When your financial institution receives a new RFP for asset management, is it viewed as an exciting opportunity? Or, is it just one of a dozen (or more) RFPs waiting for completion? Many financial services firms report that the number of RFPs from institutional investors has increased dramatically in the last few years. And, as organizations continue to focus on maximizing value while minimizing risk, there’s no end in sight.
For some firms, answering every incoming asset management RFP has become an impossible task. Consequently, they are forced to prioritize the best opportunities and ask their RFP teams to find ways to work more efficiently. The outcome isn’t ideal for the firm or the prospective client. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
In this post, I’ll offer insight into why the RFP for asset management workload increased. In addition, I’ll highlight the challenges facing investment firms. And finally, I’ll provide helpful tips to empower you to respond more efficiently and effectively.
The current state of RFPs for asset management
So, why are asset management RFPs piling up? It comes down to a combination of factors.
More RFPs more often
RFPs have always been a part of institutional investing. But now organizations send more RFPs to more firms per mandate. In fact, an article from Institutional Investor notes that the number of RFPs fielded by managers rose by 13 percent between 2017 and 2018.
Because the market is so competitive right now, investors use the RFP process to evaluate existing relationships as well as explore new services. However, the increased volume of RFPs means that firms must find new ways to stand out from the crowd while managing more work. Ultimately, more RFPs is good news — if you can keep up.
Demand for customized financial services
It’s no surprise that organizations that leverage their assets to pursue strategic business goals want partners who understand their needs. These organizations are no longer satisfied with run-of-the-mill service from big-name investment firms.
Indeed, the high demand for customized institutional investment services leads to longer asset management RFPs with more complex questions. Not only that, but we’re seeing buyers of these services become more knowledgeable and savvy than ever. The result is that each response in each RFP for asset management must be customized, complete and dependable. That level of detail takes time.
As the article from Institutional Investor discusses the shift saying:
“… the increase in manager evaluation documents is partly due to a shift in asset allocation among investors that emphasizes more complex asset classes and solutions, such as multi-asset funds. But it is also driven by allocators and investment consultants [are] paying more attention to the risks they’re taking.”
Emphasis on risk management
Finally, as mentioned in the quote above, the last factor influencing the volume of RFPs for asset management is the industry-wide focus on risk management. RFPs enable institutional investors to ensure compliance and transparency in their asset management firm selection. However, within the selection process and throughout the relationship they must also verify that the firm won’t put the business at risk.
So, in addition to completing RFPs to win new business, investment firms must also complete individual due diligence questionnaires (DDQ) from each existing client each quarter. Questions asked within the DDQ are similar to those found within an RFP for institutional business. For example, the DDQ will likely request updates on total assets under management (AUM), investment personnel changes and any changes in policy.
Unfortunately, DDQs are often just as repetitive and time-consuming to complete as an RFP. Because of the overlap between RFPs and DDQs, the same staff often answers both documents using their knowledge library. While these tools effectively identify risks for the client, they certainly increase the workload for the investor relations or client services staff who answer them.
RFP challenges facing asset management firms
While some firms have added dedicated RFP staff, others have their investor relations or client services teams manage incoming RFPs and quarterly DDQs. With the increased workload, team members who serve as proposal coordinators face a number of challenges.
- Prioritizing RFPs and deciding to bid or not to bid
- Meeting fast turnaround times and quick deadlines
- Creating a consistent and repeatable RFP response process
- Finding previous answers to RFPs and DDQs
- Verifying that previous answers are accurate and compliant
- Coordinating with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create new proposal content
- Managing RFP workflows and approvals
3 ways to accelerate your asset management RFP responses
Regardless of how many people work together to complete proposals, every firm can benefit from a faster RFP response process. Here’s how to answer all of those RFPs for institutional business in less time and win more.
1. Build a better knowledge library
Using previous RFP responses is a quick way to save time when answering a new RFP for asset management. While businesses want customized answers, there are many similarities in the types of questions they ask. Instead of searching through old proposals individually, create a centralized knowledge library to store questions and responses.
