Armada Funds has installed a small television studio on its trading room floor in an effort to make its portfolio managers more available for live interviews on the likes of CNBC, Bloomberg and other financial news programs.

The simple studio, which includes a camera and satellite hook-up, cost slightly less than $50,000 said, Ann Whalen, Armada Funds' director of marketing. It was used for the first time last week when Dan Bandi, director of the value team for Armada Funds' adviser, National City Investment Management Co., appeared on Bloomberg.

Reducing Expenses

An increasing number of fund companies are installing such studios to cut down on travel time and expense when they do interviews on financial news networks, said Dan Sondhelm, whose company SunStar, based in Alexandria, Va., handles publicity for Armada.

Bank One is installing a new studio. And John Hancock and Legg Mason both use them as well, Sondhelm said. Fund companies are using the studios to promote their funds and communicate with investors during volatile markets, he said.

"With the cutting of advertising budgets, these fund companies want to take advantage of these opportunities when a reporter calls," he said. "They want to build the confidence in their investors and the way to do that is getting out and talking to them."

Armada Who?

In years past, Armada Funds has had virtually no presence on television, Whalen said. Then the company hired SunStar to train its portfolio managers to appear on television. The idea, Whalen said, was to make staff more confident so they could adroitly deliver authoritative presentations on live TV.

Since then, managers have made roughly two-dozen appearances on the programs, she said. With the installation of an in-house studio, Whalen hopes to more than double that number.

It's a simple matter of making investors more aware of the company's brand, she said. "The more informed our clients are on our funds, the more confidence they'll have with the funds themselves."

Armada's camera is installed at National City Investment Management in Cleveland, where Armada is based. That means National City's staff, as well as the Armada staff, can use the equipment. The companies pay a flat, monthly rate for satellite time, which costs about $2,000, Whalen said.

"It's a simple unit," she said. "It's easy to use."

J.T. Tuskan, who handles public relations for Pittsburg-based Federated Investors, installed a television camera in its trading room roughly three years ago. The investment seemed an attractive option for the company because portfolio managers needed either to fly to New York or jaunt across town to use a studio for such appearances, he said.

The camera is located in the company's trading room, instead of an office or conference room, because networks "ask that the shot show some action of investment activities going on," he said. "It's a way of bringing Pittsburg to Wall Street."

Since installing the equipment, TV appearances by Federated's managers are up 50%, Tuskan said. "It has increased our overall visibility and branding," he said.

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