Q3 2015 is now in the books!
Now is the time for every reputable investment management firm, from institutional investors to hedge funds, wealth managers, and other money managers of all stripes to crunch their numbers and report to their clients how they made out this summer.
For better or worse (mostly worse), this is one of only four times per year that most investment management firms actively reach out to their clients.
Thus, it is among the few opportunities investment managers have to conclusively demonstrate that “unique client service philosophy" about which they banged the drum so loudly in the pitch meeting.
As a best practice, investment managers should look at their client communications and ask themselves:
Are we putting our best foot forward in this letter?
In your letter, are you doing everything you can to ensure clients would never seriously consider leaving you for anyone else?
In other words, how effectively are you differentiating yourself?
We all know that it is cheaper to keep an existing client than to find a new one. So an important part of investment management marketing is doing everything possible to ensure existing clients are happy… nay, delighted with the firm, from top-to-bottom.
Since every firm has their own processes and practices for reporting their results, I’ll leave the data component to the devices of each individual firm.
But for the narrative of your quarterly performance, I have a few suggestions, beyond some of the things I've already written on the subject:
Write Like You Actually Want to be Read
In other words, be conversational, thoughtful, and most of all, helpful. Think about what your clients really want to know about, and use THAT as your guiding principle when crafting your letter. Don't prattle on about the things you find important... keep it in the context of the wants and needs of your client.
As a corollary, I’ve always believed that the art of writing lay in thrift, so say what you have to say, be clear, be concise, and be consistent.
Treat the Quarter Like Chapter 8…
Your client letters, read in sequence, should be the story of the work you do for your clients.
As such, you must look back at your earlier client letters and make sure that predictions, assertions, hopes, and statements of conviction are revisited and are either confirmed or refuted.
In either case, explain why your assertions came to pass, or why they didn’t. High on a stock last quarter? Revisit the holding and explain (quickly or at length, depending on the circumstance) why it did or didn’t perform as expected.
It is important to understand that simply ending one tangent of the narrative often alienates some segment of your audience. Be sure to complete the story's arc.
… But Also Make it a Stand-Alone Piece
The principles of effective storytelling dictate that you have a compelling introduction / beginning, rising action to a climax, and then the dénouement.
A lot went on this summer, economically, politically, and socially. Weave these elements into the letter in a way the creates the necessary context for the portfolio’s performance.
An honest assessment of your quarter is essential if you are to maintain credibility and the trust of your clients.
If the quarter went poorly:
- Never rationalize.
- Never make excuses.
- Always accept responsibility.
- Describe what you’ll be doing to ensure better outcomes in the future.
If the quarter went well:
- Be humble.
- Share credit for the firm’s success with the rest of your firm’s employees
- Explain how you’ll keep the good times rolling.
No matter how the portfolio performed, you can still delight your clients with a thoughtful, creative, well-written quarterly letter.
Remember: your letter must remind your clients why they chose to work with you in the first place.