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JPES Partners director Miles Donohoe sat down with Citywire Selector alternatives correspondent, Selin Bucak, to discuss the sector, the findings of his recent Investment Communications Trends Report, and get some tips on what private markets managers can do to get the ear of a journalist.

The JPES Partners Investment Communications Trends Report 2022, which surveys communications professionals at asset management companies, found that 62% of asset managers are still planning to launch new, standalone ‘ESG’ products in the next 12 months, down from 89% a year earlier. This decline can largely be attributed to the fact that 25% of firms said any new solutions in this area would be through the conversion of existing, rather than new, funds.

This strategy of upgrading funds over time was one of the key findings of last year’s report when managers cited concerns of being accused of greenwashing as a reason for taking a cautious approach to their initial classifications under the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosures Regulation (SFDR), with the aim of reclassifying them over time.

However, this is yet to satisfy regulators as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are seeking tighter measures to limit the possibility of greenwashing in investment products. The FCA’s proposed approach is to go further than existing SFDR classifications by ensuring products classify how they are sustainable and restricting the use of terms such as ESG or green if products don’t qualify.

Greenwashing fears and a prudent approach to product development is also being reflected in how asset managers view their expertise on responsible investing, with fewer firms than ever before willing to declare themselves a ‘pioneer’ in the space.

As the table below shows, in 2019 half of the asset management industry believed it was pioneering in its approach to ESG, now only 6% of asset managers we spoke to would describe themselves as a true ‘pioneer’.

This new, more balanced perception, also reflects a shift in attitude around the way that firms communicate their responsible investment approach. While there isn’t the same frantic need to talk about responsible investment that firms felt a few years ago, half of the managers we spoke to said it does still remain their number one communications priority.

That strategic imperative illustrates why the volume of ESG-related content being produced by asset managers has been rising steadily in recent years, and also explains why 80% of asset managers this year told us that they still plan to increase the volume of ESG content even further, despite the fact that so often, much of it simply cannot be used.

This year the Investment Communications Trends Report has been divided into three shorter, standalone reports. The third of these, on Content & Digital, will be made available in the coming weeks.

To read the report on ESG and responsible investment please complete the form below.

Download our report

Download our report

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I previously trained as an academic historian and spent several years teaching ancient and medieval history at a number of universities across London. The pandemic gave me time to pause and consider other career options, especially ones where I could work more collaboratively and be part of a team. I met with JPES consultant Dr. Steve Tibble to tap into his experiences of the cross-over between academia and communications and reflecting upon it presently, it was very sound advice!

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

It feels quite natural now. It was always one of the perks in my previous job that I was never stuck doing a ‘9-5’ in some office, and dare I say that the transition to hybrid-working coincided nicely with my change of career. Commuting in is not bad when there is some flexibility about it, and the current pattern at JPES allows me to work to my strengths and priorities as and when I need to.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

I am very intrigued with the ‘greenwashing’ issue that has been playing out within financial services and asset manager space, though I am aware that other industries have been plagued with similar issues. In the property sector, I am keeping a keen eye on office occupancy levels, and how office owners and employers make sense of hybrid-working to encourage and foster working environments that align with modern working practices.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am putting the finishing touches to my first book, which is based on my PhD thesis. I particularly love my sport across the year being an avid follower of cricket, rugby and F1. Attending Lords and the Oval are always highlights of my summer. In general, I am always looking for fun things to do whether that is playing cricket, exploring the countryside, or visiting the traditional British pub.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I am going to give a shout-out to two of my regular podcasts, both of which get me through commuting. The first is Tailenders – a loosely cricket based podcast with Greg James, Felix White, and Jimmy Anderson. It is pitched at exactly the right tempo to unwind and have a laugh to. The other is The Rest is History with Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland. The topics covered by the pod feeds into my deep fascination with all things history, but again, like Tailenders, the two hosts have an affable and humorous rapport with one another that is often missing in day-to-day life.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

As I have already mentioned, I am finishing off my first book which I hope to have published early next year. I also want to find more time next summer to play cricket, as well as follow as much of the Ashes series as possible.

