RFP: Diary of an institutional salesman, part 4

This week, Will previews the AsianInvestor Summit.

I can clearly recall last year's event. It was only a few months before I was posted here full time, and I managed to convince Steve, my old boss, that the AI Summit was the pinnacle of any potential Asian client's year and we'd better be represented by more than just the jokers we had here back then.

A whole year later and I have built my reputation in this region from nothing into, frankly, one of the leading players in institutional sales. I haven't actually closed the deal on anything big yet, but quick wins are not really my modus operandi, if you know what I mean.

There are really three elements to the Summit. Let me summarise it for you, and outline my plan of attack.

The conference
It's my job to secure a speaking slot for someone at Integrity. This either means 'sponsoring' the event or having someone particularly famous or interesting to put forward. I scan the draft agenda, looking for suitable slots to fill.

Hmmm, Asian fixed income, ETFs, currency hedging - our Asian bond manager is the most boring guy on the planet and we don't operate in the other two spaces. Then it's something about black swans and stock lending - nothing there for us either.

A consultants' panel; better make a note to attend that one and look interested. There's still a few years left in these dinosaurs, if only because the clients look for someone to blame. If nothing else, consulting is a happy hunting ground for recruitment.

Aha -- an economists' debate! Wonder if I can convince our guy in NY to make the journey.  He'd qualify as 'interesting', I'm sure -- wears a bow tie, used to work for the World Bank, last cut his hair in 1991, and correctly predicted the GFC (nobody listened, though).

All boxes ticked! I'll give Jame a call in the morning to arrange it. The upside of having a speaker is that you normally get a few complementary tickets; it's not an expensive gig, but free is free, after all.

The 'gaps'
Of course, nobody goes to the Summit to listen to the presentations. God no, that could kill a man. The real reason we all go is to, as the old cycle safety slogan goes, see and be seen. At last year's event, I laid the foundation for this year's basis on which next year's prospects lie. It was the only time ever that I'd had to get new business cards made because I'd actually run out of the previous lot!

The AI guys know this well: have you seen all the 'coffees', 'luncheons' (does nobody just eat lunch in this town?), 'cocktails' and 'networking breaks'?

You'll see me there. My camp will be set up just outside the ballroom door, by the morning croissants and afternoon sandwiches. Aside from getting caught speaking with old Jasper Cheuk about the Chinese pension system for the zillionth time, this is the chance to meet all the clients and prospects from around the region in one easy go.

The trouble is that everyone else knows it too and it becomes a bit of a bun-fight at times -- lots of sales guys queuing up to speak with GPF, CIC, NPS, HKJC, NUS, MAS, KIC and Lord knows how many other oh-so-important acronyms. I remember 'accidentally' stabbing Gavin Price from PrimeAlpha last year with a fork just to spend a morning networking break with Charlie Soo from MIC. Who knew you could draw blood from the buttocks?

In fact, the only time I took my eye off the ball last year was when I shared an afternoon coffee with Delia Chuah from Swiss Heritage. Normally, it would be a disaster to waste this event speaking with competitors, but I'm as much a sucker for low-cut Gucci leopard-print dresses as the next victim. I wonder if she'll be flying in from Singers again this year...

The awards dinner
Another see and be seen event, this time it's more about getting one over on the competition rather than just hitting up prospects. I worked for ages last month on our submission for Manager of the Year and am quietly confident that success will be mine. Integrity has never won this prize and a victory this year would surely help cement my reputation back at HQ.

Now comes the rub; being in for a prize means that you really should sponsor a table at the dinner and invite your top clients and prospects to join. Again, the competition is tough - everyone has a table, and frankly there are not enough VIPs to go around.

So many of the big instos invest with virtually all of the managers that they end up playing us off against each other.

"Who else is on your table?"

"Is it near the bar?"

"I've already sort of said yes to Vesuvius."

Is it wrong for me to suggest we've got some real big shots at our table and that Jasper is sitting with Vesuvius? Perhaps so, but everyone does it. Just imagine Price's face if I walk in with Charlie this year - classic.

So that's how it works. I'll see you all there. But before I do, why not reach out to me on, the premier global business networking site? Just search for William T Fitzgerald.

Or don't; William T Fitzgerald is a fictional character, as are all the other individuals and companies in "RFP Diary". Any resemblance to the living or to real firms is purely coincidental. Will's adventures continue fortnightly.

PS: It should be obvious by now that Anonymous is not an employee of AsianInvestor.

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