For Richard Heft of Ext. Marketing, breaking down complex economic data is his bread and butter. But even with that expertise, predicting where the Canadian economy may be headed is still a difficult pursuit.
“The widespread consensus to me is flat to tepid growth. So it’s not the apocalypse but it is slow,” he says.
The president and founder of Ext. Marketing, Heft founded the firm alongside partner Jillian Bannister in 2010 after realizing that a massive window of opportunity lay open for someone with his background in finance and communications.
“We started the company to service the financial services sector from a marketing and communications standpoint,” he says. Our business was split into two services: basic marketing and communications and portfolio manager commentaries.”
After deciding what the firm would be and who it would serve, the next step was finding the right personnel to ensure Ext. Marketing could fulfill its MO. This was a crucial part in the process, according to the company’s president.
“For the marketing and communications side, we have a team here of some of the best writers, editors, graphic designers, web designers, print production people and even translators,” he says. “We are building what we consider our dream team and clients come to us to create blogs, websites, microsites, Powerpoint presentations, sales tools, e-blasts and video.”
The other side of the Ext. Marketing coin is with its specialized portfolio manager commentaries. Both sides of the business share equal importance and the firm has become renowned for its speed and efficiency in turning around a huge amount of content.
“The portfolio manager commentaries are monthly, quarterly or for MRFPs, says Heft. “We request the information from the managers and make sure the information goes through the full approval process.”
He continues: “Portfolio managers need to produce these commentaries, either from a marketing or a regulatory standpoint. They include macro information and also attribution for what contributed or detracted from performance. We offer the insight about shares and trading activity.”
When dealing with the markets, the pace of change is rapid, so reporting and writing about those changes comes with considerable pressure. This pressure is where Heft saw an opportunity to start a business, and it continues to expand to this day because of it.
“I knew for MRFPs, but also for monthly and quarterly reports, it’s a lot of work in a short period of time,” he says. “A bank or a mutual fund company many have a couple of writers, but if you have 100 commentaries to have finished in a couple of days then you can’t do it in-house. So we became the premier company providing this service. Our clients are global and in January we produced over 1,000 commentaries.”
Quite the output, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept abreast with the wider financial stories of the past while. Last week’s releases by Statistics Canada, the OECD and the IMF were quite a shock to the system for those of a more optimistic persuasion regarding the economy. The IMF’s statement regarding Canada’s personal debt and housing bubble was particularly jarring. Despite the overheated property market, for Ext. Marketing’s president, the likelihood of a rate hike is still some way off.
“People are clearly willing to spend, the question is if it is in everyone’s best interests,” he says. “The government won’t want to hike interest rates so they will probably use other levers. Having higher down payments will be one way to do that. Nobody is expecting two interest rate hikes by the Fed before the end of 2016, something like that would really rock the markets. I don’t think that will happen though.”