Duncan Lamb speaks to Adam Kirby of economic location analysis model, Evaluate|Locate in a conversation which encompasses the uneven impact of recession on UK cities, why investors and businesses need to take a more granular interest in the economic identity of locations, and how this could influence where you can get a Gregg’s sausage roll…

In describing what its new HQ would provide, it said that the building would “set new standards in sustainability and accommodate more than 1,800 seats”. Seats. Not desks. Not workstations. And certainly not offices which – with its connotations of cubicles and corner offices – are increasingly seen as an outdated way of looking at working environments.

Blackstone’s choice of the word “seats” speaks volumes about “white collar” work in a post-Lockdown world.

It underlines how hybrid working has altered the relationship between individuals and their workspace. Hot-desking was, of course, an established practice before the pandemic, but the way in which the concept of working space has shrunk to a simple seat is an attitudinal landmark.

It also hints at the planned trajectory of Blackstone’s UK business. The US giant currently has 500 people in London so, if it’s projecting a need for 1,800 seats, well – as our American cousins say –“you do the math”.

It’s a shift of attitudes which also asks questions of other stakeholders in the sector. Will leasing agents start referring to “seats” in their marketing collateral for space? And where does this leave one of the erstwhile pillars of the office sector: the British Council for Offices’ space density person measure?

Interestingly, while the concept of “seats” may feel like packing people in, the BCO  has signalled this week that current trends – and workplace efficiencies – mean that space densities should be relaxed rather than intensified. Recommended densities had steadily tracked up since the Millennium, but the BCO is now proposing that the base-level occupancy criterion should be relaxed from the current UK average of 9.8 square metres per person up 10-12 square metres.

So whilst the Blackstone cohorts may not be able to have desks festooned with family pictures, stress balls and their favourite coffee mug, they may end up getting more personal space.

The JPES Partners Investment Communications Trends Report 2022, which surveys communications professionals at asset management companies, found that nearly two thirds (63%) of all the asset managers we spoke to were either investing in, or rapidly growing, their private markets capabilities into areas such as private equity, private debt and real estate.

This was particularly evident among the larger firms, with 83% of those with assets under management of more than $500bn having private markets solutions, perhaps indicative of many having made targeted acquisitions in recent years.

Among all sizes of asset managers we spoke to who do invest in private markets, almost all (90%) said it remains a strategically important objective for business growth, with 60% saying it had even accelerated as a priority over the last 12-months.

 

 

So, who is buying these products if the priority has increased so substantially? Historically the demand has come from institutional investors as the asset class often requires large upfront minimum investments and the capital is often locked away for long periods, yet it now appears that asset managers are turning their attention to other investors.

The Financial Times reported that with many large institutions having up to 50% of their portfolios in alternative assets, managers are now looking at retail investors for the next wave of demand. This was borne out by McKinsey’s research which found the average retail investor has just 2% of their portfolio in alternatives.

Several of the firms we spoke to also echoed this sentiment, noting that they were working on launching more solutions for the retail / wholesale audience, with one firm noting that this shift in approach had come directly from intermediaries asking for them to create new solutions.

While intermediary channels may provide more avenues for capital in the future, this doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Most participants cited the strict regulation governing the marketing of these products as limiting what they are able to say publicly, particularly around private placements.

There is one storyline, however, that we may begin to see more of in the future. Prequin data published earlier this year showed that 42% of global private market capital is managed in funds that are run with sustainable investment principles, so whilst private markets haven’t traditionally been associated with responsible investing, for those who can demonstrate transparency and genuine impact through their activities, this could be a key differentiator in 2023.

This year the Investment Communications Trends Report has been divided into three shorter, standalone reports – Private Markets; ESG; and Content & Digital, all of which will be made available over the coming weeks.

To read the first report on private markets please complete the form below.

Download our report

Download our report

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, passive management in the US is set to expand steadily for the foreseeable future and essentially for active management, the domestic market for most products has gone ex-growth. If they have not done so already, there is an increasing need for ambitious US asset managers to build a more stable three-legged business based in the US, EMEA and Asia, in particular offering strong global, Emerging Market and to some extent US equity products outside the US.

The opportunities for US managers overseas are highly attractive. There are institutional markets to pursue, even with defined benefit markets in decline, in the public sector for example, a rapidly growing private wealth market and, of course, sovereign wealth funds. We met one boutique US manager who had been appointed to a leading UK wealth management platform and it has transformed their business. Where one major appointment occurs others can follow.