Knowledge management is one of the many skills that make a great proposal manager. In fact, creating and managing a knowledge library is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve efficiency. Whether you collect questions and answers in a Word document, spreadsheet or RFP software (more on this later), you’ll be able to find what you need more quickly.
In addition to cataloging the content itself, consider adding metadata to help categorize knowledge records. For example, segmenting records by region, client industry and topic provides a quick way to find all of the relevant information.
Remember, more content in your knowledge library means less back-and-forth with SMEs. It’s much easier for them to review and update answers than it is to create from scratch.
RFP for investment management examples
If you’re not sure where to start as you begin to build your knowledge library, check out these RFP for asset management examples for inspiration. Each of them provides sample questions to help you start creating an RFP content library.
- Investment manager services for Broward Education Foundation
- Investments & Wealth Institute RFP for investment management services
2. Maintain a team mentality
Successful asset management RFP responses require input from many stakeholders and subject matter experts. Together, this proposal team works together to create winning proposals. However, the members of the team are all busy people, and coordinating with them via email can be a challenge.
To work efficiently and effectively, everyone involved in the RFP process must understand the importance of the project and be invested in the outcome. To encourage a team mentality, hold a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the same page. Share your proposal timeline with the team to ensure they understand the RFP process and their role in it.
I also find that creating and referencing a RACI matrix throughout the project helps to clarify the proposal workflow and responsibilities. Additionally, keep your team engaged in the process by asking for feedback, regularly reviewing proposal content, holding debriefs and celebrating success.
3. Adopt RFP software
RFP software for financial services firms seamlessly manages all aspects of RFPs for institutional investment and DDQs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many financial services professionals that have benefited from proposal management software, like Responsive (formerly RFPIO). The platform brings your knowledge and team together into a single, centralized workspace and offers tools to improve the RFP process.
RFP software empowers asset managers to:
Keeping up with the competition means answering more RFPs, faster. RFP software solutions empower proposal teams through the entire process.
Proposal automation — RFP software speeds the proposal process with RFP automation. Simply import the RFP for asset management or DDQ and the system will identify questions you’ve answered before. Then, it will suggest relevant answers, so your team spends less time answering standard questions.
Workflow and collaboration — All of your team’s work on your proposal happens within the RFP tool. The proposal coordinator can create workflows and collaborate in one place. For example, RFP software makes it easy to assign new questions to SMEs, collaborate on responses and request approvals. It moves the process out of email and siloed systems to create a single source of truth.
Dashboards and reporting — Keeping the proposal moving forward can be a challenge. However, the RFP management system provides at-a-glance insight from real-time dashboards. Each member of your team can quickly see what they are responsible for and when it’s due.
Ensure consistency and compliance
When your team moves quickly, it’s hard to ensure that RFP responses are compliant. RFP software protects your firm by improving consistency and ensuring oversight.
Knowledge management — As I mentioned above, knowledge management is crucial to an efficient RFP process. Luckily, RFP software makes it much easier to collect, categorize and find previous response content from investor relations, compliance and analyst teams. Leverage tagging, account hierarchies and an easy-to-use search tool, to ensure the right content is always at your fingertips.
Regular review cycles — With dozens of DDQs due each quarter, it’s crucial that the knowledge library is kept up to date at all times. RFP software makes keeping track of updates simple. Just assign the knowledge record to the responsible person and set a recurring review cycle. Then, the system automatically sends a notification. When the records are updated, metadata is automatically attached including the date of the change, who updated it and how often it has been used. Now anyone using the knowledge base can quickly verify that the record is current.
Permissions, audits and approvals — Undoubtedly, your proposals contain detailed and sensitive information. The RFP system protects this data with secure permissions allowing users access to only the information they need. In addition, it logs changes to content so tracking edits is easy.
Preparing for the future of institutional investment
As competition within the financial services industry continues to heat up, your firm must leverage every advantage possible to stay ahead. That means finding creative ways to answer more RFPs for asset management without compromising quality or compliance. To prepare for the future plan to leverage knowledge management, harness the power of your proposal team and RFP software to gain an edge and ensure continued AUM growth.