JPMorgan Investor Services of New York has begun publishing a magazine, aimed primarily at current and prospective institutional clients, designed to show off the firm's risk management, distribution and technology skills.

Now in its second issue, Thought, a semi-annual magazine published by the firm's marketing staff, has grown to a readership of 17,000, executives say. Thought's primary readers are executives at investment management firms.

The full-color glossy is stylishly designed with a look more akin to a youthful Internet firm's Web site than a quarterly report. The most recent issue features stories about JPMorgan's European fund business, crisis management and new technology. It also includes interviews with consultants and JPMorgan executives. In sum, the publication is a 30-page JPMorgan brochure disguised as a consumer magazine.

"It's no secret that we want to use Thought to support our sales effort, but the magazine's approach is subtle," said Christa Poston, a marketing executive with JPMorgan's investor services unit.

Showing Expertise

Marketing consultants say that such magazines are a good way to show off all of the knowledge collected under the roof of a fund company or back-office firm.

"These investment houses are nothing if not content experts," said Geraldine Leder, president of Ledermark Communications, a Baltimore marketing firm. "With all that content in house, these magazines can do a lot."

The publications typically feature stories on a broad array of investment-related topics, including asset-allocation issues, retirement planning, new tax laws and estate planning, marketing executives said.

And demand for financial magazines has increased sharply in the past 10 years, said Leder, who now encourages her clients to develop such in-house products. "There clearly is an appetite for them," she said.

The idea of a company publishing its own magazine to promote itself originated more than two decades ago with accounting and consulting firms such as Lehman Bros. and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, both of New York, said John Picard, a principal at the Murray Hill, N.J., marketing firm Picard & Co.

Since then, Fidelity Investments of Boston has become known as a major publisher of client-targeted publications. The firm claims to be the first mutual fund firm to publish such a magazine. It now publishes around seven of them, all targeted at clients, including its two most prominent, Focus and Outlook. The firm declined to disclose circulation numbers, but it said surveys show that 92% of Fidelity's clients say they read the magazines.

"Most of our clients are very self-directed, so they're learning continuously, and the publications that we produce are a really good resource for them," said Fidelity spokeswoman Jenny Engle.

An Institutional Strategy

Still, Picard, who published a newsletter for New York asset manager Sanford Bernstein in the early 1980s, said the publications are far more effective among institutional clients and large, back-office clients than with individual investors.

"Frankly, it's overkill," he said of magazines for the individual investor market. "It sits on the tabletop and it looks nice and it doesn't get read."

But magazines targeted at a fund complex's institutional clients can demonstrate that the firm "knows what [a client's] problems are," Picard said.

In fact, Picard said relatively new publishing technology makes it easier for firms to customize content for various geographic regions or even individual clients. It is possible, he said, to create a dialogue via these publications that helps to form close ties between firms and their clients.

Magazines vs. Advertising

Indeed, consultants said that the magazines perform a different role than the standard fund company advertisements that run in such publications as The Wall Street Journal. Leder said the magazines are most effective as a way to retain current clients rather than to gain new ones.

And compared to more traditional advertising, JPMorgan's Poston said the magazine is a "very cost-effective way to reach clients. You're guaranteed the appropriate target reach. With advertising you're looking at various publications; you're not guaranteed that they're on the desk being read by your client base." She declined to cite specific costs for publishing Thought.

JPMorgan's marketing department came up with the idea for Thought in October because it wanted to show clients that the company was more than just a fund custodian.

The firm wanted to show off its technology, risk management and other skills throughout the world, and establish itself in the minds of prospective clients as a trustworthy consultant.

By January, the firm had its first issue of Thought rolling off the presses. The cover featured Nobel Laureate and Columbia Business School Professor Robert Mundell.

Some of Thought's articles are targeted at particularly seasoned executives, Poston said. Stories about T+1 technology or "implementation shortfall" are complex, she said, but she added that the firm tries to explain the issues clearly so that clients know what they're up against when it comes to handling back-office issues.

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