“Anybody over the age of 60 is scared to death” over the coming Presidential election, said Keith Pinsoneault, whose firm, Optimum Investment Advisors, directly manages some $800 million for individuals in addition to the more than $3 billion it oversees in mutual funds like the Aston/Optimum Mid Cap mutual fund. Egged on by the media, Pinsoneault says those clients “ask me every day” what will happen to them and their wealth, assuming Barack Obama is elected in November and that he is able to follow through on his pledges to raise taxes. But James Moffett, manager of the $4 billion UMB Scout International Fund, points out that when Bill Clinton was elected, “he raised taxes and the economy chugged along; we had eight years of a bull market.” In his soft drawl, Moffett suggests there might be a “racial reason” for the anxiety felt by some people like Pinsoneault’s clients over Obama and his platform. Interviewed in the last week of June, when the Dow plummeted as oil prices soared, Moffett suggests that the sharp market downturn might have something to do with it being “the end of the quarter, when they cut the statements,” on which some managers might not want their clients to wonder, “Do we own Citigroup?”
The lesson here is to remind you of the key communications role you play for your clients. Like Pinsoneault patiently fielding calls from panicky clients, and suggesting that if they’re really worried about taxes being raised, it might be a good time to take advantage of the currently low capital gains rates, part of your role is to place any economic, market, or political development into context. The message you send clients must be consistent, clear, prudent, and measured. You can’t promise them the moon, and you also shouldn’t be a Cassandra.
In fact, the message you send current clients in a time of market turmoil and economic bad news is the same message that should appeal to prospective clients. As our cover story points out on page 38, in a sea of sameness, where the words if not the essence of the independent advice model have been coopted by the biggest firms in the business, you need to differentiate yourself with a clear, consistent message that’s delivered by you, your partners, and your employees on an ongoing basis. If you’ve always defined “marketing” as waiting for passive referrals, you may soon find yourself waiting for Godot instead.