There are many things that Matt Siegel, CMO of Aperture Investors, learned at Harvard but in actuality, he attributes most of his successful marketing career to two cultural staples: MTV and Jay-Z. Before overseeing marketing, sales, distribution and client service business for Aperture Investors, Matt's career consisted of digital innovation roles in the music and entertainment industry for Viacom and Roc Nation. Read on to find how creative content has played a role in the asset management company’s relationships with clients, about Matt’s eccentric career path, and the importance of openness and serendipity.
What's the biggest marketing challenge you're facing on a day-to-day basis since the onset of Covid-19? How does it differ from the challenges faced prior to the pandemic?
In the institutional space, in-person meetings have effectively ceased. Luckily, we built our pre-COVID marketing approach on a digital-first, content-based strategy that puts the portfolio manager in the palm of our clients’ hands, with all the authenticity and vulnerability that implies.
Knowing our customer in this environment is challenging. It requires creative uses of data, outreach and partnership with other firms to build a picture of our client, how they came to us, and how they are using and feeling about our products. We can track engagement, but how do we connect that activity with actual investment activity?
How did you get to where you are today—from Viacom to Roc Nation to now an Investment company?
Openness to serendipity. And people. A unique career in multiple industries only happened because I was open to the unexpected.
I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have a handful of brilliant mentors. MTV leadership gave me an opportunity to help build a digital future at Viacom. At Roc Nation, Jay-Z and his entire team are generous with opportunities—in my case, to develop an industry-leading digital function. Serendipity introduced me to Peter Kraus, a luminary in the financial world who was eager to disrupt and reinvent the asset management business at Aperture.
What experiences or skills did you gain from your prior roles that you're bringing to Aperture?
The first decade-and-a-half of my career was a bootcamp in the changing nature of marketing. Developing digital platforms on which brands, artists, and athletes could build their businesses meant learning about everything from social media marketing to data science to product development. The rapid growth of Facebook (my class was the first group of users) helped inspire a friend and I to launch a music crowdsourcing platform and gave me a crash course in online community development and management.
At Aperture, our challenge is similar. The connections need to be frequent, authentic, and informative—no different from the connections I’ve had to foster between TV personalities and viewers or artists and their fans.
What's been your approach to digitally transforming the company?
"We’re lucky that we’re not transforming a company - we’re building one from scratch."
We’re lucky that we’re not transforming a company—we’re building one from scratch. Our approach is simple: we try to identify what we believe to be the most effective, innovative way to do something and we try to make it happen.
How are you leveraging technology in an innovative way for marketing?
Last year, our CEO Peter Kraus called Aperture the “Netflix of asset management.” Our managers need to create video content in order for investors to get to know them, and our firm needs to educate investors about our model and the intricacies of the industry, which have a real impact on their wallets. None of this would be possible without the technologies that have come into widespread commercial use over the last decade— social media, cheap video production, ubiquitous APIs, and inexpensive, reliable web infrastructure, just to name a few.
Do you have any advice for other marketers who may be evaluating new technologies?
The marketing technology stack we’ve built is innovative for financial services in that it avoids reliance on internal, custom processes and systems wherever possible. We’re an asset manager - not a technology company - so we try to integrate rather than build. This approach has served us well in the time of Covid-19.
Beyond that, our marketing stack is designed for evolution. Software is changing all the time, so companies like ours need to be able to replace components of the stack whenever better options come along. This means we need to be considerate of things like extensibility, data portability, and security when we choose our systems.
What changes are you seeing in marketing since the onset of the pandemic that most excite you?
"The pandemic has been a uniquely humanizing experience and that has made a traditionally staid industry far more flexible."
The pandemic has accelerated the trend toward increased openness and transparency. It’s also somewhat ironic, since we cannot meet clients in person. Whether we like it or not, clients can now literally see into our living rooms and hear our kids screaming in the background. The pandemic has been a uniquely humanizing experience and that has made a traditionally staid industry far more flexible.
What advice do you have for marketers in the midst of digital / innovative transformation?
Be fearless in your pursuit of customer engagement and transparency, and don’t be afraid of being a first-mover. ... The pandemic just adds a new dimension: speed. Move quickly. The market is littered with companies who wish they’d been better prepared for 2020.
How do you pick and develop the talent on your team?
We try to identify people who are capable of doing more than one thing. We don’t know where the business will be a year from now, let alone five, and it’s important to identify and develop talent that can adapt with agility. Equally as important is a focus on diversity. ... Finance was a “boys club” for a long time, and the residual effects of that explicit culture are still felt, even if they are expressed more implicitly. Hiring for gender diversity is key for us not just overall, but especially in leadership roles.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.
What’s something that most people don't know about you?
I build furniture in my workshop upstate.
What book/podcast would you most recommend to fellow marketers?
A book called Friendly Fire about the accidental shootdown of two US Army helicopters that killed 26 UN peacekeepers in 1994. Of course the book isn’t literally about marketing. It is a study of highly complex, intertwined systems, and how hundreds of factors interacting with one another can create unanticipated (and in this case tragic) outcomes. I have a very visual memory and there’s a detailed flow chart in the book illustrating the myriad forces which led to the accident, and it always stuck with me.
The story in the book is a good reminder that nothing is ever caused by one thing alone. This is a key insight for marketers who spend their careers trying to be the cause of customer behaviors and to attribute their successes (and failures).