SecondMarket focuses on education and awareness of illiquid assets

NEW YORK: SecondMarket, a marketplace for illiquid assets such as residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities, has made educating audiences about the company and the complex asset classes it deals with a primary goal of its PR efforts.

NEW YORK: SecondMarket, a marketplace for illiquid assets such as residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities, has made educating audiences about the company and the complex asset classes it deals with a primary goal of its PR efforts.

Lawmakers are a significant focus of their outreach efforts, but SecondMarket's chief strategy officer Jeremy Smith, said the company “doesn't want to align [itself] with one segment of government.” Rather, it has met with about two dozen members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – and members of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

“We knew the government was an important audience, but we didn't know the level of sophistication,” said Smith. “The government is trying to deal with these illiquid assets… [but] their areas of expertise don't lie in the financial realm. We don't want to taint the process; we want to be part of the solution.”

While Smith describes the messaging to lawmakers as a “much more plain-language approach,” he said the message is the same as that for hedge funds, private equity firms, and other investors.

“We're trying to let them know we exist, educate them about these assets, and the best way to deal with [illiquid assets],” said Smith.

It hired Weber Shandwick as its AOR in January to help with the effort.

“Better pricing and transparency of illiquid assets can help resolve many of the issues plaguing the financial system,” said Paul Jensen, GM and EVP at Weber Shandwick.

Even sophisticated investors are in need of the awareness and education efforts the company is executing, Smith said.

“A lot of investors, maybe historically all they focused on were restricted securities, [etc],” he said. “Now there are opportunities in a variety of illiquid asset classes.” Smith adds that SecondMarket plans to move forward on other asset classes; it has more than 50 on its watch list.

SecondMarket selected Weber Shandwick because of its DC capabilities, its worldwide network, and the financial experience of the firm.

“We needed a firm that was going to be able to understand [our business] in a short period of time and communicate that to audiences,” Smith said.

The company sent the RFP to 12 agencies and received eight proposals. The pool was narrowed to four firms – three large firms and one financial boutique shop. After several rounds and two months, WS was chosen. Smith would not comment on the size of the account.

Besides awareness and education, Smith said SecondMarket will continue to explore social media opportunities, with a Facebook page in development, and an eye turned to Twitter use and a more robust presence on LinkedIn.

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