Arthur W. Page Society

Driving Transformation Through Brand

CCO Profile: Arielle Patrick, Ariel Investments

This is the latest in a series of posts featuring CCO stories, examining their priorities and challenges and sharing their experiences. 

In early 2020, Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, had transformation on her mind. Now celebrating its 40-year history, Ariel today has grown to 126 employees and more than $17 billion in assets under management. Mellody saw an opportunity to take the firm to the next level.  

“We were founded in 1983 as the first Black-owned mutual fund management company, basically a boutique operation,” explained Arielle Patrick, the company’s CCO. Today, the firm has offices on two continents, offers a more diversified set of investment products and has distinct investment strategies for different clients. Aspects of its identity were evolving, and Mellody recognized that the brand needed to follow suit.  

The firm had already commissioned a brand review when Mellody contacted Arielle, an old friend and informal mentee, for advice. “Whenever you’re embarking on a transformation, it’s important to ensure that your organization is structured to support that,” Arielle told me. “I peppered her with questions about how the Communications function was set up and how to ensure a successful product expansion. That conversation made her think I might be the right person to take the firm into the future in this way.”

Though the rebrand was comprehensive, two elements stuck out to me. First, Ariel wanted to retain parts of its legacy identity. Since the beginning, its tagline was “Slow and steady wins the race,” embodied in a line-drawn tortoise that looks like it might appear in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. Although Aesop’s tortoise wins, “slow and steady” might be perceived as sluggish or passive. An early candidate for a new tagline was “urgent patience,” which conveys assertiveness but not the proactivity Ariel wanted to express. Arielle came up with an alternative: Active Patience™. The idea was to marry the cautious diligence of the tortoise with the constant readiness to act that today’s fast-moving market demands. They still have their beloved tortoise, but it’s now more of a brand accessory than its main character.  

Active Patience is baked into all the messaging one would expect. Importantly, it also informed some updates to employee behaviors. “We expect our people to be good coaches, to have a bias for action, to move with urgency — all those things that make the ‘active’ part a reality,” Arielle explained. “Many of these things were a part of our culture from the start, but they had never been put into words and expressed externally. It was a process of self-reflection, listening to our stakeholders, inside the organization and out, to figure out how best to describe what we already knew we were.” 

The second notable factor was actualizing the new brand via the company’s structures and processes - the point Arielle impressed upon Mellody in their call. Arielle’s background to that point had been at agencies, and she brought that client service mentality to the restructure. She also brought under one function several leaders, including the heads of brand and community affairs, and shifted events from a single leader to a shared responsibility across the team. Beyond that, her philosophy has been to favor generalists. “My goal was to have people with more crisis experience, but who also had brand, public engagement and other capabilities — essentially a team of all-around players rather than strict specialists.” The leadership team members meet weekly by reviewing an integrated editorial calendar that brings together Communications, marketing, sales and business development, consolidating everything from company milestones to product launch dates.

In addition to being a new CCO, Arielle is also a new mom to a one-year-old. She’s active in the arts in New York City and is a Lincoln Center Leadership Fellow. “I always say I’m a creative trapped in a corporate person’s body,” she added. 

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