sounds a bit familiar, it’s hardly surprising. In summary: pioneering asset management entity finds route to modernisation hindered by agents of the status quo. This has been a struggle that the whole industry has been facing for some time, except that “the agents of the status quo” have largely come from within.
There have been some encouraging developments of late. Under pressure from regulators and policymakers worldwide concerned by the sharp growth in passive funds, asset managers are finally finding their voice on the issues that count to the societies they serve. This year alone we’ve heard from some of the biggest players about how the companies they invest in need to better address executive pay, social purpose and, perhaps most tellingly, gun control. Suddenly, asset managers are starting to talk a language more familiar to their ultimate audiences on topics that matter to them.
But it’s not enough to just talk the talk. Asset managers need to live up to the lofty targets they set their portfolio companies. Easier said than done.
Take diversity as a case in point. As Gender Pay Gap reporting has demonstrated, the fund management world is not as diverse or as meritocratic as many of us would like it to be. Of course, when F&C was launched, power and wealth ￼were largely the preserve of white, better educated men. The evidence is that investors like their fund managers to reflect their own background and social class (1), so it should surprise no-one that the industry was forged in that image, and that its evolution hasn’t kept pace with the outside, economically-divided world. As the distribution and control of wealth both domestically and internationally shifts, so it is incumbent on fund managers to greatly accelerate the pace at which they match this.
Diversity is not just about gender either. Investment 2020 is a tremendous initiative that brings real change in at the grass roots level by targeting school leavers and graduates irrespective of social and ethnic background from beyond the privately educated and Russell Group worlds, but it’s a long-term solution not an instant fix. Attracting the best talent when you’re competing with the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook is a huge challenge when that talent perceives you as rather stuffy and antiquated, assuming it even knows who you are.
The latter is just as vital as the former, as it will help create an environment where all talent can better flourish. And by talent I do not just mean managing money, but all the services and ancillary functions that exist around it.
Effective, structural change needs to come on two fronts. Widening the “gene pool” of talent within the industry, and better utilising the existing talent that is already there.
The industry needs to start adjusting its working practices, in particular eliminating the “socialisation” that takes place within firms that leaves them largely indistinguishable from each other and prone to groupthink. To date, most operational changes have been driven more by cost and regulation rather than trying to better unlock the creative brilliance of the existing workforce. It’s a sector that is bursting with talent, it just needs to be set free.
Therefore, asset management leaders need to further rethink their approaches to workplace culture, particularly timely given the FCA’s recent discussion paper on this topic. Moreover, questions of corporate culture are becoming one of the biggest non-performance factors in manager selection among institutional investors.
Improving workplace culture does not simply mean installing Google-style slides into their offices to appear more trendy (although that would be a very “asset management” response) but requires a better understanding of how to tap into the potential already at their disposal. Given the evidence of increasing boredom within firms, this should be of paramount importance (2).
Language and communication are critical to the success of these efforts. To attract a new generation of both employees and investors, fund firms need to learn to speak their audience’s language, not the other way around. Plain speaking is one of the best and most powerful forms of transparency, because it turns esoteric data into useful, actionable information. A quick tour of the leading, UK retail fund management websites highlights the problem. The potential investor/employee is confronted by a plethora of identikit white, middle aged men, painfully repetitive visual clichés (the default image for “infrastructure” is the underside of a motorway bridge, it seems) and a lexicon that is out there on its own. If this is not connecting well to existing audiences, it certainly is not connecting to new ones at all. Worse. The common, macho language of investment is a proven deterrent to women investors, for example (3).
The regulatory action taken by the FCA against closet trackers also reinforces this issue. Aside from those fined for overcharging, a number of fund managers have been told to address their literature which does not make apparent the extent to which some of their funds are actively managed or otherwise. If the language used was clear and investor-friendly, these problems would not happen.
