Posts Tagged ‘Bear market IR’

Five stages of grief

September 15, 2011

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.

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It’s not about ‘flash crashes’

May 20, 2010

Well, that kind of day in the market takes your breath away!

The Dow down 3.6%, broader indices like S&P 500, NASDAQ or Russell 3000 off even more. Not much fun today in investor relations – or capital markets as a whole. We’re officially in “correction” territory now, though not a bear market.

The analysts, pundits and politicians will have much to say. Let me just offer this perspective: Life is about the long haul, not the “flash crashes.” I would suggest three applications of a long-term view:

  • The practice of IR has less to do with today’s market price – especially when your company is caught up in a market stampede, up or down – than it has to do with your company’s performance in the next year, or two, or five. Be energized and on top of everything, but keep your eye on the horizon.
  • Investing isn’t really about the short term, either – although some fortunes are no doubt gained or lost on days like today. Investing is still about putting money to work in businesses with the knowhow and guts to create value … long-term. The lemmings are charging headlong one direction or another, but the wiser heads will survive and even thrive in the long run.
  • Regulation of the markets shouldn’t be about a “flash,” either – whether it’s the May 6 “oops” market or the May 20 “we’re really worried” sell-off. Short sellers, or even trading glitches, don’t do much permanent damage – an economy full of fear does. The focus in Washington should be on fostering an environment that encourages the capital formation that, in turn, fuels economic growth. Flogging investment bankers or hauling fat-fingered traders before Congressional committees, while entertaining, doesn’t really help anyone. Ensuring an honest, free, liquid market that enables new and existing companies to raise capital should be the focus of legislation and regulation.

We live in a world dominated by instant media, politicians and analysts eager to jump in front of a TV camera, opinions driven by Internet chatter – so we see a lot of breathless proclamations of one instant “crisis” or another.

Let’s take the long view.

© 2010 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.