The challenge, however, is that the international marketplace is highly competitive. Sales and marketing techniques need to reflect cultural differences and building an overseas business from a US perspective requires patience and visible commitment, often by having people on the ground in key markets.

One further hurdle is in the arena of ESG policies. This is perhaps the only area of the investment management industry US managers lag their overseas counterparts, but it is crucial. Unless there is a demonstrable commitment to combatting climate change and incorporating diversity and inclusion policies into investment strategies, they will fail to gain momentum in building an overseas business. In particular, regulatory issues in respect of ESG policies have to be fully understood to ensure funds have the necessary categorisations to allow full access in Europe.

With all this in mind, raising a US manager’s international profile through strong, tailored marketing collateral, differentiated and forward looking ESG policies, careful media relations strategies to display thought leadership credentials and a demonstrative commitment to individual markets through client service delivered by local employees all maximise opportunities.

Interestingly, the takeaway from last week was an increasing recognition by astute US based asset managers that this is exactly what is required to broaden their business base successfully.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

Like many people, I was unsure on what I wanted to do after finishing university, and graduating during a pandemic made my future even more uncertain. After some research, I came across communications and it felt like the perfect fit. I consider myself to be a social person, so the opportunity to work in a fast-paced team environment and develop relationships with colleagues, clients, and journalists excited me. As a history graduate, I also enjoy the independent element of research and writing. Whilst working in communications I have been able to combine the use my sometimes-polarising skill sets.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

Since moving to London in January I have really enjoyed the flexibility of hybrid working. For the first few months I found being in the office vital to my training and development. It is so much easier to communicate in person, by being able to ask quick questions and learn first-hand from my colleagues something which can be difficult over teams. As with any new job it is important to build relationships with the people you work with, being in the office has made it so much easier to get to know my colleagues and build friendships. Although, I do still appreciate the ability to work from home two days a week. Remote working has made it much easier for me to visit Cardiff on the weekends. It certainly takes the pressure off when traveling down and trying to squeeze seeing all my friends and family into just two days!

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

The divestment vs. engagement debate is a conversation that has really captured my interest lately. ESG themes are on the top of everyone’s minds and what we, as individuals can do, is increasingly important. Placing pressure on firms to either divest or engage with companies has proven successful, however experts disagree on which strategy is most effective for garnering change. I see merits in both approaches and it is a topic I am following very closely.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love yoga, I attend at least two classes a week if not more and try to practice most days. I usually like to practice in the evening before I sleep, as I find it really helps me to wind down and relax from busy London life! I have also recently joined a netball team in Brixton. I have really missed playing team sports since graduating and have been a keen netballer throughout school and university. As a historian, I also love visiting the many amazing museums London has to offer, my favourite has to be the V&A.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

The last book I read was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. This is the first book I have read by the author, and it was fantastic. Murakami is a beautiful writer and in Norwegian Wood pays homage to another favourite book of mine, the Great Gatsby. The story follows that of the protagonist Toru Watanbe during his student days in Tokyo. The novel deals with some heavy themes, however it sends a positive message in that we must keep going. My favourite line from the book is “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

I have recently signed myself up to complete the Investment Management Certificate and have been studying ahead of my exams later this year. Having no previous finance experience, I wanted to further my knowledge and understand the topics and campaigns I have been working on. It has been difficult fitting studying around working and my hobbies however I enjoy being busy and have a competitive nature, so I like a challenge!

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’ve always been fascinated by the persuasive power of words and the ways they can be used to express ideas. At the University of Michigan, I completed my Bachelors in Creative Writing and Literature. Although I learned a lot about writing and analysis, I ultimately sought to pursue a career where I felt what I did had more real-life implications. This led me to study a Masters’ degree in War Studies at King’s College, and now to financial communications at JPES Partners. I love educating myself about often complex topics and relaying that information to others in a way that helps them understand, so communications has been a natural fit for me.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

I’ve been really enjoying hybrid working, much to my own surprise. Prior to joining JPES, I had a strong bias against working from home, due to spending much of 2020 in one of the world’s longest continuous lockdowns in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, I’ve actually come to appreciate the flexibility and quiet that comes with working from home.

