Communication strategies to support nervous investors: a guide for fund managers

Craig Morris, 2 March 2020

While we can’t predict the future, Honner has more than 20 years of experience in building communication strategies and supporting asset management firms, financial advisers and individual investors during volatile times. This included the GFC, September 11 attacks and dot com bubble. 

Today we are facing a new crisis. The coronavirus is currently spreading, bringing with it panic and anxiety for investors of all types around the globe. At the time of publishing this article, the weekly fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average ranks within the top 15 in its 124-year history and it was the worst week for stocks since the global financial crisis.

In an industry where it is difficult to differentiate your offering, quality, timely communications and the way you deliver it can clearly distinguish your brand. Here we’ve identified some key communication strategies that can make your brand stand out during this period of uncertainty:

1. Be visible, open and honest: One of the key aspects we’ve learnt from periods like this is that people understand and accept that markets can be volatile but they won’t forgive a lack of support, a lack of transparency, and slick cliché messages that aren’t helpful (similar to the lesson Scott Morrison learnt during the recent bushfire crisis). In difficult moments such as this, companies need to prioritise timely communications that are transparent and provide valuable insight to employees, financial advisers, investors and the media.

2. Consider building a communication response team: If the crisis moves from days to weeks, fund managers should consider creating a core communication team that has responsibility for managing the communication process. This should be a small nimble team that includes representation from across the business (from your marketing, client service, sales, and investment teams and also your communication agency). The team should be empowered to mobilise and respond quickly, and to act as a contact point for the entire firm, while also being responsible for building and maintaining a long term communication plan that evolves with the unfolding situation. 

3. Pick a spokesperson: Consider picking a spokesperson to be the voice of the firm during the crisis—to show consistency for the brand. This should be someone who can connect with people easily, is sincere and transparent during interviews, and has experienced extensive media training.

4. Support financial advisers to do their jobs: When a market correction hits, the first place many investors turn is to their financial advisor. This can be a stressful time for a financial adviser. It is also the ideal time for a fund manager to step up to support financial advisers with valuable content these advisers can use en masse with their own clients—to help calm their clients and provide emotional support.  

5. Create content that adds value, is visual and uses historical data to tell the story: Try and avoid long copy articles. Focus on visual content that ideally draws on historical data and supports your key supporting messages. Don’t focus on what has occurred with the market. Rather, try to highlight your current portfolio positioning. Some examples of key content pieces doing this well include:

  1. The cycle of market emotions image from Russell Investments is a powerful snapshot of how investors typically make the wrong decisions at the wrong time. Russell Investments’ downside management toolkit on their website is also a good example for other fund managers to follow.
  2. The market volatility section of Franklin Templeton website. 
  3. Fidelity has created strategies for uncertain times, a guide for investors on “What to consider when the market gets volatile”. Most of the largest asset managers in the world have still to reflect the market correction on their public facing sites, which is disappointing.
  4. Vanguard has an interactive chart that allows you to build your own customised version of the index chart with 30 years of investment performance of major asset classes. (They just need to update it to reflect recent correction.)
  5. Capital Group created an illustration using historical data highlighting the dangers of investors sitting on the sidelines and the benefits of investing – even by selecting the worst day each year to invest.
  6. Schroders has produced a strong piece: coronavirus: the investment impact in seven charts.
  7. Investors Mutual have produced a piece that details how does this impact iml’s portfolios and what are we doing about it?

6. Create a coronavirus content hub for investors: Too much content can become overwhelming and become quickly out of date during such a dynamic period. Consider creating a specialist area on your website that houses all content related to the coronavirus market event. Too often firms distribute a lot of communications and content pieces—but as the situation unfolds and changes it can become confusing for your clients. The hub can also be a great resource for employees to ensure they are accessing the latest information. See the examples above of fund managers that are nimble and have websites that reflect the market correction.

7. Repurpose old content: Look at some of your previous material on investor tips and see what can be quickly updated and repurposed for this situation. You may not need to start all communication from scratch.

8. Don’t repeat known information: In the current situation it isn’t helpful to bulk your communication strategy out with content discussing what the coronavirus is, how it is transmitted, infection rates and treatment. This is not the role of a fund manager or financial adviser—it just clouds your core messages. 

9. An opportunity to amplify your message in the media: Honner is currently receiving inquiries from media looking for support from fund managers to provide commentary and insight on the situation. There is an opportunity for fund managers to proactively provide their insights to the media, particularly if you respond in a timely way to key market events. The media are hungry for your perspective. Don’t be shy—write down a few points and work with your communication consultant to get them in front of key journalists.

10. Leverage the power of your employees’ social networks: When you push out content, encourage your employees to share this content via their own personal LinkedIn profiles to further amplify your message and content. To retain control of the message we recommend providing employees with a compliance approved key message to introduce the content pieces. 

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