Nike. Coca-Cola. Oakley. They are all top brands in the global marketplace and they have all led the charge towards mass customization and personalization. You can build a custom pair of Nike Free Run sneakers online, incorporating your favorite designs and colors. You can put your name on a virtual Coke bottle and “share” it on social media. You can even custom-build your own shades on, creating your own unique pair of sunglasses.

These brands, and many more, are using personalization to grow their brands and generate conversations among users. According to a report by, they are discovering that they can elevate customer loyalty and engagement — and use their customer base as an engine of advocacy to potential buyers. By providing customization options, brands raise loyalty at a time when it’s more important than ever. In a recent Bain survey of more than 1,200 global executives across a range of industries, 67% believed their customers are becoming less loyal to the brand. Customization also helps companies reach specific customers — such as the unpredictable millennial generation.

In the investment industry, it is paramount for clients to remain committed to their investment strategies in order to reach their long-term goals. Just like Nike and Coca-Cola have used personalization to grow loyalty and target new customers, the investment industry can use personalization to connect with a new generation of clients and reinforce the importance of financial planning with current clients.

Helping Clients Stay in the Game with a Personalized Approach

Many of the most successful advisors I know consider their clients friends. Their offices are adorned with pictures of their clients’ achievements. There are the college pictures, the retirement parties, the client in the “dream car.” There are the world travel pictures, wedding pictures, and pictures documenting clients’ charitable impacts. The diversity of the achievements can be striking, but they are all examples of the power of financial planning in helping people reach their life goals.

Each of us is unique and each of us has different goals, and the investments should reflect that.

Utilizing Personalization to Curb Emotional Decision-Making

Ninety percent of advisors say their top challenge in 2015 will be clients’ emotional reactions to market movements.* We all know that making emotional decisions when investing decreases the odds of reaching one’s goals. Clients are most likely to sell out of their investments at market lows and to get caught up in the buying frenzy at market highs.

What makes personalization so compelling is its ability to provide clients a sense of control over their own destiny. It helps them stay focused on their own needs rather than the day to day frenzies of the market. In doing so, it can prevent emotions from derailing investment plans.

The Old Playbook: Products First, Client Last

Customization and personalization are at the heart of financial planning. Successful financial advisors are experts at building personalized financial plans with personal benchmarks, but the asset management industry has been slow to catch up in offering personalized investments to support the financial plan. Traditionally, asset management firms have started with the products, promoting strategies that focused on beating benchmarks. Clients too often became focused on irrelevant benchmarks, because that’s the only thing we gave them to compare their investments against.

When clients become too focused on irrelevant benchmarks, it can wreak havoc on their ability to remain committed to their plan. As Don Draper said in Mad Men, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Keeping clients focused on their own needs requires asset managers to focus on the clients first, and build the product set around their specific needs.

The New Playbook: Client First Investment Strategies

In the new age of global communications, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay engaged if we don’t find a topic relevant or we’re not emotionally connected to it. By helping clients tune out the sheer volume of market noise out there, we can offer them a better experience with a higher probability for success. Here are three ways you can incorporate personalization into the investment planning process:

  • Case Design: Ask the asset manager if they offer case design as part of the partnership. Through the case design process, you can ensure the investments are tailor-fit to the meet the client’s needs and objectives.
  • An Income Plan with Personal Benchmarks: The right income planning software can help you identify the impact of outside sources of income such as social security and assets held away from your advisory oversight. It can help you identify the client’s personal benchmark and use it to ensure the client is on track to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.
  • Advanced Unified Managed Account Technology (UMA): Since a personalized investment portfolio often requires multiple strategies, the number of accounts and individual strategies are best suited as “sleeves” within a single account. The right UMA technology can help you simplify paperwork and reporting and make changes in the allocation when necessary.

Connect a client’s investments to all the things that define them, and you’re delivering a very powerful concept. Products and services are becoming more and more personalized. Isn’t it time for investments to join the movement?

Patty writes about helping clients achieve successful investment outcomes and about communicating effectively with clients.

*Natixis Global Management

The opinions expressed are those of the Clark Capital Management Group Investment Team. The opinions referenced are as of the date of publication and are subject to change due to changes in the market or economic conditions and may not necessarily come to pass. There is no guarantee of the future performance of any Clark Capital investment portfolio. Material presented has been derived from sources considered to be reliable, but the accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, recommendation or an offer to buy, sell or hold any securities, other investments or to adopt any investment strategy or strategies. For educational use only. This information is not intended to serve as investment advice. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast or research. The investment or strategy discussed may not be suitable for all investors. Investors must make their own decisions based on their specific investment objectives and financial circumstances. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Past performance is not indicative of future results. This material is not financial advice or an offer to sell any product.

The S&P 500 measures the performance of the 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy, capturing 75% of U.S. equities. The MSCI World Index ex. U.S. is a freefloat-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure global developed market equity performance excluding the U.S. The Russell 2000® Index measures the performance of the 2,000 smallest companies in the Russell 3000 Index. The data shown is provided for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered investment advice.

Clark Capital Management Group, Inc. reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. The information provided in this report should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security, sector or industry. There is no assurance that any securities, sectors or industries discussed herein will be included in or excluded from an account’s portfolio. It should not be assumed that any of the investment recommendations or decisions we make in the future will be profitable or will equal the investment performance of the securities discussed herein.

Clark Capital Management Group, Inc. is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about Clark Capital’s advisory services can be found in its Form ADV which is available upon request.