In Credo’s brand measurement framework, Quality is one of eight essential, complex factors.  It is far more than, “high quality,” or, “poor quality.” It is a study of the many qualities (plural) of the experiences a company delivers as it is creating its brand.

Consider Credo’s Brand Credibility Pyramid in Exhibit 1, below. It is a robust tool we have been using for more than a decade to benchmark the many brands that crowd Canada’s investment management landscape.

Exhibit 1. Credo’s Brand Credibility Pyramid

Quality is one of the keystones in Credo’s brand credibility pyramid; the framework we use to understand why advisors are willing to have some product manufacturers on shelf and others, not.  You’ll find this keystone immediately below the pinnacle of the pyramid, holding up the advisor’s willingness to support his supplier.

Quality is complex and is best referred to in its plural form – qualities.  What are the qualities of a supplier that is worthy of support? In conducting research with hundreds of financial advisors, Credo has noted countless descriptions of “the things that matter to an advisor in a worthy product supplier.”  These qualities can be categorized into four basic elements:

  1. Performance
  2. Relationship
  3. Marketing and
  4. Execution

Performance

Performance is investment returns, right? Well, partly… but it’s more than that because investment returns are not a simple matter when we study them.  When you discuss performance with advisors, the term may mean different things to different people:

  • the 3-year rate of return; or, it may mean,
  • the risk-adjusted rate of return over the last 5 years; or it may mean,
  • The Sharpe ratio

Performance means different things to different people; it’s one of the qualities that determines whether or not a supplier is worthy of an advisor’s support.

Relationships

Relationships are complex, too.  In some cases, advisors have longstanding relationships with a wholesaler who has delivered knowledge and insight for the advisor for a decade or more.  In other cases, relationship may refer to the portfolio manager’s willingness to take a phone call from the advisor who is trying to understand some aspect of the PM’s investment decisions.  In yet another case, relationship might be involve the fund company’s VP of sales coughing up tickets to a hockey game so that an advisor could entertain an important client prospect.

Every advisors will have a unique relationship with his suppliers and the nature of this relationship is an important factor in an advisor’s decision around selecting his suppliers.

Marketing

An advisor’s assessment of a supplier’s marketing will be affected by so many interactions that the advisor has with their supplier.  Everything from:

  1. Seeing  the company’s billboards as we drive down the highway; to,
  2. Are the brochures they sent colored and glossy or are they black and white print-outs; to,
  3. Was that another television ad I just saw for that company my client was asking about?
  4. What portion of my client’s assets are being donated to Canada’s national ski team? And should my clients be making that call themselves?

Think only for a moment about the traditional “4 Ps of Marketing” and you’ll appreciate that this quality of a supplier is tremendously complex in itself.

Execution

Does this company have what I need for my clients? Is it’s range of products sufficiently broad, or is it appropriately narrow?  Just how well does a company do the many things it does?  Performance aside, how well does this company deliver through its client service department?  Are we watching a company’s PM exhibit style drift? or are they being perfectly consistent in their management style.  A company’s ability to execute… its ability to deliver on the many things that complement its investment returns are essential for many financial advisors.

So… Quality is Complex

Quality is more complex than a simple assessment that ends in a rating of “high” or low.”  In fact, when you ask an advisor about the quality of a supplier, they might react quickly and offer a high/low rating.  But, behind their eyes and behind the scene… there is an immensely complex assessment of so many interactions and experiences going on.