sprout in a pot

Recently, an asset manager client asked us to produce a film aimed at attracting new investors. With half of their investors based outside the U.S., including a growing number from emerging markets, the firm needed a consistent and compelling way to introduce themselves and give investors a peek “inside” the firm. The film introduced key investment professionals, showcased its infrastructure and presented a high level overview of its investment philosophy. Importantly, the video created a human connection with investors who were reluctant to travel oversees to meet the team in person without a preliminary sense of who they were and what they stood for.

This assignment got us thinking about the role that branding can play for financial services firms looking to tap into the growing wealth in emerging markets – a growing trend, spawned by economic growth in emerging markets over the past five years. Recent studies point to opportunities in wealth management, consumer financial services, SME financing, and corporate bonds. And competition is already heating up beyond the BRIC countries as multinational firms and new domestic entrants make inroads in countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Indonesia.

For any company pursuing expansion, it’s important to realize that the change in business strategy is really just the first step. To attract prospective clients and attain top talent, financial services firms must have a clear and distinct position, one that resonates in new markets. This may mean that specific messages will need to be developed for each new market, messages that reflect potential language and cultural sensitivities.

Firms also need to think about the right communication channels for reaching these new audiences. As we saw with our asset manager client, film can be a powerful medium for telling a firm’s story and creating connections with clients or even prospective employees, but channel preference will likely be vary from market to market. Research can close some of these branding and communication gaps, shedding light on what messaging resonates best in each geography as well as how prospective audiences want to be reached.

The focus on emerging markets represents an exciting, and challenging, opportunity for financial services firms. Success will depend largely on how well firms understand and address the unique preferences and priorities of target prospects in local markets, and how effectively they align their brand strategy with their growth strategy.