Gemini Fund Services' Northern Lights Distributors
arm is going out to the marketplace with an internal sales desk and more to support mutual fund shops' distribution efforts. Next up: an advisor knowledge center, slated for next year, and more new hires.
| Alma Piscitello|
Northern Lights Distributors, LLC
Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships-Head of Key Accounts
, a Morgan Stanley veteran who joined Northern Lights a year ago as head of strategic relationships specifically to build out this kind of distribution support, sat down with MFWire
on the sidelines of Gemini's recent conference in Music City. Also last year, Northern Lights soft-launched an internal sales desk, which they call the "active marketing" unit, and they've been working out the kinks. Now, Piscitello says, Northern Lights' active marketing service is ready for prime time.
"We've been slowly growing it because we wanted to do it right," Pisctello says. "Three new clients should be coming by the end of the year."
The active marketing service doesn't just involve internal wholesalers making calls. They create "cornerstone pieces of marketing" for the fund firm and then conduct a "targeted email campaign" from those pieces. The internals follow up with calls. The idea, Piscitello says, is to "drive activity and drive awareness." The internals report directly to Piscitello, who's doing one-on-one coaching sessions to help them be "more consultative in nature." The internals are very focused; each covers only two products at a time.
"I'm looking for quality conversations. I'm about building relationships," Piscitello says. "Trust is not done in the first call. You're there to learn about them."
In addition to training her own staff, Piscitello also places a big focus on educating Northern Lights' fund firm clients. Indeed, she describes herself as "a repressed teacher" who has "a need to create infrastructure and teach people."
"Education is the cornerstone. It's how we raise awareness and visibility, and how we're going to stand out as a distributor," Piscitello says. "I want to educate them so they don't need me any more."
To that end, in the first quarter of 2016 Northern Lights is launching an "advisor knowledge center", online and open to the public.
"There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to distribution," Piscitello says. "Nobody's given them a map. We want to give them a map."
Northern Lights' distribution support is tailored to where each fund firm is "in their mutual fund sales cycles," Piscitello says. Brand new boutiques need to get their brand out there and get on platforms, while more established shops have different distribution needs.
Piscitello's efforts have support all the way at the top. Andrew Rogers
, CEO of Gemini Fund Services, sees building out distribution support as a key differentiator amongst back-office support specialists. Being the "best fund accountant or best transfer agent," he says, is "hard to quantify."
Piscitello confirms that she's also looking at hiring new folks for her team, with diversified experience in different channels.
"The ultimate plan is that I end up hiring individuals that are going to end up channelized," Piscitello says. "That channelization is going to allow us to really have more impact."
"The first thing that you're getting from us in order to help you get ready for distribution is consulting," Piscitello adds. "We're not just about selling agreements."
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