Eschewing cruder customs, such as making money, Rainmaker Information delivered an entertaining awards night for sales and marketing people in funds management, despite the current restrictions. Usually a gala social dinner at Sydney’s Ivy Ballroom, the MAX Awards went virtual last week (June 11). They worked.
Despite the straightened times, the publisher and events company employed entertainer Jean Kittson to host the event, as she has done in the past. She warmed to her task, laying it all bare, lamenting the loss of the “warm touch of human flesh” of times gone by. The humour won out and Kittson should probably have won an award herself for her performance.
Playing to the theme, Chris Page, Rainmaker chief executive, made his less-than-grand entrance from the studio’s carpark, with camera crew in tow, as did Michelle Baltazar, the company’s executive director of media and publishing. There were only five people allowed in the studio at one time, due to the regulation in NSW at the time of production. Baltazar said that getting to the finalists’ list was an achievement, given the strong competition. “There’s a lot of work that has gone into people getting to that point,” she said.
The MAX awards date back 25 years, evolving from the Rainmaker Marketing Symposium, before the firm introduced a standalone awards event. Page has previously said that the awards are not meant to make money – that’s lucky this year – but have always been, mainly, a ‘thank you’ for clients and colleagues and everyone who works in the sales and marketing side of the industry. The awards aim to give the most successful among them some recognition.
The Awards voting process – which is open to all in the industry once the finalists have been named – this year attracted a record of more than 17,000 votes. There were 105 finalists across 21 awards. Page described the process as “fair and simple and robust, as we’d like to think of it”. The nominations for finalists have to come through the subscribers of Rainmaker’s main publishing title, ‘Financial Standard’, who number about 26,000. After the finalists are announced, anyone can vote, but it’s not a free-for-all. Rainmaker monitors it to try to avoid any company or person from multiple voting or other gaming techniques. This reduces the ability of the biggest companies to take advantage of their brands and market shares.
The most prestigious award, that for ‘Marketing Executive of the Year’, was won by Felicity Nicholson, the head of marketing for Australia and New Zealand at Legg Mason in Melbourne. She has had several senior marketing roles previously in financial services companies over the past 20 years, including at Hastings, NAB and Skandia. In her virtual (pre-recorded) acceptance speech, she said she had a “fantastic crew who are a joy to work with every day”. All finalists had to prepare a little video, adding to the flavour of the event.
Winners in some of the other categories included:
- Australian Ethical, for ‘Social Media Campaign of the Year’. The fund manager was a finalist in other awards, including the ‘Community Initiative’ and ‘Financial Education’ awards
- Ptarmigan Media, for ‘Agency of the Year’ – a popular winner for several years, accepted by chief executive Mary Hughes with a video featuring the whole team
- Allianz Retire +, for distribution team of the year. This is the retirement products arm of PIMCO and its parent, Allianz, which has built a significant business in Australia in just a couple of years
- La Trobe Financial, for ‘Community Initiative of the Year’, which involved not only the gift of a substantial donation to the bushfire relief, from the La Trobe Foundation, but also to allowing payment delays for its more distressed mortgagees and customers. Caterina Nesci, La Trobe’s executive head of ‘foundation and product marketing’ said the true heroes were the ‘firies’ and other people in the front line, such as those now fighting COVID-19
- Pendal Group for ‘Trade Marketing Campaign’. Pendal is the old BT Investment Management which has been going through a lengthy period of transitioning to full independence from former owner Westpac
- Suncorp, for ‘Consumer Marketing Campaign’, and
- BlueChip Communications, for ‘Public Relations Agency of the Year’ – another popular winner over several years, accepted by Carden Calder, chief executive and founder, who also thanked her team in her acceptance video.