Many challenges remain. Volatility, technology, interest rates, and MiFID II to name but a few, whilst Brexit and all its tiny but weighty details will continue to overshadow everything we do for the foreseeable future. It’s always easy to criticise, its much harder to actually create change, but I think this is a wonderful time to be in the asset management sector. It’s the opportunity to make a real difference.
(1) Kumar, A., A. Niessen-Ruenzi, and O. G. Spalt, 2015. What's in a Name? Mutual Fund Flows When Managers Have Foreign-Sounding Names, Review of Financial Studies 28, 2281-2321 (2 Ortiz, Peter), 8 August 2017. Why asset management doesn't have to be boring, Ignites Europe, based on online poll (3) Britain Thinks, September 2016. Playing it safe, women’s views of investing, presentation at FSF event
Gender Pay Gap Reporting
Naomi Goodman, Associate Director
How has your gender pay data dictated your narrative?
As the Government’s April 4th (private sector) deadline for publishing gender pay gap data fast approaches, a recent think tank we hosted at Lansons revealed that although most companies have their data ready, many are still debating internally how they want to talk about it.
Last month, we partnered with My Family Care to host a Gender Pay Gap Reporting Think Tank. Through a combination of presentations and panel discussions, three events took place over the day. The purpose was to help companies consider how best to tell the story behind their data to effectively position their results both inside and outside of their organisation.
I had the pleasure of representing Lansons and was joined by experts including Jennifer Liston-Smith, Director, Head of coaching and consultancy of My Family Care, Ed Bowyer, employment partner at leading law firm Hogan Lovells who talked about the legal challenges, Ann Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute who shared some fascinating data that looked at the problems, pitfalls and practices of women in industry, Nina Hamilton, partner at The Omerta Group who talked about attracting and retaining female talent in the financial sector; and Lara Warburton, UK diversity and inclusion manager at Rolls-Royce who shared a great story on how they sourced, crafted and communicated their data.
What was great to see was that nearly everyone, across all three events, had sourced their data. However, many were struggling with how to talk about it. My presentation focused on the six practical steps companies can take to create and communicate a compelling narrative, helping you to turn the reputational risk of gender pay reporting into a reputational opportunity. These are:
Provide context – so that you can confidently explain your data
Understand the cause – outline the underlying factors that have contributed to your gender pay gap
Articulate your plan – how you are improving gender equality across your business
Create a narrative – be clear on the story you want to tell to support your approach
Prepare your spokespeople – help your leaders, managers and customer-facing colleagues be clear on the data, the narrative and how to respond to likely questions
Plan your communications – make sure you’re clear on how you will first talk about this with employees, before you publish your results externally
One of my biggest concerns about the gender pay gap is that the response is too individual. Companies produce their individual data and explain the individual reasons for those numbers, such as having more females in part-time roles.
Yet so many of these individual reasons are in fact industry-wide issues, such as a skills shortage of senior women in finance or female engineers. We see many companies making strong steps to improve this situation, such as shared parental leave policies and supporting women back into work after career breaks. Yet, I am unclear about how some companies can set such ambitious gender pay targets when what’s needed to achieve them is not fully in their control.
This was why I was pleased to hear Lara’s presentation about Rolls-Royce. Her company is working with its competitors to collectively address the issues surrounding female talent in engineering. Wouldn’t it be great to see more industries – technology for example – come together as a collective and work with Government and other organisations to influence change? Not only would that be great for women, great for industry, but it would be great for these differentiating brands too. The Women in Finance Charter is a good example in the financial services industry. However, more can be done.
We all have a responsibility to make our world a better place. Levelling out the gender pay field is one opportunity where companies can help fulfil that responsibility. Together, I believe they can make a difference.
At Lansons, we can help review your gender pay gap communications plan, help build your narrative and manage a workshop to equip your senior teams to explain the gender pay gap for your organisation. If you’d like to discuss how we could help, please contact us at email@example.com.
Suzanne Ellis, Director
How to influence people with "neurocomms"- neuroscience secrets for persuasive communications
According to a quick Google search, ‘persuasion’ is a form of social influence and often refers to an active attempt to change a person's attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours.
