Member Profile: Asset International prioritizes data and subscription revenue for steadier growth
Nov. 1, 2012 -- Asset International, which covers the financial services industry, describes itself as "committed to aggressive growth." In the past four years, the company has acquired five businesses, including last week's acquisition of Savingforcollege.com's 529 Conference and Boot Camp. Asset International plans to co-locate the conference with its own PlanAdviser National Conference to gain new attendees and eyes on its brand.
But while Asset International seeks to grow in all areas of b-to-b media, data is the company's backbone and has the biggest impact on its revenues. Jason Cassidy, svp of strategy and development at Asset International, explains to ABM why data will continue to be number one for the company, how data drives its other business lines and the motives behind the company's recent acquisitions.
ABM: Tell me about the 529 college savings conference acquisition? What brought it on?
Jason Cassidy: We try to help financial institutions grow their business. In particular, we look at 529 companies as one of our core constituencies; we have databases, research reports, events, news and websites. In 2011, we purchases assets of FRC, a leading research product, but before that we didn't really cover the 529 space. As a general theme of our company, we want to offer insight as well as marketing services, so we were looking to see what we are able to do as far as marketing services. We thought about launching a conference, we thought should we launch a newsletter, we thought about a separate website, but when we looked at the landscape we decided to reach out to Joe Hurley [the former owner of the conference] and close the deal.
Now we offer a fuller suite of services to participants in the 529 college savings space. We can provide them with research -- they can figure out with the trends are, what different states are doing, different products that are being offered, investment options -- but at the same time we now have a conference that will allow people to get together face-to-face, hear ideas, and allow sponsors who are looking to grow their business in 529 space to sponsor the event and get more marketing for their services.
ABM: Asset International is a strategically growing company. In what ways and areas are you expanding?
Cassidy: We've made five acquisitions in the last four years to get to where we are as a business. A lot of these businesses we've bought, but in general we look to holistically cover a market. We usually have an event that's associated with an existing website, an existing research brand or an existing publication. We try to build the loyalty, we try to build a reader base, and then go into launching an event. In many cases, the event becomes the leading product in one particular area even though it might have grown out of an existing publication. Sometimes it becomes almost a brand of its own and ends up driving a lot of revenue for us.
ABM: Break down Asset International's revenue stream. How is it split in terms of print, digital, events and data?
Cassidy: We are a data-focused and research-focused company. We like the subscription revenue stream, so the majority of our revenue is in data or research of some kind. I think that's the way we'd like to keep it. We'd like for our data and research to make up the majority of our revenue. As we look at the marketing services portion of our division, we're probably split 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3 between online, events and print. We are looking to cater to what the marketers are looking for. In marketing services, the biggest focus for us are online and events. We are not focused on launching new print products although our print has done quite well and marketers are still using print for getting their message out there, in particular sponsored content sections.
ABM: What's the opportunity in being a data-focused company compared to other areas?
Cassidy: We like to be a full end-to-end partner with our clients. For example, a client can come to us and say, "We need some more of our mutual funds here in the United States." Then we can go to the same company, but maybe a different person in the company, and say, "We have this data and this research as well as a set of highly intelligent analysts that can help you figure out what types of funds you should launch, how you should position your funds and how you should be going about distributing those funds." We then can say, "By the way, once you figure out what funds you should launch and how they should be positioned, we have several ways to get your products out into the markets through advertising and marketing vehicles. That can be through conferences, through our websites, our newsletters, print." One reason we like data and research is because we truly become a fuller partner to our clients. We can offer them the intelligence to make their decisions as well as a way to get out into the market.
I think also the more apparent reason we like the data and research is because it has a far steadier revenue stream -- repeatable, year after year, highly renewable revenue. I think it does well for us to be balanced with the marketing services. So you have this nice steady revenue from data and research, and then we also have the sometimes quicker growth of launching an event or launching a newsletter.
ABM: You offer a full line of services for your clients, as many b-to-b media companies do. How do you balance them? What's the strategic approach?
Cassidy: We're able to go after them with one message, which is all of our products are here to help you grow the assets under the management you have. You can use our suite of products any way you want. Your analysts internally can use our databases to find out what the next strategic move should be for your company. We can provide you with our intelligence and maybe give you some advice as to where the big opportunities are. At the same time, companies can use us to get to their key clients. You can run an ad with us, you can send an email blast to a core group of people that is crucial to grow your business. So if you were to replicate the way we've done it, it's the ability to go to a the CEO of a company, who is responsible for every function of the business, and say we have touch points to several different departments in your company.
By Elizabeth A. Reid