Given today’s uncertain business climate, increasing productivity while delivering exceptional service is now more important than ever. American Century Investments understood that to maintain its competitive advantage with client relationships, the firm needed to find scalable opportunities for the sales teams to propel client service and performance. American Century, working with its sales employees and ZS, recently found a way to increase productivity among its distribution teams.
American Century wanted to scale its sales and distribution capabilities using data and technology, enabling the firm to reach more clients and give its sales teams more time to spend with them. “American Century is known for its strong client relationships, and we knew we needed to reimagine the way we were doing things to drive the business forward and continue to meet expectations of clients,” said Karen Heath-Wade, senior vice president, global head of client strategy and service at American Century.
American Century partnered with ZS to address this challenge by gathering employee feedback and using data to put together an assessment that resulted in a number of improvements to the sales model, including the idea to create an optimal client engagement (OCE) tool. This tool helped salespeople decide where to focus to be more productive and spend more quality time with clients. While technology and analytics were an important part of the OCE tool, it was even more critical to drive organizational change management.
“The human-centric piece was important,” Heath-Wade said. “In distribution, it’s about relationships and exceeding client expectations. The sales team was brought into the process on day 1 and helped identify where they were losing time that could be gifted back with technology enablement. ZS was a good accountability partner as we did the full assessment.”
The adoption rate of the optimal client engagement tool was 50% in one year, exceeding the company’s initial goal of 30% adoption and ultimately having a positive impact on company growth and net sales.
“Karen and the team at American Century really stood out for their pragmatic approach,” said Emily Alexander, ZS engagement manager.“ They took optimal client engagement ideas and put them into practice at more than double the speed of the average asset manager—not just proofs of concept, but actions that are supporting a sizeable portion of their sales plays. And they have the results to show for it. It speaks very well to American Century’s people-centric approach.”
Involving the sales team early and often was critical to the effort’s success. “When we said ready, set, go, the team was ready to jump,” Heath-Wade explained. “ZS helped validate our thinking and consider best practices so we were thinking about what was important to our clients.”
Driving this organizational change ultimately led to a more productive and satisfied sales force, she added. “We made the team a part of the transformation. They were part of ideation and identifying where we could automate and deliver best-in-class solutions to our clients. By getting their feedback early, the team understood the vision: to help them be more productive and exceed client expectations.”
This data-driven approach, with a human element, set American Century up for success—and dovetailed with its commitment to doing good: over 40% of the company’s profits go to life-saving medical research. “When we pair this human element with technology and data, we can solve for client needs faster, reach more clients effectively and help our people have more insightful conversations,” Heath-Wade said. “A big part of the motivation in our culture is knowing we contribute to medical research when we help our clients succeed.”
ZS was a collaborative partner in helping American Century fulfill this mission. “The ZS team didn’t just say, ‘This is what you should do,’” she added. “They came in as a partner and validated what we had, provided competitive insights and best practices, and as we got closer to the framework and capabilities, they validated that customized experience.”
American Century also set long-term goals for the project. “Our conversations with ZS were valuable because it’s an ongoing process for us, and we’ll be evolving it as our clients evolve and their needs change,” Heath-Wade said. “Having that strategic lens on multiyear planning was great.”
This work has helped American Century both navigate COVID-19-related disruption and strengthen client relationships for the future. “It’s so important to evolve and stay current based on client needs,” Heath-Wade said. “This was a priority for American Century, and I am proud that we had the courage to plug ahead so that we were ready to respond to things out of our control—COVID-19, the markets—to do the right things for our clients and the business.”
This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.
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