Five stages of grief

I hate to go all morose and contrarian on another “up” day in the markets, but …

Jerome Booth, research director of London-based emerging markets specialist Ashmore Investment Management, makes an interesting point in a Sept. 14 Financial Times column. He posits that global markets are moving, slogging really, through the classic five stages of grief. When we lose a loved one, we follow a pattern described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as the five-step model of grief: denial … anger … bargaining … depression … and, finally, acceptance.

Booth applies this to global markets.

As investor relations people making our rounds with investors, we might probe what stage the patient is in, on any particular day, before launching into our story.

What has died, Booth writes, is our complacence in using debt to meet all needs:

Western Europe and the US now face years of painful deleveraging. The loss they feel is the death of the levered model enabling them to live beyond their means, plus a loss of prestige as their economic models have failed.

As an EM guy, Booth says we’ll have to adjust to kowtowing a bit to emerging markets. In the West right now, he writes, we’re in denial:

When faced with a truly awful prospect we explore and then cling to any theory or hope that reality may be different. Even where political leaders understand the immensity of their loss, the denial of their electorates constrains their action.

There are examples of anger – riots in Greece and other nations over economics. And of bargaining to delay unpleasant consequences or sweep them under the rug. Still ahead, perhaps, is the loss of hope a patient feels as depression. And we haven’t seen many signs yet that our leaders – or we the people – have moved on to acceptance of realities so we can deal with what needs to be done.

All this is very global and “macro,” but let’s think about how it applies to IR messages about the businesses we speak for:

  • Above all, are we helping our management teams to avoid living in denial?
  • In offering forward-looking views to investors, do we spell out assumptions on the economic factors that drive our particular businesses?
  • Do we explain how we plan to perform if the economy stays weak for a long time, vs. signing onto consensus hopes for recovery in H2, or H1 2012, or  … ?
  • When our stock is beaten-down, do we listen to see if the investor on the line is in the anger stage or depression – or maybe in a place to hear reality and look forward to ways out of the doldrums?
  • Do we deal with debt and balance sheet metrics, including strategies for managing the balance sheet, in a way that helps investors understand?

Just a handful of thought-starters. I’m not arguing where investors’ sentiment should be – just saying IR people need to pay attention to where it is.

Mainly, I appreciate Booth’s wry insight into the psychology of today’s happy-nervous-elated-terrified-optimistic-not so sure-ever mercurial stock market. I’d love to hear your reactions.

© 2011 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: