All posts by John Toepfer

John Toepfer is CEO and Co-founder of Synthesis Technology. He is a technology entrepreneur, investor and business owner with a 25-year background in building and supporting communication solutions for the financial services industry. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons.


7 Problems With Automating Fact Sheets In PowerPoint

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Problems-Designing-Factsheets-in-PowerPoint

By John Toepfer

With the highly competitive nature of the asset management industry, maintaining a strong and positive brand image is more important now than ever. Every contact with a client, every conversation and every piece of material they see from your firm needs to be professional, timely and well produced. Even something as mundane as a poorly produced factsheet can be off-putting and give an investor pause to think about the overall quality of your operations. Yes, even in the digital age, quality design and typography in printed materials really matters.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with a long time head of marketing for a major asset manager and she spoke with passion about on the topic of brand. Among many compelling things she had to say was this: “If you look at the most successful companies in any industry, you’ll find that they share one thing in common; excellent branding.”

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Celebrating 20 Years: A Message From Synthesis CEO

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By John Toepfer

Synthesis is celebrating 20 years in business this month.  For me, this is an event that calls for both reflection on the past and reaffirmation of our vision for the future.

These 20 years came and went in what feels like the blink of an eye. At a high-level, it feels like a blur of RFPs, client meetings, implementations, contract negotiations, partnerships, financial reports and company picnics. However, when you take time to look more closely, you see more than just a fog of work. You begin to see key events that really made the difference; Hiring of people who turned out to be key leaders or fantastic engineers, finding partners who understood our value proposition and helped us take it to market, and landing clients who understood bigger is not necessarily better… better is better.

An organization is only as good as the talented people they hire, especially in a business of our nature.  We’ve been extremely fortunate in that regard. Credit for our success and longevity boils down to the amazing, intelligent and hardworking team members we’ve been fortunate enough to hire, several of whom have been with us for 15 years or more. Their passion and dedication set us apart in this industry.  I’ve never known a staff to be as committed and loyal as the teams we have here at Synthesis. I am truly thankful for the people that we have, even those no longer with us, for the positive mark they’ve left on our company and with our clients. In turn, I’m also thankful for the many clients who treat us as true partners where “mutual” is the key word in our success.  I thank you all for your hard work, loyalty and service, and look forward to what we can accomplish together in the future!Read More

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Pessimism or Reality? Forbes says Asset Management Marketers are “Still Taking Batting Practice”

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By John Toepfer

Are Asset Management Marketers still taking batting Practice?

As recent article in Forbes pointed out that asset managers are extremely late in joining the digital marketing movement. This isn’t groundbreaking news, as the industry has long been criticized for slow adoption of modern marketing practices.

The article points out:

  • Financial services was one of the first industries to embrace the digital revolution, just not in marketing. The industry has focused on investing in high speed connectivity for faster trade execution, as opposed to faster and more successful marketing/sales execution. It’s time to step-up the marketing game.
  • Lower Fees and higher competition is driving more creative marketing. Executives are forced to rethink the old model of reaching investors one at a time, an expensive endeavor involving lots of flights, hotels, steak dinners and conference fees. They must create models for doing this at scale.
  • Asset Managers who embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning will increase efficiency. The reduction in operating expenses associated with more efficient marketing will result in decreased cost for the consumer and increased margins for the manager.  Asset Managers aren’t adopting digital marketing technologies because they loathe change. Executives who come from an investing background may not see an immediate ROI on this type of investment. Turnkey products do exist, and previously unavailable scale is now built-in.

Even though asset managers are a few steps behind other industries, many are making moves towards digitizing the sales and marketing process. We’ve seen evidence of this over the past couple of years as firms are rethinking their strategies. Firms are being forced to find ways to differentiate themselves and scale their operations in order to survive the fierce competition.

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The Problem with PowerPoint and InDesign-based Content Automation (The “Save As” Phenomenon)

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powerpoint automation creates too many templates

I recently wrote an article about why automating within desktop publishing environments can be a bad idea. When we talk about “desktop publishing environments” we’re referring to programs like InDesign, PowerPoint, or Quark. If you’re looking for a way to effectively scale your literature production, you simply must say goodbye to your desktop defaults. And, I’ll tell you why.

This topic is front-of-mind for me today, following a meeting with a prospective client last week.  This client described their frustration with their current automation solution. They told me a story about how their automation provider is currently supporting their suite of about 50 documents using about 50 InDesign templates.  Even the client recognizes that this is a problem and knows that if the templates were being shared properly as shared entities then there should be, at most, eight of them for this catalog of documents. Fewer templates allows changes to be made centrally, without needing to apply a change 50 different times.

I smiled in sympathy as they told me about this problem. This is precisely the issue with automation solutions that are based on desktop publishing applications.  This client articulated the issue even more simply and perfectly than I have in my past musings on the topic.

If a Microsoft or Adobe desktop publishing application is being used as the foundation of the automation solution, that system is then dependent on that desktop publishing tool, as well as the people who use the tool.  It’s easy to overlook or dismiss this reality. People really love these programs, and understandably so. They are familiar, intuitive and your collateral is probably already designed in one of these formats. But, the hard truth is that almost always lead to bad long-term results in a commercial document production environment. This is due to what we call the “Save As Phenomenon”.Read More

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