It’s been four years since Nuveen Investments was acquired by TIAA. What’s happened in those three years, and what happens next for the asset manager?

In April of 2014, TIAA-CREF — now just TIAAannounced plans to acquire Nuveen Investments for $6.25 billion, including debt. A few months later, the acquisition was complete.

Following the acquisition, TIAA adopted the Nuveen name for its asset management business in January 2017, putting the firm’s 12 investment affiliates under one umbrella.

About 18 months ago, the firm enhanced its product, marketing and distribution teams and aligned them as a single business unit, Nuveen Advisory Services, led by Margo Cook.

ThinkAdvisor recently sat down with Cook, president of Nuveen Advisory Services, to talk about the changes Nuveen has made since the acquisition and where she sees the asset manager going in the future.

“[Nuveen Advisory Services] is the way that we can centralize distribution, product development, and the branding and marketing of the Nuveen name across the whole firm,” Cook explained to ThinkAdvisor.

This move also brought TIAA and Nuveen assets together on one platform, reaching about a trillion dollars in assets.

“The [TIAA] assets, combined with the former Nuveen assets — about two-thirds was TIAA assets and about one-third were the Nuveen assets — and now they’re together on one investment platform,” Cook said.

Nuveen’s investment platform offers more than 150 specialized strategies across a full range of fixed income, equity and alternative asset classes.

Nuveen today — as the asset management arm of TIAA — is competing head to head with the largest global asset managers in the world, Cook says.

“I think what’s unique about our model is that we really want to come to clients and offer the breadth of this very large investment platform, but help them navigate it through what their needs are,” she explained. “Developing the investment organization by asset class, developing the client organization so we can go across the entire platform and be able to offer multiple capabilities to clients, and then supported by the shared services side of the organization. That’s an operating model that lets us deliver in a simple way.”

Looking forward, Cook is focused on three particular areas where she sees potential growth for Nuveen.

1. Expanding internationally.

Nuveen is expanding outside the U.S., according to Cook.

“Given demographics, and how the middle class is growing particularly in Asia, we’re big believers that we need to be positioned to participate in that growth,” she said.

The U.S. is still an “enormous source of wealth” for Nuveen. According to Cook, only about 15% of Nuveen’s third-party assets under management are outside the U.S. today, or about 5% of the total assets.

But, according to Cook, that’s a growing part of the organization. Just over a year ago, Nuveen opened a Hong Kong office and expanded its distribution capabilities to better serve clients across the Asia-Pacific region and broaden access to the firm’s platform of specialized investment expertise. Nuveen also has a presence in Europe and the Middle East, and the Americas.

“That progression, while small today, is where I see a lot of the growth of the organization coming from. Small in assets, not in growth rate,” she said.

2. Continuing to build Nuveen’s brand.

The asset manager recently launched a new brand campaign in partnership with Mullen Lowe Group, with the message that Nuveen invests by example.

“It’s really beautifully artistically done,” Cook said. “It shows how we are impacting cities by building particular buildings. It shows the concept of being environmentally focused in our farmland efforts. It’s bringing together all of the things we believe in.”

The new campaign also aims to change people’s perceptions.

“Some people hear ‘Nuveen’ and they’ll think ‘municipal bonds,’ and they hear ‘TIAA’ and they think ‘retirement provider,’” Cook explained. “We’re trying to change the perception people have about the organization, the breadth of the investment platform and really what we stand for.”

3. Adapting to the way clients engage.

According to Cook, the whole way Nuveen engages with clients is changing.

“For many years, we’d sit in front of clients and say ‘here are the five things that did really well, which one would you like?’ and that conversation is out the door,” she explained.

The conversation today is starting with what’s the client’s perspective and what they are looking for Nuveen to solve, according to Cook.

As part of this evolution, Nuveen appointed Frank van Etten as chief investment officer for multi-asset solutions in July of last year.

In this role, van Etten, who reports to Cook, is responsible for delivering multi-asset solutions to clients through advice, packaged investment capabilities and custom mandates.

According to Cook, van Etten’s hire and the development of this advisory-led, multi-asset approach to helping clients produce specific outcomes were critical inflection points for Nuveen and its mission to better serve investors.

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