This day in age, if a firm doesn't have a digital footprint, it is almost impossible for it to survive. Increasingly hedge funds, private equity, and traditional asset managers have spent a considerable amount of time and effort in creating modern, well-designed digital experiences with their fund's brand.
But after you launch a beautifully designed website, how do you maintain it? This is where a content management system (CMS) comes into play. CMS is a software platform that allows regular business users to make design and content changes to a website. And as an asset manager, you may even want an industry-specific CMS tool for securely managing behind login content including a fund document portal, account and fund reporting and any other detailed research or commentary. CMS tools with a native investor portal provide asset managers with a compliant way to market their funds and enhance their investor service efforts through on-demand access to relevant fund and account information.
When it comes to choosing a CMS, it can be hard to know what platform out of the many options makes the most sense for your firm or what questions you should be asking from your prospective providers. Fear not! We are here to help you gain some clarity in your CMS evaluation and selection process. Work through these 5 must-ask questions and discover o help you choose the best-fit CMS tool for your asset management firm:
1. Should I use a generic or industry-specific CMS?
Right off the bat, it's essential to get a high-level understanding of the CMS provider space. You'll discover there are two main types of CMS platforms available: generic and industry-specific. Understanding the differences between these two options and then deciding what makes the most sense for your firm should be the first step in your selection process.
Generic CMS: Generic CMS's are great tools for quickly building a simple website backed by what can be a large and experienced company at a low cost. Many providers like Wix, WordPress, and others, even have built-in templates to get you started. In most cases, however, to fully create the website you desire, you'll need to hire outside design and development resources (unless you have these in house of course) to make it happen, which ultimately drives that low starting cost up exponentially. The other important consideration is none of these solutions have native asset management specific tools like document portals, granular behind login user permissions or fund and account-level reporting. So if these features are essential for your firm, a generic solution will not work well for you.
Industry-specific CMS: These solutions are purpose-built for asset managers and come with out-of-the-box functionality for document portals, user permissions, and fund reporting, as well as the traditional editing features found in CMS described earlier. While these platforms start initially at a higher price point compared to the generics, the ROI can be substantial. The extra time and resources that is often required with a generic platform is minimized by using a provider that operates in the investment management industry.
Added perk? These providers understand the industry in which you live and breathe so you can expect them to understand your problems and how to effectively solve them.
Other Considerations: Hosting fees, implementation cost and time, platform support fees, and length of contract all vary greatly based on provider. Ensure you are clear on these details before signing the dotted line to eliminate expensive surprises.
2. Does this CMS support my website design and performance goals?
Design: The best asset management websites are designed to emulate a firm’s brand, vision, and culture. The types of website designs and degrees of complexity supported by CMS providers can vary greatly. In order to get a website design working in a CMS platform, it usually requires a specific technical code unique to that platform, resulting in some limitations across the board.
Here's a handful of questions to consider when thinking about the design of your website:
- Do you want a bespoke design, an unbranded data room, or will you be happy tweaking a built-in templated website?
- If you are interested in a bespoke design, does the CMS tool you want support this?
- If you are tweaking a template available in your chosen CMS platform, can you manage the website changes on your own or do you need to enlist the help of a developer?
- Are there a variety of templates available to you and can those templates effectively convey your fund's vision and brand?
Performance: No one likes a slow website, and it can be maddening when it takes a website what seems like eons to load. Worse yet, is when your website fails to load or looks like a disaster when you open it on your phone or tablet. Successfully avoid this by ensuring your CMS provider and web design team support responsive design.
Don't shy away from asking these questions early on in your conversations with CMS providers to verify the platform you select fits both your design and performance requirements.
3. How simple is it to keep my website's content up-to-date in this CMS platform?
Keeping your CMS flush with up to date content and information, such as market commentary, news articles, or awards, is key to attracting and keeping investor attention. Does your CMS provide you with a quick and easy way to make changes to your website? Does it allow you to post a variety of media types, such as documents, videos, text, charts, and graphs? How easy can you add a new web page or section to an existing webpage? How is the data from various other systems fed into your CMS and how often does it refresh?
If you are not planning on updating your website all that often, these points mentioned above might not be important to you. However, if you plan on posting hundreds of documents, updating daily, monthly, quarterly fund returns, integrations with CRM systems and open API will be essential in streamlining your team's process for maintaining accurate website information.
4. What are my firm's must-have CMS features?
Before conducting any research or engaging with vendors, first sit down with your team and make a list of all the features in your ideal CMS platform. Then break this list into two buckets, "must-have" and "nice-to-have." This will limit your conversations and software demos to only those vendors that meet your "must-have" feature list. Some features you may want to consider, include:
- HTML text editing
- Document portal or data room capabilities
- Secure, granular user permissions
- Watermarking or document rights management (DRM)
- Fund and Account charts and graphs
- API integrations
- Event Management
- Compliance features like dynamic disclaimers and IP monitoring
- Automatic Notifications
- Reputation Management & SEO features
5. What integrations does my CMS natively provide?
Recent innovations in cloud applications and the API economy have changed the technology landscape, allowing for more connectivity between historically siloed software platforms. Considering a modern cloud-based CMS platform with APIs that enable powerful integration and data-sharing across platforms, often right out of the box is key. These CMS' can integrate with platforms like CRMs, event management solutions (i.e. Wrike and EventBrite), digital rights management (DRM) solutions for content protection, and analytics tools, to name a few. Knowing that your software solutions can all work seamlessly together without the need for you or your team to constantly monitor and update them individually is a major ROI with CMS' that have out-of-the-box integrations or an open API.
Whew, we made it through! That may seem like a lot, but a CMS’s importance cannot be overstated; the value they can add to a firm in both fund marketing and investor relations is undeniable. A CMS allows managers to effectively take control of their digital brand and experience and ultimately enables them to service their investors and market their fund better through on-demand, compliant access. It is always important to do your own due diligence and research all possible options, but we hope these questions and considerations can help guide your search.