Media Mentions

Unique Asset Management Forum on Industry Challenges and Opportunities


By: Bill Hortz, Founder and Dean, 

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Due to financial markets being hit by multiple shocks and major downturns, financial services budgets for operational and sales/marketing activities will continue to be scrutinized ever more severely over the next few years. Unfortunately, we are at a critical pivot point for an industry in transition that is being propelled by an accelerating rate of change. It is crucial for the industry to shift its mindset from efficiency to innovation in all its forms. This can be accomplished by firms shifting focus to learn how to creatively apply and maximally extract value from all the resources they already have and seriously explore how innovation can become an ongoing multiplier of their efforts and help them purposely design a more engaging future for the industry.

“This positions the SME Forum, in my mind, as taking its place among other top asset management conferences like the Investment Company Institute, the Money Management Institute, NICSA, and the MFEA, but with an intensely practical execution focus on marketing, sales/distribution, operations, and technology.”

One industry organization works squarely in the heart of these challenges in the asset management arena and just recently hosted their Fall Forum in Atlanta entitled “Marketing Innovation as a Digital Multiplier”. The SME Forum – an acronym for the Sales and Marketing Enablement Forum – precisely engineers a rather unique asset management conference held twice a year in the US (and every June in London) delving into the sales, marketing, and client servicing aspects of the industry and the tools, technologies and advanced practices that enable them. This landscape covers data packs, data science, customer data programs, AI, digital marketing, distribution teams, business intelligence, segmentation strategy, financial advisor support programs, and includes a wide array of FinTech and research firms.


The SME Forum has nurtured its membership – representing trillion-dollar asset managers to boutique retail and institutional-only firms, as well as strategic vendor partners – into a rich community of 750 active members from 75 firms. Most of the ongoing nurturing comes from the Forums where industry professionals come to share experiences, challenges, frustrations and explore solutions through open discussion, reviews of the latest research, and hearing from industry thought leaders and major vendor partners. They are structured to be an intimate affair (limited to 120 participants) so members can Learn, Connect, Grow, and Solve their business issues through peer engagement and subject matter expertise.


The Forums are designed to maximize the free exchange of experiences and interests amongst our member participants in a balanced way. And nothing is left to chance”, stated Hazem Gamal, Chief Operating Officer, SME Forum


He was not kidding…General session topics and speakers are highly vetted by SME Forum Leadership and a member advisory council and then go through a highly regimented planning process with pre-Forum conference calls for topic and presentation delivery refinement.


Besides the general session speakers, a series of breakout sessions are similarly developed assigning facilitators and scribes to each breakout to ensure an open flow of dialogue and the capturing of key ideas and perspectives. All facilitators are provided a detailed Facilitator Guide and breakout templates to help them to prepare and outline, in advance, potential discussion points, questions, and concerns through contacting pre-registered participants and compiling member topic interests.


All Forum attendees even receive a Participant Guide and Worksheet that helps them prepare for and plan how to get the most out of the topics, discussions, and participants at the Forum. This deliberate structure and process does not allow for the outcome of a substantial sharing of ideas to be left to happenstance or serendipity.


SME Forum Fall 2022 general sessions with a few key points shared:


Asset Management Marketing – Arts and Crafts or Revenue Driver? by Tim Kresl, Broadridge


  • Research explored how asset managers can leverage existing teams and resources to scale distribution while providing top-notch service to focus advisors
  • 55% Of CMOs believe that marketing’s role in driving advisor acquisition has increased significantly
  • While advisors still want interaction from external wholesalers, marketing has a large role in providing value
  • Key areas of focus for marketing investments were revealed
  • Key questions to prepare for the future of asset management marketing were reviewed and discussed


By the Numbers: How Financial Advisor Needs Are Changing Amid Economic Uncertainty by Bill Sheldon, MarketBridge


  • Rapidly changing advisor and investor behaviors and generational wealth transfer accelerating the need for asset management sales/marketing teams to transition to next-generation distribution
  • Three top priorities emerging for asset managers to drive growth – Adapt to changing customer preferences, digitally enable frontline teams, and innovate products and solutions
  • Direct indexing growth will complicate go-to-market strategy for many
  • Data- and insight-driven personalization and customization will be critical across the lifecycle
  • Agile enablement framework and maturity index for next-generation distribution success outlined


Digitalizing Behavioral Insights to Deliver Customized Experiences by Hugh Massie, DNA Behavior


  • 87% of measurable business issues are communication-related caused by behavioral differences
  • Intuition has been proven to be 28% accurate resulting in misconnection
  • Great salespeople only connect with 40% of advisors leaving a 60% potential loss of opportunity
  • Ongoing validated scientific research addresses behavioral diversity and variability with behavioral finance
  • Digitalizing behavioral insights enables the delivery of customized experiences at scale
  • “Behavior Chip” tech embedded in workflows puts insights at the fingertips of the sales and marketing teams
  • Leads to behaviorally smart sales engagement & personalized experiences for salespeople, advisors, & clients


