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  • Writer's pictureDex McLuskey

Opinion: Investment managers need a new skill 
in the age of work-from-home: Content creation

Business lunches and drinks are out. Today, it’s all about blogging and podcasting.

This article first appeared in MarketWatch on March 23, 2020. Click the logo above to view the original op-ed

By Dex McLuskey

Investment managers are wondering how they’re going to conduct the social part of their business as restaurants close, hotels, casinos and conference centers go on lockdown, and airlines stop running.

In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, reliable standbys such as a long lunch, cocktails, a golf or theater outing, or a get-together in Vegas are as much a part of a bygone era as talking with a sales person on the phone.

What is an asset manager or adviser to do now that such tactics are increasingly being consigned to the dustbin? Especially when clients want to know what the S&P 500’s 30%-plus plunge from an all-time high in three weeks means for them.

Asset managers who lack the capability to quickly respond may find already highly stressed business models coming under even greater strain as redemptions compound the drop in assets under management caused by the selloff.

One way to try to minimize client defections is to take that old-school travel and entertainment budget and put it to work creating digital content.

Skype, Zoom, bylines

Get portfolio managers and analysts to talk via phone, Microsoft’s Skype or Zoom with CNBC and Bloomberg, which are doing many more such audio and video interviews as commentators avoid broadcast studios.

Pitch bylined articles to key media such as MarketWatch and other leading financial outlets.

Write blog posts focused on interpreting events from the viewpoint of how they impact clients. Talk about your resilience, how you positioned portfolios ahead of the crisis to limit exposure to the riskiest or most volatile assets; how you reacted after initial drops to protect against further drawdowns; and how you will take advantage when sentiment changes.

Online videos, podcasts

Record videos for websites, social media accounts and to send directly to clients. They don’t have to be award winners — they have to be timely and informative. As this video shows, it’s possible to create professional video quickly and cheaply using your phone, a lapel microphone and a light.

Podcasts are another option and can be recorded remotely via phone conversations for a content expert to produce, edit and distribute quickly.

Ditch bureaucracy

The key is speed without noise. Asset managers’ marketing departments have to become more like a newsroom in terms of their sense of urgency. Savvy media people can craft and distribute digital video, audio and print content, and compliance and legal should help achieve those goals. If they prove to be overly obstructive and too much of a brake, it’s time for a frank discussion.

High-quality digital video, audio and print content should remind allocators that, rather than fretting over this strategy or that in highly correlated markets, they bear all the losses if they allocate overwhelmingly to passive and that, especially in a crisis, it can be wise to stay committed to active, forward-looking, long-term investors with a consistent strategy and strong analysis, resilient portfolio construction and robust risk management at the core.

But the need to communicate quickly, frequently and effectively extends far beyond customers. Timely communications are critical in times of crisis, as this video shows. With workforces spread out geographically because of the pandemic, a digital-first content strategy keeps all stakeholders up to speed — employees, authorities and regulators, shareholders, suppliers, media, contractors and the communities asset managers operate in.

Smart companies understand that, especially in times of extreme stress, silence isn’t always golden. In the Information Age, asset managers who fail to embrace a proactive digital-first content strategy risk being consigned to the same dustbin as the golf trips, cocktail happy hours and long lunches they’ve cherished and relied upon for so long.

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