Personal Brand

Most days we get to meet the people behind some of the most revered brands in the investment & fund management ecosystem. We know how lucky we are to hear about how these brands were born, the problems they solve & the force for good they mostly turn out to be. It’s the best job in the world! The comfort zone for most of these calls takes place in the corporate layer but the truly memorable zone always happens when we move from the corporate façade to the personal journey. For example, it’s interesting to know when a company was founded but it’s truly memorable to hear about what happened in the life of the founder on the momentous day the company launched. We will quickly forget the number of staff a firm has but we never forget that our personal contact was actually employee #5.    

When we think about the word ‘brand’ most of us automatically think; Apple, Tesla, Nike…

Fewer of us would define brand by reeling off Tim Cook, Elon Musk or Phil Knight.

But hang on a minute. Looking across social media here’s something we all know but rarely think much about.

All 3 of these leaders have 3-5x more personal followers than their corporate brands.

Then we noticed something else. We trolled some of the titans of industry operating in a B2B investment environment where their corporate brands weren’t cool B2C purchasing decisions by label conscious teens. Surprise, surprise the relative gap between the numbers of personal and corporate followers was even wider. In fact, outside the largest 10 investment brands (measured by AUM) in the world, the rest of us have barely any name & brand recognition at all.    

Let’s add in some politics now: a British journalist recently coined an expression ‘pintability’ which suggests that a politician that creates the impression of being someone you might want to meet in your local watering hole and share a beer with is much more likely to be someone you would vote for (even if totally unsuitable for the job at hand)! Voters in democracies tend to vote for the personality rather than the party.

So, returning to our investor friends all seeking alpha in a crowded, messy and difficult environment. Conversations create real deal-flow and unless you’re Blackrock, a corporate brand doesn’t help that much. Your brand cannot meet for coffee, discuss the sport or enquire after the family. It cannot deal with a problem or celebrate a success. It cannot connect with a random introduction that turned out to present access to an investment previously off-limits.

In a world where all talented investment professionals tend to look homogenous with the same qualifications, approaches & resumes, we encourage investment leaders to move from behind their corporate logos, develop their personal brands, be a little bit vulnerable, share their stories and journeys. People buy, like & trust people, particularly those people who aren’t afraid to stand apart from the crowd. Brands come and go, professional friendships drive profits & fulfilling lives.