Asset Managers Offering Market Commentary Display Relevance, Accountability

Now is the moment for financial services communicators whose work has never been more sought after–or more perishable as the progression of events forces a reconsideration almost every day.

We thought we’d give it until today (the Thursday following the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers, the sale of Merrill Lynch, the announced federal bailout of AIG, et cetera) to survey investment management sites and sample the commentary made available for customers and distribution partners.

(Of course, we expected each site to have a comment on their home page, front and center just as the crisis is front and center in the world today. And yet, a disappointing number of companies’ Web sites give the impression that they are oblivious–and not accountable to Web site visitors who mistake their site as a communications channel. Even worse are those whose home pages don’t mention the market decline but host product promotions that continue to flash and spin and roll. Translation: The Web site is no more than an electronic marketing brochure.)

At such a time, market commentary preparation and review hurdles may be somewhat easier to clear as the call center, sales staff, executive management all may be clamoring for Marketing “to update the Web site” or “provide something we can email.” Still, we acknowledge the focus and effort required for Marketing to secure the message from strategists or investment managers who themselves are adjusting their perspectives in real-time. To be communicating at a time when customers and partners are seeking your views is to be building your organization’s relevance in a marketplace in turmoil.

Here’s a random sampling of some of the asset management industry communications out there.

  • By Wednesday morning, Fidelity Investments had published at least two market commentaries, including graphics (e.g., a diagram illustrating how large asset write-down can influence the capital base of a financial company).
  • Vanguard's News and Media Center provides a peek into not only what Vanguard’s thinking but also what its investors value. By mid-day Thursday, almost 300 users had rated the Monday post, resulting in a composite 4 stars. A 4 ½-star video with Chief Investment Officer Gus Sauter, published Monday, topped Vanguard’s list of most viewed.
  • The very first of ProFunds’ Frequently Asked Questions about Lehman Brothers and AIG–”Do you use Lehman Brothers as a SWAP counterparty?”–sheds some light on the sophistication of its investors.
  • In one of its multiple pieces, Franklin Templeton provides its holdings in Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Bank of America and Washington Mutual as a percentage of its assets under management.
  • In an essay titled, “Wall Street, Heal Thyself,” Calvert Investments provides a narrative dated September 17 about the events’ impact on both its equity and bond funds.
  • While most of the commentary is in HTML or .pdf format, Van Kampen offers a few podcasts.

Is there a company whose communications leadership you’re admiring during this time? While we realize that your employer may limit your ability to comment on a blog, please email us with your thoughts. No comments will be attributed unless you give your express permission.