For investment firms, sleepy summers are a thing of the past

Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:02am EDT
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By David K. Randall and Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Toby Hoden was on vacation early last August when he got the assignment: interrupt his firm's chief market strategist's beach vacation and get him into a studio 30 miles away as quickly as possible for an interview on CNBC.

Standard and Poor's had just downgraded the U.S. credit rating, sending global financial markets into one of the most volatile stretches in recent memory. Hoden, the chief marketing officer at ING Investment Management, spent the next two weeks arranging a flurry of conference calls with financial advisers who were clamoring for insights they could pass on to clients.

The stretch from early June to late August now seems as busy as any other time of year - and in the last few years, more volatile. Nearly four years since the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression began, world events - from elections in Greece to economic reports in China to the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting - continue to move markets in broad sweeps, overshadowing fundamentals like revenue growth and price-to-earnings ratios.

But this summer, Hoden and many other executives at financial firms are not waiting to be called back. Instead, they are being proactive, increasing their marketing efforts, holding additional investor meetings and prepping extra strategy notes in order to stay in constant communication with clients.

"The summer is not what it used to be," said Seth J. Masters, chief investment officer of Bernstein Global Wealth Management, a division of AllianceBernstein LP AB.N.

AllianceBernstein, whose clients were asking what they should do given the market volatility, decided to host a media luncheon and put out a paper explaining why equities still make sense. Asset manager BlackRock BLK.N stepped up its outreach to advisers and scheduled a summit next week with its head of global fixed income and the chief investment strategist of its BlackRock Investment Institute.

Michael Abelson, a senior vice president at Genworth Financial Wealth Management GNW.N, is in the middle of the firm's first-ever summer road show. He expects to meet more than 900 financial advisers on an eight-city trip that includes stops in New York, Boston, Chicago and Denver.

"We don't typically introduce new ideas or showcase new solutions as dramatically as we are this summer," he said.   Continued...