Guest Post: Holly Singer, President of HS Marketing, a firm dedicated to helping firms in the alternative investment community achieve lasting impressions, contributes with to The Final Meeting with a piece on balancing marketing needs and compliance requirements in relation to creating an alternative investment website.
Most successful managers of alternative investments know that frequent communication and transparency are beneficial to the firm’s reputation, relationships and business overall. Nevertheless, the longstanding tug between marketing objectives or opportunities and legal/compliance restrictions reappears whenever we embark on a project to create or upgrade the web presence for an alternative investment manager. Your web site represents a critical point of contact and may provide a robust communications portal in an increasingly digital 24/7 marketplace. Our challenge as a service provider is to deliver an informative message, provide for fresh content, reinforce your branding and take advantage of visibility opportunities while complying with regulatory restrictions.
How can you communicate your capabilities on the web without jeopardizing your regulatory exemptions whether your firm is registered or not? Fortunately, there are technical solutions to safely address this challenge automatically. Isotope Mediais our strategic partner that provides website development together with internet marketing integration and hosting services. In this e-letter, I collaborate with the firm’s technical director Glenn C. Devitt to address this critical element of marketing communication objectives.
We regularly direct our clients to obtain legal counsel for advice on these decisions, as discussed in a recent webinar, “Your Web Presence: Best Practices,” hosted by a leading law firm [presentation available upon request].
Based on our decade-long collaboration between Isotope Media and HS Marketing, we suggest that you consider separating information on your website into approximatelythree to four levels, and restrict access accordingly on a tiered basis among these navigation areas in order to create a compliant website structure:
|Level A) Company information:
1. Home page
4. Contact detail – includes reply form
* note: public vs. secure access subject to each firm’s regulatory situation and legal advice
|Level B) Registration form||Publicly accessible, with secure data logging, providing audit trail of users|
|Level C) Product-level information and related documents
(including but not limited to those below):
1. Pitch book(s), DDQ
2. Offering memorandum and subscription information
3. Description of funds, strategies, product format and terms
4. Performance reports, investor letters, transparency/exposures
|Secure/tiered access, available only to qualified prospects and investors|
|Level D) Individual investor statements||Secure, available only to clients|
Please note that restrictions governing your company’s form of entity, registration situation and regulatory status may further influence (or complicate) the latitude with regard to tiered access including Level A. We recommend involving your compliance officer and/or legal advisor(s) to review the site structure map prior to finalizing this document (which serves as a blueprint), and again as soon as content has been drafted for each of the navigation areas, and finally, once the content and design have been posted to a development level site for testing prior to launching.
Level A is public information that anyone may view. This might include a brief firm overview, description of the management and biographies of key personnel, contact information and disclosure documents. In addition, the publicly accessible area may include news such as personnel announcements and press quotes about the firm.
Level B is essentially a form that includes a prequalification questionnaire which enables site visitors to request access to more detailed information – over an encrypted channel. This information is logged securely for audit and compliance purposes, and forwarded to your staff [only those that are designated] for review. If the individual user that completes the form does indeed qualify for access to additional “non-public” information, your staff can quickly grant permission to enter Level C and/or D. Please note that for regulatory compliance, actual qualification decisions to provide further access require manual review and are not automated. Furthermore, passwords must be assigned to individually identifiable users in order for the website audit trail to be compliant.
Level C securely provides product-level information such as historical Net Asset Values and other performance results as well as descriptive details for your fund(s). Please note that this secure area of the site requires fresh content whenever the underlying reports and related documents are updated. In addition, selected Level C items can also be posted in further restricted sub-areas that require additional tiers of access as designated by your firm, as detailed in your site structure.
Level D enables investors to view their individual account statements securely. Often this is implemented as a gateway to your third-party service provider such as the fund administrator.
Marketing Objective – Traffic Tracking
At Level A your website should record generic vistor information, such as which pages were visited, how much time was spent on your site, and originating domain if available.
At Levels B, C, and D, much more “granular” data is collected to log the activity for individually identifiable users. Not only does this establish an audit trail for compliance purposes, it can also be a goldmine for your firm’s marketing intelligence. Knowing which pages are viewed by each prospect or investor – and when – can be very useful for prospecting and relationship management objectives. It’s even possible to trigger e-mail alerts to different investor relations managers when individuals log in and visit specified areas of the site.
Again, your legal counsel will guide you to an advisable approach for your firm. We have implemented customized solutions for many clients based on various legal opinions. Hopefully, this information might inspire you to think about how you can maximize the return on your website investment. Please contact us with any questions or comments as well as requests for assistance in creating or upgrading your web presence.
Holly Singer, President
Princeton Junction, NJ 08550 | tel. 609.275.1303