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Tendering the right approach to institutional marketing

By Peter Hopkinson, Managing Director, Pragmatech Software Europe

Peter Hopkinson looks at how financial services industry can automate and centralise its complex tendering processes. He investigates how the latest automated tender response software can help fund managersensure timely, accurate and up-to-date documents by utilising a centralised knowledge base for all relevant information.

Fund managers frequently respond to requests for proposals (RFPs) from a wide range of institutional investors. Many fund managers have dedicated institutional marketing departments where large amounts of staff resources and time are tied-up responding to tenders.

All reports and proposals sent out have to be 100 per cent accurate. This means ensuring that all theinformation within a tender response that covers processes, fund performance, money management, administration and fees is consistent, current and correct.

Completing tender documents is not easy. The traditional response of many fund managers is to throw resources at the task. This is a very labour intensive process where up-to-date information has to be gathered from a range of disparate sources and IT systems.

If the pressure is on, then a lot of information within tender documents is often cut and pasted straight out of previous documents. Some have even been known to contain references to the previous customer! In addition, information may get lost. A particularly good response may not be repeated if the person who wrote it fails to pass on the information to others, or fails to save it somewhere where it can be found again. Worst of all, the information may be inaccurate or out-of-date and mistakes may be reproduced again and again.

In addition to responding to RFPs, fund managers have to produce lengthy, detailed proposals for both institutional and private investors. These proposals are produced by a dispersed sales force or by IFAs and are often generated by numerous authors in many locations. In the rush to respond and without easy access to the latest product or service information, people may make-up answers without checking with the appropriate legal, sales or fund managers. It can be highly embarrassing if the sales team has to explain to the customer that the response wasn't actually meant to say what it did say.

The clear message that comes through in even the best-organised company is that responding to RFPs and creating proposals are two of the most disliked tasks. It is hard work, and almost always leaves little time to concentrate on the sales message.

So, what can financial institutions do to ease the pain of these processes? Fortunately, Windows-based systems are available to create a centralised corporate knowledge base and to automate the whole process. This ensures that the information held by an organisation is valid, up-to-date and accurate. The beauty of a central knowledge base is that mistakes are reduced and you can achieve a standardised, consistent approach to authoring and presenting your response to customers.

An automated proposal system reduces duplication of effort by having a searchable corporate-wide knowledge base. This radically improves consistency and productivity as individual documents do not have to be reviewed in detail and signed off by Compliance. The majority of content only has to be approved once and subsequent amendments authorised once in the central knowledge base. It's been estimated that the use of automated systems, such as Pragmatech's The Proposal Assembler, reduce the time taken
to complete a proposal by up to 80 per cent. As the process takes less time and is highly customer focused, effort can then be put into 'closing' the sale.

The automation of the RFP response process means that the initial preparation of a document can be treated as an administrative activity. It still requires sufficient skill to choose the correct answer from those that have been retrieved. However, it removes the reliance on an individual to remember when a particular question had been answered once before, and more importantly, where to find it. Since the RFP response has been completed in a fraction of the time, much more effort can then be focused on enhancing and tailoring the content. This ensures that the document addresses the customer's real needs.

An automated proposal system for financial institutions with a large sales force is extremely effective. It enables people to access the latest information, even when a product or service is updated or changed. Content is also improved as the corporate knowledge base ensures that the information used is verified and that individual authors do not 'craft' their own content.

It is also possible to use the corporate knowledge base in many other ways. For example, when someone new joins a company they can be given access to the database through a sophisticated natural language interface, such as Pragmatech's The RFP Machine. If they have a question, they can just type it
in and the appropriate response within the database will be returned. Customers, and/or IFA, can also be given access to the database over the internet allowing them to search the very latest product, technical and
corporate information.

In today's highly competitive financial services industry, any advantage that can be achieved over competitors is critical. Selling documents that are highly professional with added content to explain how the customer's
needs will be addressed will improve significantly the chances of a successful sale.

Pragmatech Software Europe is based at: Wyvols Court, Swallowfield, Reading,
RG7 1PY. Tel: 0118 988 0284. Fax: 0118 988 0360.
Email: [email protected]

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