MAX Awards: the candidates… and our tips

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The annual MAX Awards, the sales and marketing awards for the funds management industry, will go ahead via live stream video on June 11, complete with an entertaining presenter, comedian Jean Kittson. The 105 finalists across 21 categories were announced last week.

The Awards are ‘people’s choice’ style, with all industry participants eligible to vote. They have become a popular fixture on the funds industry calendar. They offer the main recognition for business people at service provider organisations. Voting is now open. For the full list of finalists and how to vote click here

Chris Page, founder and chief executive of Rainmaker Information, the event’s owner, said that the company did not run the Awards to make a profit, but he was hopeful of holding a ‘physical’ event for the same group of people later in the year. This would possibly be a cocktail function for sales and marketing, PR people and funds management individuals, once the authorities allowed such gatherings.

All the finalists have been asked to produce a “creative” video this year, which can be used as a form of acceptance speech. The show must go on. Page said that Rainmaker, and its main trade publication, Financial Standard, encouraged industry lobbying through social media. “We try to make it as engaging as possible,” he said. The company bought ‘Money’ magazine from Bauer Media last year to boost its exposure to the retail investment market.

The chosen finalists are also influenced by the industry. To nominate you need to register and all Financial Standard readers are able to nominate someone or company once. Typically, a company or individual will nominate and then lobby others to do so as well.

Page said Rainmaker tried to prevent “gaming” of the system. For instance, all email addresses for voters need to be registered through Financial Standard readership. No ‘Gmail’ or other personal emails are permitted. And the organisers discount nominees who get a lot of votes from the same email suffix (same company), because of the possibility all employees have been told to vote a certain way. “Awards are great when you win them,” he says. “If you don’t, you tend to be critical of the process.” So…

The winners may be…

As in previous years, we have limited our predictions to categories in which we think we may have some inside information through observations – as trained observers – or through first-hand experience. We’d be happy to make a book on these tips, if it didn’t sound a bit illegal.

  • Agency campaign:
    • we’re tipping Capital Group with agency Ptarmigan Media. Capital is a big quality global manager which ticks all the boxes, including staff ownership. But it’s not a household name. Ptarmigan is a regular award winner.
  • Agency executive:
    • Haissam Aoun of Marketing Pulse. I had the pleasure of working with Haissam at two companies: Investor Info Ltd, whose titles are now owned by Momentum Media; and the company which became Conexus Financial. He was one of the three founders of Conexus, the others being journalist Amanda White and myself. When Haissam and Amanda worked together it was a sight to behold. They were the two most charming people in the industry. Prospective advertisers didn’t stand a chance. Marketing Pulse is also an information company, tracking funds management advertising, which gives Haissam an edge.
Haissam Aoun

Haissam Aoun

  • Agency of the year:
    • Ptarmigan Media. The agency is a mix of advertising, marketing and, occasionally, PR. It’s actually what some people would think of as the agency of the future, whereby all opportunities to generate business for clients are encompassed. Ptarmigan’s Australian managing director, Mary Hughes, is a crowd favourite.
Mary Hughes

Mary Hughes

  • Community Initiative of the Year:
    • Each of the five finalists deserves an award for its generosity over many years. They are Australian Ethical, First State Super, La Trobe Financial, RARE Infrastructure and Zurich. We’re backing La Trobe which has come home with a wet sail. It recently gave $1 million to the Epworth Hospital for its ICU unit to help with the COVID-19 crisis and earlier this year gave $1 million to help victims of the bushfire crisis. In the last three years the firm has given over $13 million to good causes. We’re also tipping La Trobe in the consumer marketing campaign category (below).
  • Digital Campaign:
    • First Sentier Investors. It’s actually a bit unfair with First Sentier. The former Colonial First State Global Asset Management was acquired by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial last August and the marketing folk were given a generous budget for the relaunch. It’s a marketer’s dream. But they have done it well.
  • Executive of the year, distribution:
    • Michael Angwin. He’s a genuine unsung hero, running the Australian sales and marketing for Canadian-owned BMO Global Asset Management. His boss, Ravi Sriskandarajah, decamped to Hong Kong a couple of years ago. Michael has managed to establish both the brand and the firm’s capabilities on a minimalist budget. We hate those minimalist budgets, by the way.
  • Executive of the year, marketing:
    • Felicity Nicholson, Legg Mason. This one would be a just reward. Felicity’s boss, Andy Sowerby, runs at a very fast pace. He has two product awards in a different category at MAX. He has expanded Legg’s product range exponentially over the past two-three years, in both Australia and New Zealand. Felicity not only kept up, she led the way with marketing. Hats off to her.
Felicity Nicholson

Felicity Nicholson

  • Integrated campaign of the year:
    • Capital Group. As we’ve said, Ptarmigan runs with advertising and marketing for its clients. But PR for Capital is separate, run by Justin Kirkwood of Kirkwoods, a boutique agency. Justin, a former senior executive at AMP Capital, seems to work well with Ptarmigan and adds his own journalistic contacts and capabilities. The two firms have experience in both trade and consumer markets.
  • Marketing campaign of the year, consumer:
    • La Trobe Financial. La Trobe is the biggest non-bank mortgage lender in Australia and was family owned until late 2017, when a majority stake was acquired by private equity firm Blackstone. Caterina Nesci, who has been the head of marketing for more than 10 years, was recently promoted to ‘executive – head of foundation and marketing’. Due, at least in part, to the success of the company relative to peers during the GFC, in the past few years she has been able to access greater funding to produce a number of successful consumer campaigns, including TV advertising, starting with Sky and widening to free-to-air. She had to cancel her regular trip back to her spiritual home of Italy this year, so she deserves an additional sympathy vote.
Caterina Nesci

Caterina Nesci

  • Product launch of the year:
    • Legg Mason QS Investors Responsible Investment Fund. Legg has another fund launch in this category, for one of its BetaShares joint venture offerings, for emerging markets, but it’s always hard to know who does what in a joint venture arrangement. We’re backing the QS Investors fund.
Andy Sowerby

Andy Sowerby

  • PR agency of the year:
    • This one is dear to the heart of all journalists. We deal with PR people on a daily basis. And they, by and large, provide a good service to both their clients and to editors and publishers, whose interests do not always align. But this year the list of finalists has been thrown into a little disarray. The winner for the last two years, Honner, failed to become a finalist. Normally, this award comes down to a coin-toss between Honner and Bluechip, the two largest specialist firms in the space. Without Honner in the mix, the field has suddenly opened up. We’re going for a wildcard: One Profile, which hasn’t made a MAX appearance since 2009. One Profile is privately owned by principal Emma Cullen-Ward. It has some big-name clients, such as T. Rowe Price, but also a lot of technology-type clients, which tend to be difficult to sell to journalists. Emma and her small team put in the hard yards for those technology clients. She deserves more money, or at least a MAX Award.
Emma Cullen-Ward

Emma Cullen-Ward

– G.B.

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