By John Morgan, managing director, Fortuna AMC
“The City of London is at the epicentre of a growing €5,900bn European funds business with new asset managers from around the world seeking to make their voices heard in a crowded market place. These boutiques are populated by some of the world’s most talented asset managers with innovative strategies that deserve to be considered by discerning investors. Fortuna Asset Management Communications seeks to add value to these businesses by bringing together this talent to give them their voice alongside the industry’s more established players – that is my aim”.
So grandly proclaims the objective behind this very newpublic relations business on my new website – www.fortunaamc.co.uk.
There are very many public relations consultancies based in London and a large number are focused on the financial services sector, but few adopt the approach of targeting investment boutiques.
All asset management businesses are funded by the assets they manage. The more they win from pension funds or directly from the likes of you and me, the more they earn. Boutique asset managers are not necessarily new businesses nor are they necessarily that small,but when compared with some of the big industry names then it’s true – they are at the smaller end of the size of business scale – and their size naturally translates through to the resources they have at their disposal.
In the sales and marketing pecking order, sales and marketing teams dominate an asset management firm’s promotional activity as the business seeks to increase Assets Under Management (AUM). At this stage of development, with limited resources, the boutiques tend not to use quality PR support, often because it’s just note the right time at this stage of their development.
Yet these boutiques have often been founded by managers with good reputations for past investment performance achieved having worked for a large, well known, asset management company. Now they find themselves with none of the support they had previously and, given their entrepreneurial nature, struggle to reach a view on when to start spending on ‘peripheral’ activity such as PR.
As a result of this lack of engagement in public relations the divide between the large well-known brands and the small boutiques remains wide. As a result the big are generally well known but the small often have to rely on the press calling them in order to make their mark (even then some don’t know how to react to media enquiries).
As a result of this two-tier media scene, my chums in the London media have naturally heard of the likes of Bill Gross’s huge PIMCO (whose Californian Newport Beach office is close to the famous country club of that name) or even the very low profile but excellent Boston based Wellington Management. However, few of them had heard of the excellent Australian boutique managers MIR (now ‘Metisq’) and Ross Youngman’s Five Oceans – both part of Fidante Partners. Other smaller managers include the excellent UK fixed interest specialist Twenty Four Asset Management and the brilliant managed futures house Aspect Capital.
In setting up my own business the key question I asked myself was, “these guys are so brilliant why can they not be better known?” I came to the conclusion that in some cases the managers didn’t actually need to be better known because their clients were concentrated geographically in the City of London. However, this situation was never going to last for while it might suit some small boutique asset managers these guys were up for growing their businesses.
These businesses grow up as the assets flow in and their reputations improve as they prove their worth through the performance of their funds. But that can take a long time and, in any case, why wait when they had already proven themselves in their pre-boutique days. Why not go out and promote themselves more heavily on the back of their track record even though past performance is not a guarantee of future success.
It was with that point in mind I set up Fortuna AMC to target these growing firms at a point in their development where they could get the sort of help they deserve without having to go to the expense of hiring an established London based PR. In other words bringing forward the point where, like their larger counterparts they could get excellent advice from an experienced senior PR practitioner but without the heavy cost.
To do that, the business model had to be reworked to draw a line between Fortuna AMC and the very many (and generally excellent) public relations operations in London. The points of difference between my business and theirs were based on the following principles:
- FortunaAMC had to be a lower cost operation and so had to work from a lower cost base.
- It had to provide partner level (top level) advice.
- Fortuna had to operate ONLY in asset management and not adopt the general PR agency approach of spreading the business across all aspects of financial services.
- The business had to be capable of offering all the services of a large agency without actually having those services absorbing capital within the business.
- And the business had to attract clients from different asset classes rather than take on competing ones.
Interestingly, for me, the key to providing a low cost communications operation to boutique managers is NOT just about cutting costs. Rather it is about choosing asset managers who cover different asset classes so that discussions with the media can be more varied and so far more effective. Having a range of talent to represent and promote to the media rather than picking which client to represent at any given interaction with the media, is a far more efficient way of working and actually replicates the approach taken by in-house public relations practitioners (and I would know as I’ve been one my whole PR career).
The same argument goes some way to answering the question, why call a business Fortuna Asset Management Communications? Because doesn’t its name naturally narrow the market for the new business? The answer is that by specialising in asset management the business focuses only on asset management audiences which is a highly efficient way of working and so costs can be reduced. After all, there’s no point in thinking an investment writer and their readers would be interested in other clients were they to be in banking, insurance and mortgage lending.
So there you have it – it’s all in the name.