Fiduciary Trust Co. in Boston is hoping a high-profile ad campaign will help burnish its image as more than just a venerable old trust company.
Featuring photographs of a guitar, a timepiece and wine being poured, the three ads began appearing three months ago in a host of publications, including regional editions of Fortune, Forbes and other high-profile, glossy magazines. It's the first time the company has advertised in such media.
"Over the past 10 years, we've gone from a handful of asset classes to 14, and we've embraced open architecture," said Randy Kinard, vice president and chairman of the marketing committee at the 125-year-old Fiduciary Trust, which has $9.5 billion of assets under supervision. "If a person didn't know us, they might not know we are as cutting edge as we are."
The ads come at a time when wealth management advertising has begun to pick up, said Jerry Cooper, an adviser and client relationship manager with Advisors Institutional Services, a trust consultancy. That includes advertising from larger rivals of Fiduciary Trust, he said.
Fiduciary Trust is not running its ads in an attempt to play catch-up with rivals, Kinard said. The past two years have been the company's best ever in terms of new business, and client retention is at 98%, he said.
But Kinard did say Fiduciary Trust has an opportunity to grow faster.
Before hiring Stackpole & Partners Advertising of Newburyport, Mass., a year ago, Fiduciary Trust found through research that people in its target market thought well of it, but some were unaware of its polished approach to investing.
Fiduciary Trust not only has lots of investment options but thinks in a sophisticated way about things like asset correlation and the safest way to drawdown funds from portfolios, Kinard said.
The gap between that reality and the perceptions of some survey respondents suggests that being a long-established trust company may have its pros and cons.
"In this business, it's great to have helped families for generations," Kinard said.
"You just have to make sure you're talking about that cutting-edge investment piece that allows you to stand toe-to-toe with anybody."
Cooper said old financial companies must beware of letting their age dictate their image.
"There's no guarantee that if you've been around for 100 years that you know what you're doing," he said.
"You could be old and staid, stuck in your habits and in your comfort zone."
Fiduciary Trust's ads use images that are meant to stand out against the cliched ones that trust companies and wealth management firms often use, said Trev Stair, creative director of Stackpole.
"The point of the ads is to present something a little unexpected so readers are intrigued enough to read the rest of the ad," he said.
Fiduciary Trust had to be especially thoughtful about the ads because it does not have the kind of budget that bigger rivals do. It decided, for instance, not to allude to missteps of certain rivals over the past few years, Kinard said.
Those sorts of ads have become something of a staple in the wake of the banking crisis. But Fiduciary Trust felt that pointing to rivals' weaknesses would require additional ads underlining its own strengths. So it decided to focus just on its own qualities, Kinard said.
For an independent trust company in the midst of giants, maintaining visibility is important in itself, said Kelly Shea Knowles, account supervisor at Stackpole.
"If your advertising doesn't capture attention and differentiate, it is easy to be drowned out," she said.
The emphasis on magazines in Fiduciary Trust's current ad campaign is based in part on the company's belief that readers spend more time with magazines than with newspapers, and they tend to get passed around to friends and colleagues as well.
If Fiduciary Trust's hopes pan out, its ads, which are also running on several media and financial-oriented websites, will play out in multiple ways.
Potential clients will follow up, perhaps with visits to the company's website.
And prospects, as well as attorneys, accountants and other influential figures, will become more aware of the company and its capabilities.
While the ads' text is meant to describe Fiduciary Trust's approach and capabilities, the photos, Kinard hopes, will convey more than just the idea of craftsmanship.
The guitar, for instance, could suggest retiring early and learning to play an instrument. Or it could bring to mind tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert, or a trip to Spain to see flamenco dancers, he said.