At the same time, the days I spend working in the office are definitely the highlight of the week for me. Seeing people face to face is so important for sharing ideas, learning from one another, and getting to know your colleagues. I feel being in the office in person helps collaboration and inspiration flow in a much more natural way.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

Because what happens in emerging markets impacts the global economy as a whole, I believe the future development of EMs merits increased attention. On a personal level, living in Argentina allowed me to practically see how macro events like IMF bailouts and elections can have consequences on the day-to-day purchasing power of a currency, and thus daily life.

Simultaneously, the war in Ukraine has brought an acute awareness to the fact that we live in an interlinked, global economy. Overdependence on Russian energy and rising prices of Ukrainian commodities such as wheat are putting further pressure on Western economies which have suffered under Covid-19. Events in Emerging Markets are compounding inflationary stress around the world, leading to a diverse range of approaches by central banks in an attempt to combat this, and also affecting all of our lives on multiple levels.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I like to go running and play football. I used to run semi-competitively for a number of years, but it is something I now do for my own peace of mind. In addition to providing an outlet for my competitive streak, I find playing football a great way to make local friends. More generally, I always make a lot of time in my schedule to catch up with friends and family, both in here in London and abroad.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I recently finished The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo which I really enjoyed, as it combined several of my interests. The book weaves together Italian and South American 19th century history, and deals with some of challenges particular to women of the period.

My favourite podcast is called Throughline, which explores current events through a historical lens. The podcast links issues contemporary issues including politics, economics, and the environment to past events, really contextualizing and unlocking hidden layers of meaning in our modern world.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

One of my priorities at the moment is improving my Italian. I previously spent a semester of university studying in Venice, Italy, and focused on Italian history and security in my masters’ degree as well, but I’ve unfortunately lost some of my speaking skills over the years. I’ve been meeting with some other Italian learners and a native speaker for informal classes over the past few months. I see this as both a professional and personal goal because further language skills and culture awareness of course benefits clients as well as myself.

In the second of our Urban Capital podcast series, the author of Transport for Humans: Are We nearly There Yet? considers how the process of moving people in, out and around urban environments will evolve following the pandemic and what opportunities this may create.

In the same way as I did with my daughter, I now enjoy reading to my grandchildren. It is wonderful to see the awe on their faces in response to simple pictures and messages. Admittedly this often leads to them wanting to hear the same story several times in a row, but it is an important part of how they learn and understand things.

Storytelling is a skill and, when done well, people have the ability to educate, influence and motivate others. After all, if good storytelling can have such a positive effect on children, why not adults? Some of the most famous names in history owe their prominence to their ability to tell a story and bring people along with them.

Good storytelling also tells an audience as much about the messenger as it does the message. Done well, it not only demonstrates that the person knows their subject; it shows they have taken the time to think about their audience – what their needs are, what is most likely to resonate with them as a result and how, in a commercial sense, the person telling the story can meet those requirements.

One of the best presentations I attended over the course of my career was a discussion on liability-driven investment (LDI) around 20 years ago. As an investment approach, LDI was in its relative infancy and it would have been all too easy for the presenter to explain the concept at length using a lot of technical terms. Instead, that person focused on the challenges asset owners faced and the client problem that LDI solved. It was a well-told story that showed understanding of and addressed the needs of that audience. As a result, the audience went away wanting to hear more and so were much more likely to engage with that business in future.

Today, however, good storytelling feels like something of a lost art. As we get older, we have a tendency to want to make things more complicated – to make ourselves look clever; to believe we have knowledge (and hence power) that others don’t; to cover up the fact we actually have less knowledge than it might appear; or because it is just too hard to keep things simple. The result is often something overly technical, complicated and laden with jargon or language that others don’t understand.

Today, we are bombarded by information from endless different sources and channels. There have also been numerous studies showing that our ability to retain information has decreased. In this context, the art of storytelling is more important than ever. Yet it is something that too many people either overthink or overcomplicate.

We have to remember that people won’t necessarily take on board or retain everything we say. They are much more likely, however, to respond to how we make them feel. They are much more likely to respond positively if things are kept simple and are made to feel special by messages which demonstrate an understanding of their needs (rather than get lost in complex language and jargon).

With that, I am going back to my storytelling and am looking forward to reading the Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury classic, “We’re going on a bear hunt” – a simple story with a clear direction and simple message.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’m interested in where economics, finance, politics and media overlap – and that’s here at JPES Partners!

Originally I studied science before briefly working as a civil servant, so I’ve always been interested in the facts ‘behind’ the news. After that I found myself more interested in where the real decisions often seemed to take place, which is a matter of media and debate and communications in some form.

