The Next Wave: Asset Manager Executives Take To Twitter

When Nuveen joined Twitter last week (@NuveenInv), it became one of a dozen asset management firms that maintain at least one account for an individual executive in addition to a corporate account.

The Demand

If you work for a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) company and your job includes social media, this development is no surprise to you. From what I hear, thought leaders are chomping at the bit to “get out on Twitter” and are attempting to enlist the help of any random body in Marketing to get it done. Their gravitas notwithstanding, thought leaders have to wait in the Legal/Compliance/IT queue for social media enablement and archiving.

On Twitter, a few users are even asking for accounts to be created for some of the industry’s bigger names. DoubleLine Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer Jeffrey Gundlach is at the top of that list, based on my unscientific monitoring. Gundlach also has the unique distinction in this space for having inspired a fake Twitter account: @fauxGundlach. Until an official @Gundlach account surfaces, users will have to be content using the #Gundlach hashtag.

A Twitter List

Here’s a list of the mutual fund and ETF executive Twitter accounts that I know of. (If I’ve missed any, please advise below.) All of the names below have been added to a new Rock The Boat Marketing InvestmentMngrs_Execs Twitter list. In addition, I’m including them on the InvestmentManagers Twitter list that I maintain, for the broadest way to follow asset managers’ presence on Twitter. 

By my count, Invesco has the most individual accounts, followed by First Trust (we Illinoisans love us some Twitter!). Even PIMCO, where the industry’s most prominent individuals (Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian) post using @PIMCO, has an individual account.

Note that the list includes investment strategists, economists, a product strategist, retirement specialists and just two CEOs. Seventeen names representing a $15 trillion industry? There's a lot of room for growth here, and I believe this is the next wave of what firms will be doing on Twitter—introducing many more voices. (And, recall that Putnam has said that its wholesalers are heading to Twitter next.)

The Advantages

There are quite a few advantages to launching an individual account.

  • It's straightforward. While a corporate Twitter account typically precedes the launch of an individual account, it’s not always in that order. A few firms have found it easier to launch an individual account first.

“What would we tweet about?” and “Who would do it?” are two show-stopping questions easily answered when a thought leader account is envisioned.

  • Additional followers. People will follow investment strategist accounts who won’t follow a corporate account. Savvy Twitter users, including most financial advisors, know that corporate accounts come with a lot of promotional and/or non-relevant updates. An individual account can elevate brand awareness in its own way. Be aware, though, that Marketing can expect some interesting times as you try to sort it all out.

Here’s a screenshot of the limited (12%) overlap between the First Trust corporate account (with many fewer followers) and the @wesbury account of Chief Economist Brian Wesbury. People who follow Wesbury get an earful of all kinds of stuff, some on-brand and some—I’m guessing here—far afield. (See a related post from May 2012: 3 Ways Asset Manager Tweeting Is Evolving.)

  • Specialization. A specialized account has extra appeal for those who focus on Twitter. This is just another instance where total follower counts mean little. Example: If I were a reporter following the retirement business or a financial advisor focused on it, Invesco’s Tom Rowley account would be a must-follow.

  • Personality and tone. Some corporate Twitter accounts do a terrific job with brand voice and personality but it can be a struggle. By contrast, an individual account has just one, authentic personality to think about. Personal accounts attract more interest and engagement.

The catch for asset managers: Even more so than for corporate accounts, people are going to talk to individuals and they are going to want to hear back, too. The individual who has authority to post but not re-tweet or reply has his or her hands tied in a way that will limit the success of a Twitter strategy (the non-responsive @PIMCO account being the exception).

The Twitter platform is every bit as able as CNBC to host an exchange between investment or product strategists. Why couldn't this happen?

The unleashing of egos on public platforms without a referee is not for the feint of heart, by the way, as hinted by this exchange yesterday between Virtus' Joe Terranova and someone complaining about a missed forecast.

@Aftermath_2012 think I did better than that w my mea culpa on Gold not pulling back another 20% by the end of the year

— Joe Terranova (@terranovajoe) August 12, 2013

Who’s Doing The Promotion?

I know of other employees of asset management firms who are on Twitter. They’re not in spokesperson or high visibility positions, however. And, their Twitter bios either omit mention of their employer or explicitly state that they speak for themselves only. If you’re on Twitter but want to stay under the radar, rest assured that I will keep it to myself until you change your status.

The bios of the accounts on the list above expressly mention their official roles, and the tweets have to do with their roles. But if they're not supposed to be a secret, I wonder why these have such low visibility. Few of these accounts are mentioned either in the account bios or on the Twitter backgrounds of the corporate page. There's practically no embrace of them (e.g., a display of recent tweets) on the firms' Websites.

An exception: Check out the prominence Oppenheimer gives its three Twitter account feeds at the bottom of the home page of its site

Do corporate entity issues prevent the accounts of some of these firms from acknowledging the accounts of an employee affiliated with a different subsidiary? I suppose that could be what it is.

But, if it's an oversight this is easily addressed. Just as a firm can’t afford to have individuals taking to Twitter without jumping through the required hoops, neither will a firm want to see what happens when Twitter account promotion is left to an individual’s devices. Thought leaders can be pretty creative, remember.

My recommendation: Make sure your individual Twitter account implementation plan considers how to give it presence and ongoing marketing attention. 

Which mutual fund or ETF executives would you expect to see soon on Twitter?