This was quite a quarter.
Don’t be content to simply describe the portfolio’s performance and move on. It’s an election year! Brexit! ISIS! Venezuela! Trump! Emails! Benghazi! An important aspect of investment management client reporting is placing investment performance into context.
A cornerstone of Inbound Marketing for investment managers is to use content to demonstrate that you understand your clients and prospects: their questions, concerns, issues, and problems. But another important way to show you “get” them is to engage in a discussion about things outside of your normal purview.
There is so much happening in the world right now, it is a perfect way for you to spice up your quarterly letter (not to mention make it more fun to write), while also differentiating your communications and client service strategy.
Yeah, we know Republicans buy shoes too, but…
A differentiated strategy for investment management client reporting means that firms shouldn't always stick so closely to their investment management knitting. True, that’s the business you’re in and it’s the sweet spot of your comfort zone. And there’s a lot of wisdom in Michael Jordan’s famous line about his reluctance to be more politically active: “Republicans buy shoes, too.”
In other words, because your opinions might not necessarily gel with those of your audience, it is better to remain vanilla in your content, lest you offend someone.
Take a stand and have an opinion. Why not? As long as what you say is grounded in fact-based reality, is respectful of other opinions, and you are willing to engage in a dialogue with your audience, you’re swimming in shallow water.
If a firm is willing to embrace content as a way to clearly and unequivocally differentiate their firm from their competitors, showing a little leg every now and then is as unavoidable as it is recommended.
It is best to limit the topics of discussion to those that, at least tangentially, can be tied back to your overall investment and portfolio management strategy.
That way, if a client/prospect becomes hostile, you can merely say,
“There are a lot of people who think the way you do, and we understand and appreciate opinions that differ from ours.
But know that this is just how we see things, and it’s a viewpoint that has enabled us to manage our accounts in a way that’s long been beneficial to our clients.
Everything we do is in the best interests of our clients, so based on our past performance we have no reason to change our processes or philosophies anytime soon. If you’re right and we’re wrong, our portfolio performance will reflect that, and a reconsideration of our position would be part of our fiduciary duty. Despite our apparent differences of opinion, we hope that, in this case, opposites will continue to attract, and that our relationship will continue to be a strong one.”
Again, be respectful, measured, and logical… it usually puts out the fire.
If you have an opinion, write like it
What good is an opinion about the long-term effect of heightened terrorist activity on global markets if the language is as sanitized as a Clinton email server (sorry… couldn’t resist!).
This is a subject upon which I’ve spilled a lot of ink in my career, but it bears repeating: if you’re boring, your audience will be bored. If they are bored, they won’t read your content. And if your audience isn’t reading your content, then what’s the point?
Write with the specific intention of WANTING to be read. Have an opinion. Use active verbs. Speak plainly. Be persuasive. When you express an opinion, support it with facts that are easily understood. Cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s.”
Rather than writing,
“The global uncertainty surrounding Brexit compromised our results towards the end of the quarter…”
“We have no idea what the Brits were thinking. All we can surmise is: they aren’t thinking, at least not rationally. In a rational world, here’s what would have happened…”
In other words, write something you yourself would like to read.
Don’t treat your investment management client reporting like it’s simply another item you can check off on your quarter-end compliance to-do list. Embrace it as an opportunity to add value to the relationship beyond portfolio returns.
But how can I make it interesting?
To be involved in the investment management industry is to be well-read.
If an investment manager wants to do right by their clients through the effective management of investment portfolios, there’s no way to get around being well-informed about current events. Anything that affects political economy affects the markets, and to willfully ignore these things is malpractice.
So, who do you read? What pundits, columnists, and thought leaders do you follow? Whose insights do you find particularly thoughtful and relevant?
When you’re not sure what to say about something, steal from those you find influential. Cite them, of course, but you can quote them at length, using their ideas and words to frame your own work, and create context for your opinions.
Alternately, you can use popular writers you think are out to lunch and do the same thing: create context and frame your opinions in juxtaposition against theirs.
Balance is the key
Having an opinion is important, but be sure that those opinions are couched in fact, not emotion or partisanship.
For example, you can correctly opine that Hillary Clinton’s essential case for the presidency – her judgement and experience – has been damaged by FBI Director Comey’s findings into her use of a private email server. One can argue the severity of that damage, but anyone who suggests that it is irrelevant is willfully ignoring the facts of the case.
However, saying it’s another example of her untrustworthiness and is indicative of a long pattern of Clinton family deceit is needlessly provocative, straying dangerously close to the realm of pure opinion.
In short, you want to stay away from those sorts of arguments. Nobody wins.