"Be thoughtful about who you're targeting."
, executive vice president and head of the funds and managed accounts group at Northern Trust
], offers that advice as he discusses his distribution strategy for the Chicago-based shop's FlexShares
ETF business. In a recent interview with MFWire
, Thomas explained his efforts, which have also involved expanding his team.
"We're targeting those client segments that tend to be more strategic and long-term," Thomas says, point to RIAs, third-party managers, independent broker-dealers, wirehouses, defined benefit plan sponsors, foundations and endowments.
Thomas ties that focus in with FlexShares' investment focus on objectives, not asset classes
or products. Leading with thought leadership, and doing "targeted business development and marketing events (especially with advisors) brings the two foci together.
"We're not just trying to pick the product but thinking about the objective, how to utilize it in a portfolio context," Thomas says.
In the three years since Northern Trust debuted its first FlexShares, the team has grown to about 40 people. They include people in product development, product management and sales roles, while PMs, corporate marketing staff, middle office staff and the like don't report directly in to Thomas' group.
"Over the past couple of years, about 50 percent of our staffing has gone directly to sales and servicing," Thomas says. "ETFs have been one of the top strategic initiatives for the corporation and a leading one in asset management."
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