As a Director of a strategic communications consultancy, Lansons, it’s my job to help organisations to persuade: persuade consumers to buy a brand’s service or products; persuade employees to change their ways of working; or persuade stakeholders to think differently.
So, it’s incumbent to be equipped with all the tools and hacks that are out there to make sure a message gets heard, and acted upon, by the right people. That's why in this opinion post, I'll be outlining key neuroscience facts to know and leverage for really persuasive, effective communications.
Let’s start off with something that you will no doubt have experienced: we are not good at being told what to do! A more effective technique, as suggested by Nelson Mandela: “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”
In ‘Why We Do What We Do’ - authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist specialising in applied neuroscience - we look at Robert Cialdini’s* work on the six principles that drive any new behaviour:
We will respond to people who do us a favour. When this favour is unexpected it is even more powerful.
John McFarlane, former CEO of ANZ Bank, sent a bottle of champagne to every employee at Christmas with a card thanking them for their work on the company’s ‘Perform, Grow and Break-out’ change programme.
Rewards have a disproportionately positive impact on change motivation and often the effect will last for months, if not years.
Sometimes we just need to see what other people have done first.
Amazon does this effectively by showing us what choices other people have made.
We look to others especially when we feel uncertain ourselves. This is why all new initiatives need ‘early adopters’ and small successes at the beginning – to help to convince others.
If we commit publicly to doing something we are more likely to follow through and do it.
When we say ‘yes’ to something in front of other people, for example in a team meeting, we are less likely to back out from that commitment.
We like people who are like us (we are drawn to similarity because it feels unthreatening).
We will be motivated to do something new if someone we like asks us to do it.
We respect authority and often do not question it.
Uncertainty drives a strong need to look for expert advice and guidance. When respected figures endorse a new behaviour or opinion it tends to be accepted more readily.
We often want what we cannot have. This is linked to our loss aversion bias. Statements phrased in terms of loss are:
“You will lose out if you don’t do this”
“We will miss this opportunity if we don’t act now”
These statements may drive us to change to avoid a perceived loss.
So where does this leave us?
By applying neuroscience to communications, to what we are calling ‘neurocomms’, you can make sure that your message is persuasive and emotionally arousing enough for people to want to tune in, above the infinite sea of noise.
We had our first Neurocomms Masterclass in February, which looked at applying neuroscience to get the best from change and communications programmes. Some of the feedback we received:
“The course offers a bite-sized insight into the fascinating world of the brain and how it responds during times of change. The course has given me insights that I can use when advising on change comms and leadership scenarios”- Yvonne O’Hara, Head of Internal Communications, Metropolitan Police
“Wow, just wow! A great opportunity to learn more about the mind and connect this with the world of communication. It’s really challenged me to think about the value I can bring to my organisation in a multitude of ways”- Charlotte Cook, Head of Change & Engagement Comms, Simplyhealth
“A fascinating tour of the human state and how having a better understanding of that can transform the way messages of change are perceived and acted upon”- Caroline Rheubotton, Internal Comms Manager, Baker McKenzie
Our next Neurcomms Masterclass is Tuesday 22nd May. Places are limited so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Influencer marketing will work for you
Michael White, Digital Account Director
Influencer marketing will work for you
Whilst waiting for your favourite TV programme to start, there’s an interruption. A bank is advertising their mortgage rates. A young couple begin talking… you’ve already mentally switched off. This is the predictability of brands advertising their own products and services. It is expected, drummed into our heads, and stops what we were looking forward to watching. Truthfully, if we could; AdBlocked.
That same couple walk in. Except this time, you know the couple. You don’t just know them, but they are great friends. It is still an advertisement, but a real one. Your friends are talking openly about the ups and downs of their finances. You realise you’re not alone with your own difficulties. 20 minutes later, you’re still hooked.
