For more than a decade, hedge funds of every size and strategy have turned to Walek & Associates to look after their visibility, reputation and brand. From defining market positions to managing media visibility, taking charge in crisis situations, supporting portfolio holdings, improving investor outreach, safekeeping reputations and handling the rarefied needs of highly successful hedge fund executives, Walek & Associates has pioneered the design and execution of public relations campaigns to support the hedge fund industry.
Hedge funds were not always well served by PR. When Walek opened its doors in the late 1990s, hedge funds were by and large a boutique curiosity on the financial landscape. At that time, the PR that existed to support hedge fund organisations consisted primarily of overexposure for those that struck it big or an uninspired “no comment” from those who tried, in vain, to hide.
The spectacular, headline-grabbing collapse of Long Term Capital Management in 1998 ushered in a new era for hedge fund innovation, growth and influence. As part of this, hedge funds started to evolve as businesses – not just asset managers – and began to take steps toward embracing concepts such as marketing, branding, investor relations and visibility. Walek was there early on to guide this evolution.
As the inaugural winner in 2010 of the Hedgeweek award for Best Public Relations Firm, the web site’s readers said the Walek firm “really understands the hedge fund industry,” is “well-connected” and “delivers results.” That’s a far cry from the comments frequently heard when we started 12 years ago: “I didn’t know hedge funds had PR firms,” and “What would you ever do for a hedge fund?”
Today, hedge funds are an integral part of the global financial fabric. And along with that, they attract more attention, more scrutiny and more criticism than ever. As our latest Alternative View: 2009 Hedge Fund Media Survey revealed, last year was a record one for media use of the term ‘hedge fund’, which appeared in an average of 150 articles every day – more than 63,000 in total over the year.
The events that have occurred over the past two years underscore the necessity of clear and open communication between hedge funds, their investors and the broader market. But there remains much work to be done at an industry level as well as by fund managers, fund of funds firms and the professionals who serve them.
Our Alternative View report found that more than 80 per cent of media surveyed didn’t blame the global financial crisis on hedge funds and that the media still adhere to a long-held and unanimous belief that hedge fund managers are “smarter about the markets” than their retail mutual fund counterparts. However, the report also found that half of the professional journalists surveyed believe that hedge funds are not a safe investment.
The next generation of hedge fund leaders will be those that harness the power of the press as they expand into new strategies, new markets and new investor segments. As the industry continues to institutionalise and mature, Walek will guide that process globally with a continued focus on delivering knowledge, service and results to our clients.
Thomas Walek is president of Walek & Associates