Episode 83

MARCH 1, 2023

Melissa on the importance of the client experience

Melissa Spadafora, Managing Director, Head of Client Experience at SLC Management, discusses why client service can be an important differentiator for asset managers in a competitive environment.

Steve Peacher: Hi, everybody it's Steve Peacher and this another episode of “Three in Five.” Today I’m joined by Melissa Spadafora, who's our head of client experience at SLC Fixed Income. So, Melissa, thank you for taking some time.

Melissa Spadafora: Thank you, Steve.

Steve Peacher: As your title suggests, we want to talk about the client experience. So, our client base is an institutional client base, obviously our main job is to deliver investment performance according to the mandate that we have. But there's so much more that goes into satisfying an institutional client. They're large. They're demanding They have options. You know every institutional asset management firm has to has to meet this, or they don't keep their clients. So talk a bit about the client experience, and I think it can be a differentiator just like investment performance can be a differentiator. The whole client experience that a firm can deliver can be a differentiator. So how can client the client experience or client service be a differentiator for an asset manager?

Melissa Spadafora: We think it can be a huge differentiator in the level of service that an institutional manager can provide its clients. You know we're dealing with these larger institutions and these more sophisticated investors, so they expect a level of service and a level of response time that is integral to kind of their part of them being able to do their business as well. So we view it as a very important process that we need to really level up and satisfy for our clients because they expect that of us, and when they're looking out across the industry you know there's many different managers that they can choose from, and I, we feel that this is an extreme differentiative factor because along with performance being as important, being able to have a great relationship and great reporting and great onboarding experiences with the client really goes a long way, and that helps cement the relationship for a long term.

Steve Peacher: You know, this is an area that you run, but at what's the approach we take. I mean, firms can take different approaches, and not just one. How do we approach it?

Melissa Spadafora: So we look at it holistically. We look at it like we're a partner to our clients, so we're not just a service level provider. We're not just here, you know, as someone that they come to for investments, but we're really their partner, so as they're looking to either grow their business or expand their business, or whatever facet of their investments that we can assist with, we look to really partner with them in that and really holistically work together to satisfy their needs.

Steve Peacher: And you've been at this a long time, I mean, and so how have you seen our approach change, and if you, you know, based on the feedback we get from clients, and you look forward, where are the areas that you know everybody's trying to get better? We're trying to get better. How do we approach it? What do we hear from clients, and how we trying to improve?

Melissa Spadafora: So there's I think a lot of things right now that clients are looking for from their investment managers and from their partners in their business. I think they're really looking for data, is a big, big hotspot right now. The level of data that they're looking to receive on the investments that we're giving them has dramatically increased over the last few years. They're also looking for more touch points, more access to what the portfolio is doing, some attribution surrounding the investments, more clarity on that. We have seen that shift and are making adjustments real time on our side as well, and to be able to meet those enhanced needs of the clients.

Steve Peacher: So we were talking about this before we recorded this, you have an interesting experience that not a lot of people in this business have had. But you started your career by selling BMW’s in New York City. So that's very interesting, especially doing it in New York. Probably selling BMW’s to people anywhere is interesting, especially in New York. So, what I’m interested in is what did you learn in that experience that may influence how you go about serving institutional clients and in asset management setting or just in the professional world in general? What’d you learn from that experience?

Melissa Spadafora: Yeah, it's a, it's an interesting path that I took to get here. But I have to tell you, selling BMW’s specifically, and specifically in New York City, which is not a, you know, high motor vehicle area, really lends itself to dealing with all sorts of different situations that you may come across, right? The clientele of that of BMW is very akin to the clientele of the institutional manager. So there's a lot of cross over there, so that you know when someone's buying the car, it's a very personal experience, it's a very emotional experience, if you could, if you could imagine that. So, being able to translate that into dealing with institutional clients and look at it from that lens, I think has really given me a really unique edge, if you will.

Steve Peacher: I think it’ a great point actually, because it is a, you know, it's a financial transaction, you know. I mean as the manager is providing, it's a financial service to clients, but it but there's a big human element to it for a lot of reasons, and I think that those who you know remember that, and I know that's how you approach clients and it makes you good at it, that that that's a big point. I want to ask you one other question, and that is can you give our all the listeners one tip from in buying a car based on your experience selling BMWs? Give us one tip to make us better at buying cars.

Melissa Spadafora: Always ask for the discount. They always got a little bit more to give.

Steve Peacher: OK, good there you go. All right, well listen thank you Melissa very much for that. Very interesting on a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts. And thank you to everybody for listening to this episode of “Three in Five.”


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