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Covid-19 Pushed the Envelope of Asset Manager Communications

Covid-19 Pushed the Envelope of Asset Manager Communications

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asset manager communications Brand Damaging Communications

As markets plummeted around us, with the S&P 500 hitting the bottom on March 23, it soon became clear that this would be a financial crisis like no other. Asset managers quickly realized that clients needed reassurance. That meant more frequent communication through the digital channels that were available. As a global PR agency that works with financial services companies, we have seen a complete overhaul of asset manager communications strategies in a matter of months – and some of those changes are here to stay, even after the pandemic subsides.

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Q2 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Going Remote

In an unprecedented move for the industry, most asset managers moved operations to offsite locations in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. For some, this temporarily involved relocating employees to offsite emergency offices based off decades-old crisis planning to relocate from urban centers. Some New York-headquartered asset managers, for instance, moved their traders to the small office spaces they acquired after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, scarred from memories of the days-long shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange and their own downtown Manhattan offices’ proximity to Ground Zero. It was easy to envisage a scenario where one office or region might be affected by a critical event, but not the whole world.

Within a couple of weeks, as the scale of the virus became apparent, most asset managers ended up with 100% of employees working from home. The hardest to relocate to a work-from-home environment were the traders. Bloomberg Terminals were rigged up in makeshift home offices. Some needed landlines installed and faster Internet speeds. There was a period of adjustment, which undoubtedly contributed to the slowdown of the markets. But, surprisingly, by mid-April most asset managers had the transition to work-from-home under their belts.

Many business leaders have reflected on how this would not have been possible five years ago – let alone a decade ago during the Great Financial Crisis. It’s not just software and apps like Slack and Zoom; the leaps made in cloud technology and bandwidth speeds made working remotely almost seamless.

The transition was so successful that investment managers around the world are prepared to allow remote work for an extended period, as we are all still waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine. Despite concerns from the UK government about the lack of business and foot traffic in London and other urban centers around Europe, firms like Standard Life Aberdeen have said that most staff will not be returning to the office until early next year. In Canada, Sun Life Financial has already declared that asset management and other professionals working out of its busy Toronto hub will not return to the office in 2020.

Reassuring Clients Came First

Volatility across asset classes and the complexity of Federal Reserve lending facilities that followed gave active managers the opportunity to prove the value of their expertise to institutional clients. Meanwhile, thousands of financial advisers would dial into daily calls held by some of the world’s largest money managers in search of simple breakdowns of what was happening in markets that day and how they could explain it to clients. The everyday investor planning for their own retirement needed reassurance as their 401(k) balances plummeted.

Appetite for content among investors was incredibly strong, with the evolving market and economic picture demanding timely and regular updates to thought leadership. White papers began to resemble news media itself, necessitating up-to-the-minute analysis explained in a clear, concise way. Even though the S&P had made up almost all its losses by June, clients had already forged new bonds with their money managers that have yet to sever.

Fuse Research Network surveyed more than 700 financial advisers across channels between April 17 and May 14, and 70% of those intermediaries said economic or market insights topped their wish list for value-add program topics from asset managers. The topic was followed by retirement income distribution and then estate and tax planning, illustrating how clients were in strong need of guidance on how to make sure they were financially secure and well-capitalized for the long haul.

As clients’ point-of-contact salespeople were also grounded in their own home offices, they stepped in as thought leaders and helped to ramp up digital communications. This period at home also gave more time to sift through mountains of marketing data within their firm’s CRM, making them better equipped to target new and prospective clients as due diligence meetings began happening over video calls.

Adoption Of Digital Mediums

The most striking aspect of this to us was the speed to which asset managers pivoted toward using new digital mediums. Firms that were cautious about videos and webcasts prior to the crisis quickly began filming client presentations and Q&As. Many increased out-put of client content, publishing updates on the markets on a weekly and even daily basis. Conference calls were abandoned in favor of video conferencing via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.

