What the top five do well: a digital review

What the top five do well digital

We are often asked who is doing a good job, digitally, in the investment world, so we thought we’d share our thoughts on this area.

To provide a fair benchmark, the Fin digital team regularly review and score the websites of top asset managers. We score websites for design, content, user experience and mobile responsivity.

We can’t share these scores publicly (it wouldn’t be becoming), however, we are able to share with you our latest review of the top five asset managers’ websites.

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 01

It’s the New Year and here at Fin we have decided to begin 2016 with a digital bang. Throughout 2016 we will be celebrating excellence in the often-overlooked digital side of the financial services sector.

We think there’s a lot to be celebrated here, so, during the year we’ll be publishing a series of insights into the digital presence of brands and organisations we’ve taken note of. We hope that these provide you with a little food for thought and inspiration.

Starting the year on a positive note, our first study looks at some of our favourite aspects within the websites for the top five asset management companies (ranked in terms of AUM). For each we’ve highlighted aspects we feel are worth praising. We looked at four key areas: design, content, user experience (UX) and mobile responsivity. Each is key, in its own way, to a successful digital presence. Of course there are a hundred and one things to take into consideration but we thought we’d keep it simple for our first edition. So without further ado, here are our thoughts on what the best do best.

 

Footnote: Due to different regulatory requirements from different countries and for the sake of consistency, we have reviewed these websites from the perspective of a UK-based institutional investor

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 02

https://www.blackrock.com

Design

The left alignment of the text within the main navigation buttons is a nice touch that adds subtle elegance to a web element whose importance is vital.

Content

It’s refreshing to see that BlackRock is not shy in coming forward. On each product page they highlight their strengths in the product within a “Why choose BlackRock?” box. Immediately answering every investor’s ultimate question.

User experience

An often-missed trick of placing a ‘contact us’ module on (nearly) every page is a clever way of funnelling unfamiliar users into your sales pipeline. BlackRock has produced a very comprehensive website, but a time-poor user will often find it quicker and easier to ask for help and engage with a real person.

Mobile responsivity

Overall it’s a comprehensive translation but we like the animated transition on the hamburger menu screens.

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 03

https://www.vanguardinvestor.co.uk/

Design

An interesting and informative infographic about global pension trends illustrates the situation very clearly without getting caught up in unnecessary details. Infographics are a powerful tool to communicate information simply.

Content

Vanguard likes to keep its comms simple and the tone of the site’s content reflects this well. Overlytechnical language and jargon has been avoided in favour of clear, concise information, making it a very user-friendly source of information for any audience. Even the prominent product presence on the home page is presented via “Find our Funds” and “View our products” quick links, giving speedy access to a time-short investor.

User experience

We found the ‘invest with us’ step-by-step guide refreshing. Vanguard’s site makes it easy for the inexperienced to make an investment decision. Without being fully automated it makes the process feel simple and straightforward.

Mobile responsivity

The desktop site has made a well-considered translation to mobile use. The desktop version’s extra content tabs and real-estate intensive pages load on devices as concertina modules to save precious space on your mobile screen.

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 04

https://www.ssga.com/

Design

If we must pick a favourite in the top five then this is ours. It’s a very modern and clean design that, through clever use of space, guides your eye to the key elements and employs an uncluttered layout to evoke a feeling of clarity. It also boasts a witty choice of colours: when viewed alongside the competition they suggest a sense of calm and safety.

Content

We love that State Street has created a site that lends itself to a ‘browsing experience’. In particular we really like the sidebar modules that aggregate relevant content into an easily accessible space. A subtle touch, which really stood out to us, is that the sidebar’s title automatically changes to ensure it is correct in context (e.g. “related articles”, “related topics” or “latest thinking”), the sort of detail that could be easily overlooked.

User experience

The investor is positioned at the heart of the State Street website’s offer and their needs are the focus of the language across every page. Even a standard user-region filter is presented as a service to the reader, offering to “let us tailor your experience” and “explore what’s targeted for your area”. In much the same way an “investment goals” section is presented to the reader instead of a self-focusing ‘investment strategies’ or ‘investment philosophy’ sections. A much more client-focused sentiment is evident.

Mobile responsivity

This was the standout mobile experience for us. The site’s design feels like it has been considered from a mobile-first perspective and scaled-up to desktop to ensure a very strong browsing experience. Page content automatically adapts to a reader’s device rather than just the screen size to improve the user’s experience and improve page load times.

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 05

https://www.fidelity.com/

Design

The hero of the homepage is a very practical and effective carousel. The site’s minimalist design elevates it to be a useful reference point for administrators to promote, and users to gather, key information at glance.

Content

We’ve already mentioned this in the design point but it’s worth pointing out again as content. Simple and to the point, Fidelity chooses a multi-layered carousel module at the top of the homepage as their primary way of sharing key information (“Investment Insight”, “Our Capabilities”, “Fund Documents”).

User experience

Contact pages are often overlooked in terms of user experience which is why we’re pleased to see this interactive map highlighting Fidelity office locations. Select the office you’re interested in and you’re immediately introduced to their point of contact. A module presents you with a headshot and their contact details, a human touch not to be underestimated.

Mobile responsivity

An ever-present and finger-friendly menu drops down to offer you an anchor while browsing on mobile and the large icons comprising the interface makes use extremely clear and simple.

Fin top 5 am websites review jan 2016 06

https://www.bnymellonim.com/en/

Design

The use of the serif typeface on the homepage tiles really gives the stories a less-corporate, ‘magazine’ feel rendering it a more compelling read.

Content

We really like the inclusion of a macro-economic snapshot “Market Intelligence” section. Navigated via a world map broken down into economic regions, this section offers a range of simple, toplevel macro charts, an economic and political “key events” timeline (with some additional fund manager comment) and links to useful external sites.

User experience

BNY Mellon have included a few page specific design touches to improve a reader’s user experience such as the inclusion of a simple colour key for the “Investment Strategies” section. However, our favourite touch is the repurposing of the once ubiquitous ‘word cloud’ into a contemporary “Trending Topics” sidebar.

Mobile responsivity

A rare, fully responsive site that scales to a full range of browser window sizes really well.

conclusion

As we reviewed each website, one thing became clear; while it may be a cliché, content is still king in the eyes of the top five.

Design, user experience and a mobile-friendly layout are vitally important but they only make a website come to life if they are working with the right content.

Each of the top five devote large amounts of their digital real estate to insight and comment. Clearly, communicating an organisation’s understanding of their markets is paramount.

Highlighting that new content is published regularly is important. To this end, each website presents its newest articles on its homepage, to varying degrees of prominence. It’s a simple method for encouraging visitors to engage with the site, consume content and come back soon. This is where attention to design and UX really comes into play.

Overall we were very impressed to see that a lot of effort has been put into making a visit to these websites worthwhile to a reader. Corporate sites have come a long way from being the digital business cards they once were.

More surprisingly, our quick analysis of these websites has revealed that mobile browsing does not appear to be a priority. The wider digital industry standard, a mobile-first approach, whereby the mobile version is considered first and scaled up to a desktop site, is far from universal. We hope to see that change soon.

Fin International Fin International is an integrated creative agency building brands for the investment industry. More about Fin
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