Miles Donohoe

We are now a decade on from the beginning of the global financial crisis, which started in July 2007 as the US sub-prime mortgage market was beginning to come to a head.

Ten years ago, I was in the newsroom as a journalist, fervently watching the news as Northern Rock coped with queues of customers outside its branches. There was little inkling then of the sheer magnitude of what was to unfold over the next 18 months.

A year later, and the infamous collapse of Lehman Brothers drove the stock market into meltdown with the Dow at one point falling by the largest amount in a single day for more than 30 years. Over the course of those 18 months (October 2007 – March 2009), the S&P 500 lost approximately half of its value.

Ten years on, and despite staggeringly low economic growth (across the developed world at least), we have witnessed a bull-run in equities that has continued for 8-years, the second-longest (for the S&P 500) in history. The longest bull-run started in October 1990 and ran until March 2000. In that time, the S&P 500 soared 417% followed by a 49% correction.

Rumblings from various quarters seem to suggest that investors should be braced for another correction. Certainly, the number of voices suggesting that a correction is overdue has been increasing in recent months, particularly in light of the recent bull-run (the US specifically) and the prospect of a global rate rising cycle.

The Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada have already embarked on tighter monetary policy. The market expects the European Central Bank to follow suit next year and the Bank of England won’t be far behind with the latest MPC minutes showing the committee was split 5-3 on raising rates.

Stories are already emerging about what this means for the bond market and whether recent decisions mean that central bankers have pulled the rug out from under the bond rally.

So, what does this mean for communications? When performance wobbles there can be a temptation to shut the doors and stop talking to the press or clients. However, it is arguably even more important to maintain an open line of communication during the difficult times.

Remaining clear and transparent and focusing messaging on the context of long-term performance is critical. Should there be a market correction, it is not indicative of a problem with the investment strategy itself, or the firm.

Just as we tell investors not to react emotionally when the markets turn, nor should managers seek to pull back just as their clients need them most. Regular, honest and clear communication is required if you seek to build lasting relationships with clients, and the media.

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