Advisors form SRI marketing group

By Doug Watt | June 20, 2005 | Last updated on June 20, 2005
3 min read

(June 20, 2005) A group of experienced advisors has set up a committee to help promote socially responsible investing to the retail investor.

The committee came out of an advisor workshop at last week’s Social Investment Organization conference in Toronto, says Sucheta Rajagopal, an SRI specialist with Hampton Securities.

The committee’s first priority will be marketing. “For those of us who’ve been doing this for a while, we felt that there’s lots of business out there, we just have to find better ways of getting it,” Rajagopal says.

One possibility is a joint advertising campaign, paid for by advisors who specialize in SRI.

“Because we are SRI advisors, we’re looking at targeting a specific group of people and that’s the problem with marketing that happens at our firms,” Rajagopal explains. “It’s oriented, for example, to people who play golf. I’m not saying that no-one who’s interested in SRI plays golf, but from our point of view, that’s not the first thing we want to target. We’re thinking more about groups that are interested in the environment or churches, because we see those as places where we have lots of prospects.”

As an example, she cites Canadian Geographic magazine, since every one of that publication’s readers is likely interested in the environment and would be open to an investing approach that looks at environmental concerns.

“For us as a group to take out a year’s worth of ads, that might be feasible, but for anyone of us, it would be prohibitively expensive.”

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“We want to grow our businesses individually, but we want to increase the visibility of SRI,” she adds. “And we think that some more comprehensive use of our marketing dollars and advertising budget will lead to that.”

Rajagopal says she’d like to see the SRI community as a whole agree on “one simple message that we can take out to everybody. Then we could also get the fund companies on board and do some joint marketing around that message.”

Still, that’s a long way down the road, she concedes, and even a national advisor advertising campaign is not without its challenges.

“One of our issues is compliance because we have multiple regulators” she says. “Then you’ve got advertising that has to be approved by all our compliance departments and the securities regulators.”

The committee is also looking at other potential projects, such as creating resources that fundcos can use with their advisors to help them develop a “comfort level” with SRI.

“We are uniquely positioned to do that, because we’ve already addressed the challenges of building an SRI book and getting investors to buy SRI funds. There’s a natural hesitation on the part of advisors to deal with products they don’t know enough about it.”

“The fund companies have to provide advisor education,” she adds. “And hopefully we can create something they can use. And I think the fund companies are open to this, so that’s very positive.”

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