Social media on the buy side: To post or not to post?
While companies such as BASF, Intel and Hays have embraced social media as part of their IR program, a majority of IROs have chosen to shun such channels altogether. According to a recent survey by Citigate, only 12 percent of companies use them to engage in dialogue with the investment community, reportedly due to lack of investor interest.
At London-based investment firm BlueBay Asset Management, however, social media is viewed as a helpful asset, not only from a marketing aspect, but also as an investment-screening tool, says head of communications and brand Jayne Fieldhouse. ‘Our investment team uses it to scan and follow policy makers or news flow,’ she explains. ‘The team can digest information more quickly this way than with other traditional sources of news.’
While the firm is very good at pulling useful information in, the current policy for its employees working outside of marketing is read-only access. ‘At the moment we don’t allow people to proactively post on social media,’ Fieldhouse says, citing her key concern of remaining regulation-compliant.
Current interpretation of SEC regulation is that liking something on social media can be considered an endorsement. ‘That’s what we’re trying to get more comfortable about,’ Fieldhouse continues. ‘If a portfolio manager likes one of our posts that we put out on a brand level, is that problematic? Ultimately the answer may be no, as long as everybody’s got full training on what the impact of liking something means.
‘It’s in active discussion and we’re looking further afield at some of the monitoring tools we need to put in place to allow people to actively push out content on social media.’
Timothy Ash, senior sovereign strategist in BlueBay’s emerging markets debt team, has historically been a keen user of Twitter and has continued to post actively after joining the fund house from Nomura last January. ‘Tim obviously uses social media to push out his views on policies, investments or countries, but we use this at a marketing level as well,’ Fieldhouse says, adding that Ash’s activity is ‘more at a personal level’.
The investment management firm also uses in-house views in distribution channels such as LinkedIn, posting out a weekly letter by co-head of investment grade debt Mark Dowding, which has proven popular. But BlueBay’s CEO isn’t expected to join the list of highly vocal buy-side leaders who are omnipresent on social media – think Pimco founder Bill Gross or DoubleLine Capital’s Jeff Gundlach – anytime soon.
‘BlueBay doesn’t have a star culture mentality,’ Fieldhouse says. ‘We don’t want to pursue a presence on social media just to elevate one person’s ego.’ She adds that it would be more relevant for the firm’s portfolio managers to be active rather than the CEO, ‘depending on the subject. BlueBay doesn’t get heavily involved in industry debates. We’re a mid-sized firm so we tend to focus on talking about what we’re really good at than be part of a general debate.’
According to a study by Peregrine Communications on how asset managers use social media to raise their brand profile, 80 percent of investment management firms have a Twitter handle, with 60 percent posting daily. Surprisingly, however, YouTube may be a better pick: although only 9 percent of asset managers post there weekly, the video-sharing platform displays the highest rate of audience engagement at 58 percent, compared with 23 percent for Twitter.