In less than 100 words, this is why influencer marketing is important. It goes to the heart of what public relations is all about, relationships. Like media relations, a brand will either have a relationship through a consultancy with an influencer, or directly. It’s a mutual relationship where both parties benefit; an influencer has more content and the brand benefits from the exposure.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s just look to the figures. In November 2017, the Financial Times announced they hit 900,000 paid-for subscribers. As of this morning, YouTube behemoth Casey Neistat is nearing 9 million subscribers.
Okay, cheeky example – subscribing is free on YouTube and the Financial Times charges. Let’s look at this another way. Within 20 minutes of Peter McKinnon posting a video on YouTube, he’s already hit 70,000 views. It’s a mistake to think my YouTube star examples instead represent the success of the arts verses the financial industry. The point is that all social networks have personalities who draw incomprehensibly large audiences; people who have earned trust and are part of their viewer’s everyday lives.
Influencers portray their relationship with a brand’s product or service in a convincing way. Sure, banner advertising and short advertisements have a place. Push enough views and you might just achieve a 0.01% click-through rate. Or we could follow the money.
According to a recent whitepaper by Prizeology, it’s currently impossible to quantify the size of the influencer marketing industry in the UK. However, we do know that in the US estimated advertiser spend on Instagram alone is $1 billion per year. By 2020 the influencer market as a whole could be worth between $5 – 10 billion. Growth like this is only seen when something works.
We know it works. Over the last year Lansons has run influencer marketing activities for a range of organisations, from financial services to health. Building relationships with bloggers, Instagram stars, YouTubers, the list goes on. Balancing the requirements of highly regulated industries, with creativity that delivers against KPIs.
Right, that’s the sales pitch over. If you’re new to influencer marketing or want to know if it can work for your brand, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet me (@michaelwhite1).
Digital Account Director
A relaxed mind is a productive mind
Ahlam Mukhtar, Junior Executive
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment- to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you can improve your overall mental health. In this article we look at how you can improve your awareness of the present moment, commonly known as ‘Mindfulness’.
Mindfulness. Everybody's doing it. From Google to Apple, NHS and Transport for London. Even Harvard Business School includes mindfulness principles in its leadership courses.
So, what is mindfulness? In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness. Practising mindfulness offers a way to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. The origins of mindfulness derive from Buddhism but it's increasingly taught in a secular form.
Mindfulness can help to improve productivity, and increase resilience and emotional intelligence while improving communication in the workplace.
The neurological benefits of mindfulness have been connected to an increase in emotional intelligence, specifically empathy and self-awareness. It's the development of these areas that contributes to our ability to work better and communicate more effectively.
This is how Mirabai Bush, the mindfulness specialist famous for introducing it to Google, describes the concept.
"Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying, and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace”.
Becoming more aware of your own emotions as they arise gives you more choice in how to deal with them. Mindfulness helps you become sensitive to emotions by noticing the sensation in the body. Then you can follow these guidelines:
Stop what you are doing. Breathe deeply. Notice how you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Respond in the most compassionate way.
A simple mindfulness practice is the one-minute meditation. Find a quiet place and focus your attention on your breath. If your mind wanders (as it probably will), bring your concentration back to your breath. Then relax as the calm unfolds.
News, views and events
Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Lansons,Tony Langham is in PRWeek's Power Book 2018
We are proud to announce that PRWeek’s Power Book 2018 will feature our own Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Tony Langham, who has appeared in the book consistently since it’s conception in 2007. He has been listed for building Lansons to be an agency with an enlightened approach to employee welfare, resulting in the agency being a perennial winner or finalist in PRWeek’s Best Places to Work Awards and one of the largest PR agencies in the UK. Moreover, Tony has been recognised for his work on complex issues and being a PRCA board member. In his interview, Tony reveals what he thought the most successful PR campaigns were in 2017, as well as his thoughts on gender inequality challenges and the most successful social media outlets. You can view his full interview here.
