After being burned by the bear market and an ugly mutual fund scandal uncovered at some of its funds, Putnam Investments is trying to resurrect its damaged reputation.
The fund giant is going all out to tell investors that it is serious about change through a major ad push. From National Public Radio to shows like "Face the Nation," Putnam's "face of responsible investing" ads are everywhere.
Bombarding investors with ads is a striking departure from Putnam's preferred method of selling its funds to well-heeled investors through advisers, according to MarketWatch. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and Putnam advisers were the ones who, reportedly, pushed management to take their message to the airwaves, said Putnam managing partner, Gordon Forrester. "[Advisers] said: 'Tell people who you are and what you stand for. Tell people you have a well-known name and legacy'" Forrester said.
The eighth-biggest fund company in the nation has suffered massive outflows of more than $70 billion ever since New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer unearthed improper trading practices at its funds. Today, Putnam has $140 billion in assets under management.
Putnam's rationale behind flooding the market with "face of responsible investing" ads is clear, analysts say: to curb asset outflows. "These ads are mostly about Putnam securing its asset base," said Morningstar analyst Dan McNeela. "On a net basis, they are losing money month by month, and the general investor community is saying, 'I have no reason to go to Putnam to invest my money' or, 'I have no reason to stay with Putnam any more.'"
While it remains to be seen how effective the ads are in retaining and attracting investors, Putnam's task is, by no means, simple. The company still has a lot of convincing to do. According to the 2004 annual report of its parent, Marsh & McLennan Cos., the fund company is still undergoing investigations and legal challenges.
Even the messages sent out in its ads have been confusing. One ad, for instance, touts the company's team management approach, at a time when there has been major shuffling of top managers at two of its highest-profile funds, Voyager and Growth Opportunities.