Distribution Intelligence: The Next Chapter by Scott Kasper, Olmstead Associates


  • A panel discussed aspects of an Olmstead Distribution Intelligence study which explored best practices of implementing and managing Distribution Intelligence practices
  • Key findings: It is no longer a question of if firms should pursue effective distribution intelligence. Data wrangling remains a challenge and ROI measures are elusive, but centralizing data and developing a business culture that supports the use of information is key
  • Next steps: Examine your operating model to understand strengths and weaknesses of the applications in place and the system architecture that governs the data management


Rethinking Distribution: Leveraging Analytics, Marketing, and New Approaches to Sales by Lee Kowarski, SS&C


  • Customer Knowledge is More Critical Than Ever
  • Asset Managers are Prioritizing Data-Driven Initiatives to Enable Better Customer Experiences
  • Distribution Success Depends on 3 Key Factors: optimizing relationships with buyers, optimizing internal resources, optimizing tools and frameworks needed to support the strategy


CDP in Asset Management: Myth and Reality by Marianne Hewitt, Growth Strategy Group


  • The CDP Institute was discussed as a vendor-neutral organization to educate marketers and technologists about CDPs and they conducted a survey with SME Forum members (
  • Survey revealed that asset managers have prioritized Customer Experience (which is dependent on having high-quality data) as a close second priority to operational efficiencies
  • Asset management marketing and distribution are evolving into data-driven cultures
  • While Asset Managers have been behind the broader cross-industry population in their data maturity and implementing CDPs, Asset Management is ahead of the curve in implementing CDPs in the next 12-24 months
  • CDPs are a centralized data store that will:
    • collect data from all sources including CRM, website, mobile apps, and third parties
    • provide powerful identity matching and management
    • deliver customer profiles to other systems in real-time



Breakout session topics included:


  • B/D Data Packs and Third-Party Data Integration
  • Establishing Sales Activity Benchmarking
  • Implementing Customer Data Programs in Asset Management
  • Emerging Technologies in Relationship Management
  • Developing Next-Best-Actions Capabilities
  • Defending and Promoting Tech Investment
  • Impact of Third-Party Service Augmentation on Operations



The SME Forum’s greatest value seems to be two-fold:


First, in its clear focus on thorough, deep dives into the proverbial “nuts and bolts” of the infrastructure of the industry and actively exploring how it can better operate by integrating new thinking and technology across the enterprise to meet major challenges and goals.


Second, its success as an effective engagement mechanism for open, honest discussion that channels these challenges and potential solutions into strategy and mission. It ensures that members experience new learning, gain introductions to build their industry networks of support, and provide insights that members can share with their teams and across their organizations to support firm goals and objectives.


The message for me as I sat through the Fall Forum was realizing the massive nature and scope of the transformation going on in the asset management industry. This positions the SME Forum, in my mind, as taking its place among other top asset management conferences like the Investment Company Institute, the Money Management Institute, NICSA, and the MFEA, but with an intensely practical execution focus on marketing, sales/distribution, operations, and technology. This position calls for keeping an eye on the topics and discussions going on at their Forums. For full disclosure, I plan on the Institute and the SME Forum becoming strategic partners and regularly attending their events to keep informed and be better able to report on the evolution and innovation happening in the asset management industry and how it is redirecting strategy and sales/marketing execution.



Bill Hortz

Bill Hortz

Institute for Innovation Development, Founder and Dean


Bill Hortz is a business innovation writer, independent business consultant, and Founder/Dean of the financial services business innovation focused Institute for Innovation Development.

Bill has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry including creatively restructuring and developing internal/external sales and strategic account departments for 5 major financial firms; entrepreneurially pioneering new markets in the early days of the financial advisor fee-based movement and financial alliance programs in the US;  and created many non-traditional and engaging advisor educational events with major financial firms including OppenheimerFunds, Neuberger&Berman, Peregrine Asset Management (HK), and Templeton Funds Distributors.

His wide-ranging experiences have led Bill to a strong belief, passion and advocation for strategic thinking, innovation creation, and strategic account management as the nexus of business forces needed to address a business environment challenged by an accelerating rate of change.

Bill loves working with senior executives, sales/strategic account departments, and financial advisor teams in developing effective ways of using innovation resources and developing innovation skills. He considers himself a life-long “student of human nature” and is well known for his enthusiasm, creativity, and resourcefulness.

Bill is married, with two grown children (and 2 grandchildren!), living in the Tampa Bay area. He enjoys reading, engaged conversation, bicycling, spelunking, and traveling with his family.  

Little known facts: Bill worked on the last remaining docks of NYC as an underage teen, worked for the man in Hong Kong that the book Tai-Pan was based on, and constantly seeks out off-off-off broadway theatre, performance art, live music performance, and modern art museums.