Described by PRWeek UK editor-in-chief Danny Rogers as “the most rigorously compiled edition since I launched it in 2007”, the book lists the most influential and respected communications professionals in the UK today.
Date: Wednesday 21 March 2018 | Time: 8.30am - 10.30am
Bad corporate governance, lack of transparency, cyber-attacks and data breaches are headline grabbing news stories. They are also major causes of reputational damage for businesses. The inherent accessibility, speed, security, decentralisation of power, and transparency that is enabled by blockchain technology could be the solution. It has the potential to transform reputations and restore trust in our regulated industries.
Please join us at a breakfast roundtable chaired by Lansons and leading blockchain commentator Luis Carranza. Email email@example.com if you are interested in attending, and a member of our team will contact you. Spaces at the event are limited and demand is likely to be high.
Date: Tuesday 22 May 2018 | Time: 8.30am - 5pm
Lansons, together with Dr Helena Boschi, is offering a one-day masterclass in applying the neuroscience of communications and behaviour to change programmes. The day will start with an explanation of why traditional approaches to change and communications do not work and why we need to understand neuroscience in order to influence and change behaviour. We will then apply these insights to real-life scenarios that are relevant to many of your change and communications programmes. Come and experience a dynamic, interactive and experiential workshop.
Places are limited. For further information or to register please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
STOP THE PRESS... We have been shortlisted for the PRCA Ethical Champions Award 2018
We are enormously proud to have won this award, and that we are shortlisted once again this year. It’s a major achievement, and a testimony to our long standing culture and the contribution of so many people that push us on, care passionately, and make up what we do, and who we are. There are many reasons we stand out as a business worthy of being an Ethical Champion.
*we respect our colleagues and their participation in making us an exceptional business, one way we demonstrate this is through our partnership. Over 40 people are partners of our business. Again, this is exceptional.
* we seek to be a gender neutral, fair and a safe place to work. This is embedded in our partnership deed and forms part of our decision making from the top of the business.
* Since 1989 we have donated a % of our profits to charity. That’s close to 30yrs of giving. We have an independent Charity Committee who help us manage our giving.
* We have a 10yr partnership with a charity, HighTide, who shares our offices. We play a material part in their success, allowing them to plough all of their money into new writing and creative talent. Their work and content reflects the society we live in.
PRCA City and Financial Awards 2018
Delighted to have won the PRCA City Agency of the Year.
The City and Financial PR Awards are held by the PRCA in support of the City of London Company of Public Relations Practitioners. The Awards recognise the talent and impact of individuals, teams and campaigns from the best of the City and Financial PR and communications industries.
We are proud to say that this is the 17th time we have been recognised in an agency of the year category.
#1 UK B2B PR Agency 2018
We are thrilled to be B2B Marketing‘s top UK B2B PR agency of 2018! The B2B Marketing Agencies Benchmarking Report is the go-to resource whether you’re hunting for a new agency partner or simply want to see what’s going on in the market.
Corporate Content Awards
We are thrilled to announce that Lansons has won the Best Corporate Blog award at Communicate magazine’s Corporate Content Awards for our work with RCI Bank. A huge congratulations to everyone at Lansons and RCI Bank!
The Corporate Content Awards celebrate the best in creative content, corporate storytelling and communications. The inaugural awards event will recognise the role content has to play in carrying out business objectives.
New and Views
CIPR Leadership Platform
Lansons Financial Communications Director, Rollo Crichton-Stuart and sixteen other senior qualified professionals have joined the CIPR’s new energy leadership platform. This new think tank will discuss key issues relating to the energy industry both nationally and internationally.
Lansons is handling comms for what is thought to be the first UK IPO of 2018: financial platform provider IntegraFin Holdings. IntegraFin announced its intention to float on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange in March.
Crisis and Issues Management
Check out our special edition newsletter on crisis and issues management where we discuss preparation, choosing the right team, recovering from a crisis, the issues facing asset management firms, and blockchain.