In my current role as Head of Data and Insights, I can pursue both my research specialism, and then alongside my colleagues, apply those insights to campaigns.

 

How have you found the return to the office over the last few months?

First of all, it’s been great to meet some new colleagues in person for the first time!

It’s also wonderful to have a chance to discuss, teach and learn about other specialisms in the relaxed and friendly environment of our offices. I still don’t always like the return to commuting – but as soon as I’m back through our familiar front door (and properly caffeinated) the company of the JPES family can overcome the stress of that rail journey in a minute, which probably says a lot about how much I love our team.

 

What areas or trends interest you the most at this time?

Climate should still be at the top of everyone’s agenda. I hope to draw my state pension on time in 2058 and I hope there’s an economy and an atmosphere worth living in by then. In the words of one client expert, “you can’t persuade water not to melt at zero degrees”, but we can persuade people to care about it and we must.

Complexity is another side to this, made all the more relevant by the recent outbreak of war in Europe. When do free markets end, when actual freedom ends? Are weapons sustainable? Are your clothes made by slave labour? Our job as good consultants is to ask clients for answers to these kinds of difficult questions – and help to explain the connection between your pension and a company, commodity, government or ecosystem. That’s difficult but if done well you’re on the right side.

Division is the third big trend I keep puzzling over. I’m just about old enough to remember when we could almost describe a unified national or international ‘news agenda’. But now the economy, internet and society are so much more fragmented. Division makes communication far more complicated – and far more important.

 

What do you do in your spare time?

I have two cats, one wife and about ten thousand constituents in my other role as a local Borough Councillor. So my evenings and weekends are usually spent either in the Council chamber or out and about at various local events.

If I ever get some real free time, I have been known to bake (see JPES Instagram for the occasional cake creation) or more realistically crash in front of the TV. There’s also about a hundred half-read books around the house, usually non-fiction but I have recently finished Hilary Mantel’s epic Thomas Cromwell series which is only ‘mostly’ fact-based and a masterpiece.

 

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I’ve also recently got into Kleptopia by Tom Burgis and it’s a real page-turner about the true story of unexplained wealth in London, America, Russia and beyond. Any book that a month ago might have been considered controversial, but is now scarily universal… is probably worth you reading too!

 

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the rest of the year

I want to spend more money on clothes and more time with friends and family. The lockdowns of past two years have been difficult, but hopefully this summer can be a good opportunity to catch-up with loved ones and make up for lost time.

Time and time again, we have all seen examples of companies (and, in some cases, governments) seemingly getting their wires crossed, releasing contradictory statements, and generally making a bit of a mess of their external comms. Whether you’re a consumer or a pension scheme trustee, no one likes being told one thing one day, and then another thing the next without good reason.

If speed isn’t everything, what is?

Anyone who has ever been media trained by me (and there are a few of you!) will know that I always stress the importance of preparation. And why should communications on a company scale be any different? The same pitfalls that apply to an individual not preparing ahead of a media engagement exist for companies, albeit on a far larger scale.

One criticism I often have of business’ communications practices is that it is often clear various channels are not aligned. Haven’t we all seen instances of a CEO being critical of a certain asset class in the media, while the business has promoted that very same asset class in ads splashed across the internet? Or perhaps a fund manager reassuring the media that all is well, only to have their letter to clients leaked to the media which essentially says “Oops. That didn’t exactly go to plan.”

In the grand scheme of things, these examples may be considered by external onlookers as relatively minor, if entirely preventable, snafus. So, what about when something really important happens? Take for example, the war in Ukraine. Asset managers have been keen to fly the ESG flag in recent years, but events over the last few weeks have the industry wondering if it’s been looking at the topic in quite the right way, and whether a significant rethink is required. Here we have seen many businesses hesitating. After all, it isn’t just a matter of greenwashing – people’s lives are at stake, and if a business wants to criticise Russia while simultaneously holding Russian state-backed securities, it’s seen as being hypocritical at best, and immoral at worst.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Businesses that are looking to assert themselves as leaders on a topic often hit the media earlier than others, but those who do so successfully, are only able to by preparing in advance. How could one prepare for a situation such as Ukraine, some might ask? And herein lies the difference between the ESG wheat and chaff.

