“Capitalism will always be around, but COVID has shifted our focus to sustainability, weeding out the companies investing in unsustainable areas, like mining. This has given purpose to the winners.”

19 June 2020 – It is crucial for PR practitioners to align reputation building efforts with the financial agenda of the businesses that they serve. Hence, we were pleased to have Ms Annabelle Liang (Senior Reporter) and Mr Nicholas Nghai (Researcher) from Citywire Asia for our second run of the IPRS Meet-the-Media Series.  Here’s highlights of the wide-ranging discussion moderated by IPRS President, Marcus Loh, which touched on US-China tensions, re-imagining Capitalism and impact investing.  Check out our video for the rest.

  1. What do you make of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on investor sentiments in Asia?

Annabelle: A lot of people are still investing.  That’s the general sentiment from wealth managers. Currently, there is a lot of focus on China, even though China is recovering faster than everyone, which means their stocks, especially technology, aren’t cheap.  Stocks focusing on technology and “Work-from-Home” themes are very popular. The sentiment has not died down completely despite what the headlines say. In Asia, people remain quite optimistic about the market.

Nicholas:  It is all about seeing the way investors adapt to the volatile markets. Previously, we were riding on a high from late last year coming into January. With the volatility, a lot of new trends come into play. Family offices are rising and accredited investors are looking at unbiased advice. These trends will be more pervasive post-COVID-19.

  1. How is Citywire reading and reporting on COVID-19, and how different are you from the wired press outlets?

Annabelle: When I worked for AFP and the Associated Press, the reports were very much directed at the general news audience. We would try to make our writing as simple as possible. At Citywire, our readers are mainly those who are very attuned to the finance industry and focus on details. Therefore, we try to put in a lot of data, charts, and graphs into our stories. We can afford to use acronyms and assume that the reader already possesses a certain level of financial knowledge.

  1. How has Citywire helped subscribers to make sense of the China-US Trade War?

Annabelle: It has been on the top of many private banks’ minds. We’re now in the season of mid-year outlooks.  They are going to put out what they are watching, and the trade war will be a large part of this. I asked UBS’ Chief Information Officer about the coming US elections in four months’ time.  She said that it is currently too early to predict. Either way, it will likely be a “tough on China” stance. I don’t think the tensions are going away. Phase 1 trade deal will remain. No one will make any rash moves at this point.  But I think the (U.S. Presidential) elections will raise tensions with an increase in anti-China rhetoric.

  1. Amid the whole kerfuffle between the US and China, where do you think are the opportunities?

Annabelle: In terms of investments, there are huge opportunities amid the reorganization of supply chains. Countries are looking to localize their manufacturing. COVID has shown them the dangers of over-reliance on the big powers like China or the US with regards to the supply of products. A lot of countries were already looking at that prior to the pandemic.  COVID is speeding up the impetus to do this and not subject themselves to more risk.

  1. What do you think is the role of finance in redefining capitalism today?

Annabelle: On Citywire’s part, we try to be as transparent as possible.  There are a lot of funds coming into the markets right now.  So we do our due diligence by checking our fact sheets to make sure the numbers match. Capitalism will always be around, but COVID has shifted our focus to sustainability where there’s a weeding out of companies investing in unsustainable areas such as mining. This has given purpose to the winners. Therefore, we try to feature less covered news such as women finance leaders, emerging fund managers and ESG (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) teams, as has been the case in our areas of focus for news coverage.

Nicholas:  To bounce off from Annabelle, COVID-19 has brought up a lot of issues.  We bring a lot of focus into environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) as a metric to measure a company’s impact on society. ESG topics such as water security will become more pervasive as time goes on and we continue to do our utmost to identify these trends and bring them to the fore for our audiences and readers.

  1. What should PR practitioners keep in mind when they approach you with an interview opportunity?

Annabelle: Every journalist has their own quirks, which can sometimes be a nightmare.  As journalists, we get a lot of emails. If I do not reply to your email, the best way in my opinion will be to send a follow-up email rather than calling. I might forget what is conveyed over the phone.

Nicholas: One way would be to detail your agenda in an email. I have been interviewing quite a few people, and I find that it helps if we exchange our questions before hand so that we are on the same page.

  1. Do you work off an editorial calendar which PR professionals can gain access to?

Annabelle: For our magazines, we have a standard list of sections such as family office story, ESG, story on products and a cover story of a CEO with a private bank. Our day-to-day coverage on our website is quite ad-hoc.   We see what the latest news are and decide what we will cover at around 9:30am every day. We have two online newsletters that we distribute at 3:30pm and 10:30pm the following day so we tend to work on the fly.

  1. Aside from your professional pursuits, both of you have interest in broader societal themes. How have these interests shaped you as a media professional?

Annabelle: I’ve always been a person who writes stories with my heart.  It’s not always very easy to do this in finance as you are guided by data.  These other pursuits help me to balance this out and go into every story with a fresh mind.  It reminds me to always strive to be authentic and do the best story I can.

Nicholas: I find sociology interesting. What I can do at Citywire is to rationalise trends like ESG by incorporating the human aspect of sociology. For instance, we find that people are becoming more passionate about pressing issues like climate change and human rights. These issues can directly influence a person’s attitude towards investing.  I actively apply this perspective to my research.

  1. What is the relevance of a convening body like IPRS in the industry today?

Annabelle: It’s always good to keep in touch with the media industry. I haven’t had the chance to meet people during the outbreak so it’s especially nice that we have this platform to talk and share. Even outside of the outbreak, I’m always out networking and meeting people. The more I grow these networks, the better it is for me since I get more stories.

Nicholas: I am not reporting as much as Annabelle, but I do have my fair share of interactions with PR practitioners. IPRS as a convening body can help to boost the state of PR practitioners locally and to educate the masses on their relevance across industries. Rather than being perceived as indiscriminate gatekeepers, they should be recognised for their efforts in facilitating fruitful interactions between individuals and/or groups. I believe that PR and communications are crucial to navigate an increasingly technological and diverse world.