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Van Kampen focusing on affluent market


Van Kampen, hoping to attract more money into its funds by giving brokers a better understanding of wealthy investors, has developed a new program for this purpose.

"The Nine Lives of the Affluent" was developed with Prince & Associates, a consulting company of New Haven, Conn. that specializes in the affluent market - those with at least $250,000 to invest.

Brokers are invited to a series of workshops to learn about different personality types of the wealthy. They are taught how to sell more to existing wealthy clients and how to get referrals from this group.

"The key to success is all in your ability to communicate, and the people that have the best communication training are going to be the best (brokers) in the business," said Dominic Martellaro, national sales director for Van Kampen.

Affluent investors make up four percent of the population and hold $11.5 trillion, half of all the privately-held money in the U.S., according to Prince & Associates.

Van Kampen's focus on the affluent market follows an earlier campaign by the Chicago fund company to target Generation X, people now between the ages of 20 and 30. In that campaign, Van Kampen held a Gen X conference and taught brokers how to communicate with the younger generation of investors.

"You just need to know that people are different. There are different subsets of people... the (sales) delivery has to be tailored to meet each one of them," Martellaro said. Van Kampen currently offers 47 open-ended and 39 closed-end mutual funds. Its parent, Van Kampen Investments has over $60 billion in assets under management.

Prince & Associates has outlined nine different personality types within the affluent market: family stewards, investment phobics, independents, the anonymous, moguls, VIPs, accumulators, gamblers and innovators. Workshops and related materials are used to figure out which clients fit which personalities.

"Investment phobics," for instance, want to avoid technical discussions and want fewer meetings with their brokers, according to literature Van Kampen distributes at its broker workshops. When these affluent investors do meet with their brokers, they want to talk about their lifestyle, not financial issues. Brokers are encouraged to show interest in the lives of this type of investor, and while emphasizing that investing is important, they are instructed to say that not everyone has to be a financial expert.

"VIPs," on the other hand, respond best to frequent meetings and brokers who drop the names of celebrity clients of Van Kampen and talk about highly visible people in the community.

The program takes two tacks. Clients are separated into those who are very satisfied with their broker and those who are not. Brokers are encouraged to seek more business and referrals from satisfied clients and to increase satisfaction in the others.

Lisa Kirschenbaum, a financial consultant with Chase Investor Services in New York City who deals with affluent clients and participated in the program, found it useful.

"It teaches you what radio station they want to listen to," she said.