A true ESG leader does not look at issues of this type in isolation; they have already engaged in a large-scale ESG integration plan which has looked at key issues in great depth, and have a clear understanding of how it affects each of its asset classes and how it conducts business (preferably with case studies available to give tangible examples of what it is doing).

It’s not just about making sure the PR team has shared its key messages or reactive Q&A document with other teams. It’s about driving the agenda from the top, and getting key stakeholders and decision makers in a room regularly to discuss key topics, such as (but not limited to):

  • Is the current model of ESG fit for purpose? If not, how does the industry need to change and where does out business fit?
  • How can our business be advocates for change, not just withing the scope of our own investments, but more broadly across the industry?
  • Where does our business draw the line between engagement and divestment?

More specifically, within these questions there are deeper questions, such as:

  • Is what we deem to be “ESG friendly” correct?
  • Where are the fatal flaws in the current ESG framework?
  • Where are the (next) ESG risks to look out for?

 

Make no mistake, these are difficult questions to answer. And, crucially, it’s okay to not have all the answers, but it is essential that a business continues to challenge itself – because the media certainly will.

The last two years have brought numerous unforeseen events that, in their own ways, have really shaken society.  By no means will these events be the last global shocks that we see in our lifetimes. Businesses must therefore learn from the experiences of navigating these issues or, rightly, risk being questioned and criticised by stakeholders.

In the first of our Urban Capital podcast series, Dr Walter Boettcher –  Head of Research and Forecasting at international property consultants, Colliers –  talks about how cities are emerging from the pandemic and what the future holds for them.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Duncan Lamb, Walter reflects on the seemingly unstoppable trend towards urbanisation, his own experience as a private landlord and why the asset classification ‘Other’ may be where investor value can be found.

 

 

 

 

It certainly doesn’t feel like the first time we as a nation have reached the end of the pandemic, only for a new challenge to present itself such as the rise of the Omicron variant late last year.

But aside from the fears, the latest developments will give many people hope that the coming months may see a return to some kind of normality.

Be it in our personal, family, or work lives, adaptability has been key since the start of the pandemic. Technology has played a huge role here, and has allowed us to communicate with colleagues and loved ones in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. In 2019, Zoom’s average daily meeting participant figures were around 10 million. By the end of 2020, that average daily figure had increased to 350 million. There was a huge communications gap created by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but video conferencing services stepped in to fill the void and keep us connected.

In a professional capacity this has also brought efficiencies for many. An investment manager recently noted that virtual meetings have allowed them to interact with the management team of a company it had invested in, and extract the required details without having to travel across the world to speak in-person. Journalists have also expressed their satisfaction with the increased flexibility that virtual meetings and events have provided, particularly under the pressures of impending editorial deadlines.

That said, it does seem that fatigue with virtual meetings has crept in over the last year. While most would acknowledge that video conferencing services have been crucial to ensure business plans stay on track over the last two years, the flexibility of taking a meeting from home has meant for many that they spend their days in back-to-back calls.

As such, with the lifting of restrictions in the UK, 2022 may finally provide a platform for hybrid working to truly come into force after so many false starts in the last year. While many have already returned to offices, in-person meetings and interviews may start to become slightly more common over the next few months. This will also bring with it new opportunities, and the chance to further build relationships with industry peers that have been confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or similar platforms for the last two years.

From a personal perspective, virtual media interviews and events have worked really well, and it seems a safe bet they will continue to play a major role in media relations for the foreseeable future. However, the chance to shake someone’s hand (or tap elbows as was suggested at the height of the pandemic) cannot be replicated online, nor can the more informal conversations had before and after meetings. Similarly, there seems to be a greater degree of spontaneity in in-person meetings, and something that we have perhaps missed out on over the last few years.

Humans are social creatures and hopefully the ability integrate in-person elements into the working environment will allow us to learn more from each other and gain a great understanding of each other.

JPES Partners’ 2021 Asset Management Trends Report outlined that 91% of communications professionals from asset management firms believe hybrid/remote is here to stay, and this should be seen as a positive. It should mean we can continue to make use of the efficiencies gained throughout the pandemic, and work ‘smarter’ as opposed to harder.

