Last year was an eventful year for the asset management industry. While asset management firms could still do more to keep their digital offerings up to date, 2019 showed a marked improvement from the prior year. In our December 2019 Asset Management Monitor – Advisor Awards Report, we summarized firms’ major changes throughout the year and recognized competitors in our coverage set that performed well in five important site areas. These categories include fund profile offerings, on which advisors place especially high value: all generational groups in our 2018 Financial Advisor Survey deemed detailed fund information “very important” or “extremely important.” Here, we outline some of the trends that shaped the year in the digital asset management space and reveal the gold medal winner for the fund profile category.
In 2019, six firms fully revamped or redesigned their advisor sites; by contrast, the industry saw only one full website revamp in all of 2018. Federated, AB, iShares, John Hancock, Janus Henderson and Vanguard all completely overhauled their sites, making changes ranging from aesthetic tweaks, like font and color scheme, to rethinking their entire main site navigation systems. Vanguard’s overhaul was particularly ambitious, with the firm reorganizing the homepage and navigation, adding several new educational pages, and updating the layout of existing pages to adhere to the new design scheme.
American Funds and Fidelity eschewed full site revamps in favor of homepage redesigns. The former now employs prominent images and icons, accompanied by minimal text, to offer an inviting and digestible homepage. The latter updated its homepage to focus more on promoting tools and resources, using a large banner image and image tiles to do so. A new Thought Leadership section also highlights commentaries, using tiles to display each title, a summary and the publication date.
View a free slide deck preview of the gold medal winners here:
We saw a number of new tools launched in our coverage set this year, with five launched in 2019. BlackRock contributed one new tool, while J.P. Morgan and American Century produced two each:
- BlackRock’s new Brand and Share tool allows advisors to upload their logos onto the site and insert them into client-ready documents from BlackRock.
- J. P. Morgan’s new Bond Ladder Illustrator tool allows investors to assess the estimated investment returns, income, cash flow and total return of investing in bond funds, and the firm’s new Price Smart tool allows advisors to calculate possible 401(k) savings and create client-ready reports to communicate these findings.
- American Century added two new secure site tools: Red Zone Calculator and Breakeven AUM Calculator. The former uses InvestmentNews data to compare the profitability of a user’s advisory firm to peer firms, and the latter shows advisors whether certain clients strengthen or weaken their firm’s profits.
Finally, our award for the fund profile category this year goes to Columbia Threadneedle’s comprehensive and engaging fund profile pages. The firm stands out by offering numerous interactive visuals and particularly extensive fund overviews. Both the range and the presentation of information contribute to the firm’s accolade: Columbia Threadneedle makes the fund profiles extremely discoverable through a homepage Find a Mutual Fund feature, as well as through general fund performance tables. An overview section summarizes the contents of each full page succinctly; by contrast, many peer firms simply provide snapshots of the Performance, Risk and Fees sections. Multiple interactive performance charts and graphs benchmark the fund against a preselected index, and a unique graph displays risk versus return data, allowing advisors to visualize the degree of volatility. The firm also provides a selection of value-add features, including the ability to subscribe to fund updates, links to relevant commentaries, and email and social media sharing.
While the asset management industry has a way to go before its online offerings can compete with out-of-industry leaders, the updates made throughout 2019 represent steps in the right direction. Firms must adapt to the changing market environment—characterized by factors such as decreasing fees and consolidation—by finding new ways to stand out from the competition. Digital experiences are a good differentiator that customers value, so we hope to see this trend of advisor site enhancements continue into 2020.
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