Differentiating from the parent brand

It is a natural desire for investment management brands to differentiate from their parent brand. However, there is a fine balance to strike between independence and maintaining the value of the association with the group brand.

Given the history of the financial services industry, many investment management firms were initially established as the asset, wealth or property management divisions of bigger banking or insurance companies. Fast-forward to our current environment and there are two main reasons for investment managers to emphasise their own brands.

Firstly, it is often a natural evolution for growing businesses to start a separate brand journey as they become standalone firms in their own right. On a more practical and regulatory note – especially following the global financial crisis – clients are also demanding greater transparency about the independence of their money managers.

This has resulted in a number of asset and wealth managers embarking on extensive brand definition exercises, ranging from articulating clear brand messaging while retaining the parent name, to complete disassociation from the group brand and the establishment of a new brand for the investment manager.

As is often the case with branding, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and certainly no blanket right or wrong way to approach this decision. What is important for all investment managers is to ensure there is a clear articulation for the brand. This forms a fundamental foundation for any proposition to clients, not to mention a powerful internal motivation for staff.

While re-branding with a new name may seem the ideal solution for investment firms to effectively differentiate from their parent brand, many often find themselves constrained by internal rules and intricate group interests preventing them from completely going on their own.

Therefore, many have to redefine their brands and establish themselves as independent, while keeping the parent brand and staying within the confines of the parent brand guidelines.

While this may be frustrating for asset and wealth managers with distinctly different cultures and approaches from their broader groups, there are some benefits to keeping an association with a well-established parent brand.

Bigger groups (mostly) have significantly more marketing budgets than individual divisions, and resultantly can flex this muscle to have greater impact when it comes to advertising campaigns for the broader brand.

This takes care of the costly brand recognition element among the very broad retail market. Brand-building often takes years to achieve, but it builds significant goodwill in the minds of investors and the savings market. For investment managers this frees up budget to focus on campaign-specific marketing spend on their targeted audience.

However, this targeted marketing works most effectively when the investment manager has taken the time to clearly articulate its brand proposition, as well as define where it fits within the broader group – while selling an independent offering.

It also offers the division the opportunity to creatively differentiate from the group, in a way that underscores their unique value to their clients. E.g. while the group and division may both deliver quarterly economic updates, the investment manager can find innovative ways of presenting their update – in line with their individual brand proposition – that lets it stand out from the rest of the group.

Staying within a parent brand should not be a shackle – investment managers can benefit significantly, whilst retaining their independence, provided you have a clear understanding of who you are as a brand.

It is a natural desire for investment management brands to differentiate from their parent brand. However, there is a fine balance to strike between independence and maintaining the value of the association with the group brand.

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