Because the timeliness and relevance of content was top of mind to clients, production value of multimedia content sometimes took a back seat. Videos that would have been carefully crafted by an external film crew in a studio instead were self-recorded on a smartphone or webcam. Everyone was operating under the same circumstances, so it was acceptable – and even more authentic.

The DIY nature of these videos allowed asset managers to advance in another key area of a communications strategy: Giving their spokespeople star power. Daily calls with different groups of clients were conducted by the same executive, giving investors regular access to a high-ranking official they would not have otherwise had as much contact with. Some firms played into the nature of the work from home environment, calling their webinars and podcasts “fireside chats” or “coffee talk at home.”

Value-add programs go well beyond podcasts and webinars with big ranges of clients, however. This borderless world of communication enables asset managers to offer innovative incentives to their clients. For instance, State Street Global Advisors offered clients video chats with legendary Duke University and Team USA basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, for mood-lifting chats about sports and helpful discussion about leadership tactics through adversity that they could use while managing their own employees.

Social media was equally interactive and took on an even more important role through the worst market volatility flare-ups. Tik Tok-style videos, just a few seconds in length, on one statistic about an asset class became regular fixtures of some asset managers’ Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Executives will tweet out just one chart to generate online discussion among investors. And on the personalized level, many money managers used social media as a tool to humanize themselves to clients and prospects. Sharing pictures of work-from-home set-ups and jokes about their children interrupting client calls in home offices became a regular part of the lexicon of a historically staid industry.

Media Visibility Counts

Apart from the content they were producing themselves, investors also wanted to see their money managers in the media. In the aforementioned Fuse survey, financial advisers expressed that they valued a firm’s expert opinions being featured in the media, such as Squawk Box or commentary in business publications, much more than they did in 2019. About 21% of advisers found this very effective in 2020 – a jump from 11% a year ago.

Video chats enabled executives to conduct broadcast interviews from their own offices rather than fly to television studios in financial hub cities like New York or Boston, making these media opportunities more accessible to asset managers headquartered anywhere and everywhere. At the same time, the sudden availability of executives to the media meant that reporters’ schedules filled up quickly at a time when the news cycle was in overdrive.

Asset Manager Communications: Here Do We Go From Here?

Some of these changes to asset manager communications will remain in place after the pandemic subsides. Now that most investors are comfortable with remote technology, there will be less need to travel to other office locations. Asset managers will still likely go in-person for finals presentations and quarterly meetings, but almost everything in-between will stay digital. These changes will fundamentally change the operations of these companies, the lives of the people that work for them, and the relationships with their clients.

As asset managers seek to reassure and sell to clients in this remote environment, the volume and nature communications is increasingly important. In the case of financial advisors, increased communication from fund groups proved helpful, as month after month, the Alight Solutions 401(k) Index proved that trades were few and far between and the average American was taking the long view that the financial services industry recommended.

This ramp-up in digital communication is not without risk, however. Cyber security has become more important than perhaps ever before. While Zoom rose to prominence at the beginning of the crisis as a favored means of video communication, the company has since faced challenges around user scrutiny of security features – or lack thereof – and a number of high-profile incidents of so-called Zoom-bombing.

To mitigate risks around the digital tools used to connect with clients and share their sensitive financial information, asset managers will have to regularly evaluate the technology they have licensed or are creating in-house. A strong crisis communications strategy is also absolutely crucial to safeguard the asset manager from compliance and reputational risk.

As they may be inclined to experiment with new technology, it’s important for asset managers to survey clients to see if their interactions with marketing, sales and investing teams are up to standard. Are all clients truly comfortable with the technology you are using? How can you better connect with them? What do they think is working and what do they need as this crisis continues to evolve?


About the Author

Montieth Illingworth is CEO and global managing partner of Montieth & Company, a global communications consultancy that advises the financial services industry.

The post Covid-19 Pushed the Envelope of Asset Manager Communications appeared first on ValueWalk.

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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