 

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’m certainly one example of the many different backgrounds we have at JPES Partners!  Fresh out of university with a bachelors’ degree in Economics and Finance I joined one of the major television networks in New Zealand. After three years I brought in several innovations including a ground-breaking Market Analysis Division, providing a unique market perspective. In terms of communications, my calling for this industry was my excitement for JPES’ business initiative developing a data & business intelligence division. I enjoy learning about the impact communications strategy has on the bottom line and business profile, and bridging this with data to  enhance strategy.

 

How have you found the return to the office over the last few months?

I’m based very nearby to the office, meaning that luckily travel has never been an issue for me during the pandemic. Having expressed desire to not work from home, I was lucky to return to the office earlier than most this year and found this really helpful in separating my work life from my social life. I totally enjoyed the return of the team, and this definitely crystallised the shortcomings of virtual working – even if this is to play a significant role moving forwards.

 

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

From the daily dose of financial news headlines, I am very interested in ESG, particularly the issue of “greenwashing”. In my opinion, there is a lack of regulatory oversight on what markets do best: measurement. Until the day the financial, environmental, and social impact can be accurately measured, the inertia of greenwashing continues. I’m interested in how financial institutions will react or change their participation in the market after actions made (if any) by regulatory bodies.

 

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a huge fan of travelling, which provides me with an opportunity to absorb a foreign culture and add amazing stories to my already full cache. My most recent trip was a road trip with my mate James from Riga Latvia to Gdansk Poland. Nearly 2000 kms over 6 days. Poland has many hidden gems of wonder and rich culture. Highlights were staying overnight in a castle 800 years old, Wolf’s Lair, and the food!

I also enjoy my commitment to following the US political landscape through news channels, twitter and TV shows.

 

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

Having quirky tastes, I got into the Radio Diaries (a.k.a Teenage Diaries) podcast which interviews interesting personalities in the 1990s. The first episode was on the daily life of a man named ‘Josh’ who suffers with tourette syndrome. I found it riveting and learned a huge amount about the struggles and silver linings of his condition.

 

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

One major goal of mine is to roll out a social media coverage program to enable JPES to monitor each client’s social media footprint. You cannot just rely on traditional media to assess a communications strategy. Everybody is on social media, but is it beneficial or is it detrimental to our client’s brand?  Soon we will be able to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns and engagement, and to augment this datapoint to our client’s overall strategy.

 

 

 

 

Instead of sending Christmas cards this year, we held an online auction to support our chosen charity, Maggie’s. Many thanks again to everyone who bid in the auction. This enabled us to make a substantial donation to the charity on your behalf.

With a team of Support Specialists, Psychologists and Benefits Advisors play, Maggie’s provides free support and information to cancer sufferers and their families from both its centres across the UK and online.

For more information, please visit https://www.maggies.org/.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

Like many people, I went to university unsure of what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I dabbled in a few sectors through internships, but it wasn’t until I interned with a communications consultancy that I found something that felt right for me.

Communications in financial services presents its own specific challenges depending on what you’re trying to say, which audience you are trying to speak to and how you actually reach them. The way we communicate with each other is constantly evolving, which means that we as communications professionals are always learning and adapting. The discipline has already changed a fair bit since I started my career!

 

How have you found the return to the office over the last few months?

I’ve always seen the benefits of the occasional day of working from home, though, like everyone else, I never expected it to become a (temporary) full-time affair! The time and energy saved from not commuting leaves space for greater work/life balance, whether that means having more time to cook dinner, exercise, or to self-study.

That being said, there is nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients, so I enjoy having the flexibility to work from both home and the office. As great as technology is in allowing us to keep in touch via video calls, nothing beats being able to spontaneously start conversations with colleagues. Being in the office also enables us to organically learn from each other ideas constantly being bounced around.

 

What areas or trends interest you the most at this time?

The world of pensions is a passion of mine, whether it’s from a consumer perspective, or that of an asset manager or asset owner. In fact, in 2019 I joined NextGen, the industry body which promotes new talent in pensions, and I sit on its media and comms subcommittee.

The future of pensions is really exciting. Many workers today will never experience DB schemes and therefore need to be more engaged with their savings and investments. Moreover, we are seeing a large drive from this group towards sustainability as climate change concerns grow. Meanwhile, trustee boards are evolving to become more representative of their scheme’s members, and the industry itself needs to continue improving on diversity and inclusion.

All of these themes, and more, need to be communicated in a compelling way and through channels that aim to reach all target audiences. Just as the industry itself is changing, the way it communicates must develop too.

