In January, Franklin Templeton Investments rolled out an educational program to help advisers persuade their clients to get back into the stock market.
As the year approaches its end, David McSpadden, senior vice president of Global Advisory Services for Franklin Templeton, admits he’s a little surprised to find the program as relevant as ever.
“I definitely think skepticism remains around the market,” he said. “People are not comfortable around the economy, and that’s carrying into their approach towards the markets.”
Judging from mutual fund flow data, that’s true in spades. In September, stock funds posted outflows of $11.16 billion, after shedding $16.5 billion in August, according to the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry group.
Investors are still flocking to bond funds, which had inflows of $26.49 billion in September and $30.81 billion in August, according to the ICI.
Franklin Templeton’s 2020 Vision campaign makes the case for investing in equities in the decade ahead. It aims in part to focus investors on the market’s history of long-term growth. It is also designed to help correct misperceptions that many investors have about the stock market.
“We feel very pleased with the response we’ve gotten from advisers,” said McSpadden. “They’ve been very appreciative of the content, and feel it’s the right message for clients.”
One common misperception, turned up in a Franklin Templeton survey of 1,000 Americans earlier this year, is that the stock market was either down or flat in 2009: 66% of respondents held that view. In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually posted a gain for the year of 22.68%.
“We wanted to help reorient clients and provide a tool for financial advisers who were having those conversations with clients, said McSpadden.
Trying to persuade investors to return to the stock market is not an easy task, says Alois Pirker, senior analyst with Boston-based research firm Aite Group, LLC.
“With the uncertainty that the market is projecting, consumers are saying, “I don’t know where the market is heading,” he said. “To a fair degree, you have to say they’re right.”
Investors’ hesitancy has been a drag on revenue for everyone from brokers to mutual fund companies, he noted.
“It’s definitely one of the big issues the industry is facing,” he said. “Business has been way down, and the results have really shown in the last two quarters.”
Franklin Templeton’s wholesalers have made 2020 Vision presentations to financial advisers, and joined them for presentations to clients. The company has distributed more than 320,000 brochures for advisers to give clients.
And it’s made a range of content available online. Charts and interactive graphics are used to make the case for equities over the next decade. That case consists of five points—that the market rises over time despite volatility; that investment opportunities around the world are growing; that innovative companies will present new growth opportunities; that quality companies will thrive during a recovery, and that equities are a hedge against inflation.
Interactive quizzes are sprinkled throughout the content. One asks which of the following companies were founded during a recession—IBM, Disney, Microsoft and McDonald’s. The answer? All of them.
“A number of advisers like to have that available and ready,” said McSpadden. “They like the interactive nature of it and how it lets clients play a guessing game.”
It’s impossible to gauge the extent to which the 2020 Campaign has succeeded in getting investors comfortable with the stock market. But the trend for Franklin Templeton appears encouraging. As of September 30, equity assets comprised 43% of the company’s total assets under management of $644.9 billion, according to the company. That was up from 41% on June 30, but still below the 47% mark of Sept. 30, 2009.
At the same time, Franklin Templeton’s fixed-income assets declined slightly on a percentage basis. They accounted for 39% of total assets under management on September 30, compared with 40% on June 30. But they remain above the 33% level of September 30, 2009.
Still, there’s clearly a ways to go in winning investor hearts and minds, said McSpadden. “Anecdotally,” he said, “I have heard from financial advisers that they are more optimistic than their clients in general.”