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Schroders’ CMO: digitizing asset management to drive investment education

asset management marketing asset management marketing
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Stephen D. Strowes 

As one of Hot Topics' top financial services marketers in Europe and North America, James Cardew has introduced digital strategies to a 200 year-old business.

It somehow feels apt that the CMO of Schroders quotes Forbes’ Chief Insights Officer when asked about the evolution of marketing.

“[Bruce Rogers’] description is ‘everything in marketing these days is technology,’ and he’s absolutely right.”

James Cardew leads the marketing arm of one of Europe’s largest asset managers, Schroders, which employs over 3,700 people across 28 countries, and manages around US$460 billion.

Schroders’ assets are managed on behalf of institutional and retail investors, financial institutions and high net worth individuals, where they are invested within a broad range of active strategies across equities, real estate and alternatives.

It’s a service that has had to adapt significantly since its London beginnings over 200 years ago, as international markets, acquisitions and joint ventures, and waves of investors and individuals have all contributed to the demand for healthy growth opportunities.

The latest challenge to arise is the emergence of digital technology as a channel and method of communication.

“I believe we have reached a tipping point in asset management, and from my perspective we have to reorganize ourselves around a content led and digital approach to marketing.”

It’s a reorganization many other companies have had to initiate over the latter half of the decade, but for Schroders, it’s a chance for them to finally get to know their end-investor customers.

The phrase, digital marketing, has permeated into nearly every orifice of business communication and service provision, irrespective of sector; consumers have for some time now used mobile phones, tablets and computers, and social media, to interact with each other and the world around them, which brands recognized as a medium on which to advertise and engage with their customers.

As these platforms developed, and digital channel usage exploded, brands discovered that marketing is no longer about the sell, but about the relationship between a brand and a customer: how journeys can be aligned; how products and services can continually help and support a consumer; and how it can be used, not only as an educative platform to promote trust and transparency between organization and user, but as a means to understand target customers better.

“In the past, asset managers have tended to focus very heavily on an intermediary who they perceive as owning most of the investment decision [on behalf of an end-investor].

“So they will target a regulated financial adviser and can build a relationship with them to work out what they want and who they are, but the challenge has always been whether the end-investor was being put first within this process.”

Cardew believes digital technology will allow Schroders to tackle this challenge and begin a more customer-centric approach to asset management, a lesson he has learned after being within Schroders’ marketing team for 13 years.

After acting in several asset management marketing roles at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, Cardew moved to Schroders in 2003 as Head of UK Marketing, before performing as Head of Pan-European Marketing and his current position as Global Head of Marketing.

It’s provided him with a varied but detailed outlook of the sector’s trajectory and an insight into Schroders’ international client base.

He has fed that learning back into the company’s marketing strategy. One example is using digital communication to provide greater education to investors around Schroders’ products.

“[Investors] can go and find our educational pieces and understand exactly what they have bought because its demonstrated in a nice, clear, engaging fashion – we even include a small test towards the end to find out how much they have learnt, which allows us to measure its success metrics and refine our messaging to the client.”

Iterative decision making based on a continual stream of results is best enabled on digital platforms, and asset management marketing as a function can make more informed changes as a result.

“…you don’t need to pass everything on day one and work everything out. You’ve got to try and find a way to learn, fail cheaply and quickly, and then adapt and evolve, which is where I want us to get to.”

It’s this adapt and evolve technique that has made education and customer-centricity a core part of Cardew’s asset management marketing plans. A critical element of getting to know clients is to ensure that you can provide enough accessible information on the products they invest in.

“These are quite complex products, but what the digital platform provides is a way of identifying people who are interested in a particular product, a way to reach out to them and then build a relationship together, knowing how their plans and thoughts are developing.”

Schroders’ products and services split into two functions: asset management and wealth management.

The latter offers portfolio management, wealth planning and specialist banking services for individuals, charities and intermediaries.

The former however splits into four further functions: equities, fixed income, multi-asset solutions, and emerging market debt, commodities and real estate.

(Schroders manages over 590 funds in 19 countries.)

Within these functions, there are a multitude of products, funds and strategies that Schroders and its competitors research to ensure their clients achieve the objective of outperforming the benchmark or target amount agreed.

Cardew however hopes digital education tools will, “mitigate the problem the market structure has created: it’s been very hard for us to find out what clients want and what our clients’ concerns are.”

Schroders’ products are treated like pieces of content that a digital and asset management marketing strategy can distribute appropriately.

“We have thousands of pages of written content around markets, investment trends and individual stock, so what digital is going to allow us to do is find a way of getting the right content to the right client in a timely fashion.”

At the moment, Cardew’s asset management marketing strategy is all about utilizing digital components, such as their web presence, and an increasingly client-orientated way of operating, to promote Schroders’ product and service management – but not to necessarily sell.

“I think there’s a societal revolution going: people don’t like being sold to anymore, they value transparency and clarity, information and reassurance, and that’s why we’re heading in this direction.”

By transitioning towards a more digital outlook, Cardew aims to reach out past the intermediaries and onto their customer, realizing that building trust between organization and end-user is a key parameter within digital and asset management marketing today.