 

What do you do in your spare time?

Outside of work I’ll often hit the “rock gym”. When things started opening back up again some friends and I took up bouldering (indoor rock climbing). It’s a really challenging sport where you not only have to have the physical strength and flexibility to climb and the mental fortitude to push through the fear of falling, but it’s also a bit of a puzzle to figure out the best route to the top.

While you climb solo, it’s often a collaborative process and it’s great to work with others on a tricky climb, trying ideas for routes and techniques.

 

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I picked up the reading bug again ever since I read “Pandora’s Jar” by Natalie Haynes which questions how women were treated in Greek mythology, for example, does Pandora really deserve the blame for what happens with the jar? (It’s not a box in the earliest versions of the story as it turns out…)

More recently, I adored reading “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller, which explores the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in an interesting retelling of Homer’s “Iliad”.

Greek mythology has captured my imagination since childhood and it’s always fascinating to see how these stories have persisted over the millennia, and how they evolve with new iterations.

Tip: If anyone reading is looking for a light-hearted, fun podcast on Greek and Roman mythology, I recommend “Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby”.

 

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the rest of the year

Earlier this year I started learning Japanese with an online tutor. As a linguist, I find learning languages a rich and rewarding experience – it’s particularly gratifying when you can start to understand things without subtitles! Taking the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has not been possible due to the pandemic, but it’s something that I would like to pursue later, so I’ll be working towards that.

Languages are extremely useful in our line of work, and I regularly use French to speak with media contacts in the French-speaking world. Who knows, perhaps I’ll start speaking to the Japanese media and/or clients too!

 

 

From politics to cooking, there is a niche topic for everyone – and yes, there are even plenty of podcasts on investing. Podcasts have steadily become an important and highly sought-after form of media.

But with thousands of podcasts already out there, why is it important for investment managers to jump on this particular trend?

Clients ultimately want to hear direct from their managers. As such, podcasts can help address some key content challenges asset managers face. In our recent Asset Managers Trends report, we noted that, while the volume of content produced by investment firms has gone down across the board since the pandemic, managers still plan to produce a plethora of material going forwards: 68% of managers expect to produce the same amount of content in 2022 as they did in 2021, with the largest firms on average churning out 21 pieces per month.

There’s no question that content is extremely important to keep clients informed, but podcasts can help to distil messages and break down that still-looming wall of content. But how?

  1. Content is too long: In his recent Readability Report, The Limitation Game, David Butcher found that investment thought leadership pieces are comprised of, on average, 1,782 words., That is nearly three times longer than that of a typical media article. This is, Butcher notes, too long and likely too complex. The podcast format, which forces you to talk through and explain specific concepts, helps to focus on the key elements. Podcasts aren’t about reading through a whitepaper. They’re about having a pinpointed conversation and educating audiences on what is most important for them to understand and think about.
  2. Audiences are time-poor: When speaking with clients, it shouldn’t take much more than a 10-minute conversation to get the main points of any whitepaper across. Conveniently, some of the best podcasts are 10 to 15 minutes long. While audiences may not be able to take the time to read a 20-page paper during their commute, they can listen to a short, engaging podcast that digests the key takeaways for them. They end the podcast more informed, their interest peaked and with any luck, eager to engage and find out more.
  3. Third-party endorsement: Podcasts are more fun and easier to listen to when there are a few different voices chatting through a topic. It brings personality and depth. It also allows for outside voices to shed light on new tangential ideas. Podcasts allow for dialogue – and having a second or third voice coming from a different perspective will help audiences understand ideas more fully from multiple angles.

Podcasts are part of the vast and growing avenues to get messaging across. Done correctly, they are an excellent addition to any asset manager’s communication toolbox and can help further synthesise ideas for an ever-growing and changing audience.

The Air That We Breathe report, explores how the issue of air quality is impacting the UK property sector; reports on research which shows how attitudes to the quality of the air that we breathe have changed substantially following the Covid-19 pandemic; and looks at what this means for property asset management and occupier engagement.

Stephen Collins, who authored the research, comments: “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) poses an undeniable threat to the long-term success of commercial buildings. This report seeks to highlight the scale of the problem, and where the real estate industry is in response to this”.

For more information, or to get a copy of the report, please contact stephen.collins@jpespartners.com