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The following post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.

Ten years ago I published an article comparing asset raising with military strategies, always a popular compare/contrast exercise. Because the past decade has seen some seismic shifts in the way we move through and behave in the world, I thought it interesting to look back on some of the messages I wrote about in the halcyon days of a pre-Covid world, and see if they still bear the relevance that existed prior to 2020. In general, these tactics, grounded in traditional military logic, hold as true today as they were in Napoleon’s time, despite our brave new world.

Money is one of the driving forces of both business and warfare: he who amasses the most money often wins the battle, both on the field and in the markets. Money equates to power, power garners action, and action ultimately shapes the future. Napoleon is generally considered to be the forerunner of the age of modern warfare. An interesting parallel can be drawn between the changing face of warfare following Napoleon’s evolutionary tactics and the competitive landscape for raising assets in the alternatives markets today, where the battle for dominance and success has undergone its own global revolution since the mid-2000s.

A comparison of key warfare tactics (courtesy of the website and success strategies for asset management offers some interesting observations that may help smaller managers grow their business, and, ultimately, shape their impact on the investment landscape at large.  


Having a clear vision of key business goals is vital to the success of any organization, but particularly for alternatives managers. To gain investors, a manager must be able to articulate what it is they intend to do with the investor’s money, how it will be achieved and measured, and why they are the best professional to achieve this. Managers today must offer investors far greater insight into their ability to dissect market activity and extract investment opportunities and results in order to win their capital. The first step in winning the war of asset-gathering begins with articulating how you are capable of doing so through a demonstrated and understandable process.


Alternatives managers are acutely sensitive to the war of attrition (in the form of redeeming assets), as well as to the intense ongoing battle for acquisition of new assets in their fiercely competitive investment world. Although he may have worn a wreath of them on his head as Emperor of France, Napoleon knew better than to have rested on his laurels and managers who want to get ahead need to embrace the same sense of urgency in managing their business. 

Assets are won through positive, proactive, and effective outreach to the investors who are seeking opportunities in line with the manager’s style and delivery. This translates to a daily and continual effort to meet these objectives though all facets of the business, including investment, marketing, and operations activities across the board. 


Knowing your weaknesses and how to address them is as essential to success as capitalizing on strengths. Improving on what’s lacking in a business will yield long-term results, as that improvement effort widens the potential pool of investors who will have less of a reason to rule out a manager based on shortcomings.

In terms of marketing to the ultimate consumer, investors are hard-wired to identify reasons not to invest, and they often employ advisors to help guide them in the identification of these risk factors when considering new investment managers. For alternatives managers looking to improve their odds of winning new assets, it can be helpful to partner for a period of time with an outsource consultant to help identify these areas needing improvement, and work together to evaluate the people, processes, and performance measurements that need upgrading.


The people that are integral to the running of a business ultimately bear the most responsibility for its long-term success. This can be a hard truth for some alternatives managers to accept, as they often believe that numbers, not people, drive the business at its core. But people with money invest with people who produce results. The investment essentially boils down to a decision on the people behind the performance.

The manager who stubbornly clings to the belief that performance ultimately trumps all, and remains convinced that, “if you post it (e.g. high returns), they will come,” is putting their business at risk of missed opportunities to grow assets. The modern-day war for asset growth requires a new approach, including efforts to amass the right human capital to build trust and confidence through an integrated team that resonates with investors.


There is no doubt that alternatives managers of all persuasions are in a battle for assets that is a marathon, not a sprint. This requires a systematic and disciplined approach to gain ground. The marshalling of forces is perhaps most crucial in the first line of defense, educating investors. Education that provides a solid base of knowledge about the sector and its role in portfolio investments is vital in the early stages of raising assets. The shift in focus from marketing in a hard-hitting, widespread way to a strategy that begins with education designed to teach investors about the ways to evaluate alternatives is one that managers need to embrace now, not in the future.


Many a great idea has been stymied by a lack of conviction in seeing it through, but probably an even greater number of efforts have failed because they lacked a planned process for successful completion. Alternatives managers rarely lack conviction in their abilities, but perhaps fall short of owning the execution skills to see a plan through to long-term success. This is one of the main reasons that assembling a strong team (in-house and outsourced) is a trait shared by many of the highest achievers in the industry.

If we return to an earlier description of the beginnings of modern warfare, Napoleon’s attacks started with advance forces leading a skirmish, followed by substantial reinforcement forces massing in surprise flanking and enveloping attacks against the enemy. This effort required the development of a general command staff under Napoleon. Similarly, an alternatives manager must embrace the notion of massing directional force and growing an appropriate chain of command to carry though the various initiatives, that together, form the overall business plan.


Finally, the evolution of success requires a flexibility to adapt, both on the battlefields of war or in the financial trenches. Devising a plan and the means to execute it also includes having the foresight to change course or redirect around obstacles as they appear.

For today’s alternatives manager, adapting an approach that addresses the desires of these investors makes good business sense. Employing tactics, some perhaps borrowed from the modern warfare toolbox, can support this effort through creating an educational environment that influences these investors and their advisors and moves both toward a greater comfort level with alternatives investing.  This tactical approach may yield real results that grow alternatives managers’ business.

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