Stock and Trade
Money Talks at St. Germain Investment Management
Most veteran Business Market Show exhibitors would say that they don’t actually conduct much business on the floor. Rather, they’re getting leads, collecting business cards, and, for the most part, laying the groundwork for conducting business later.
St. Germain Investment Management is also gathering leads, but it is also serving customers right there at the booth, said Mike Matty, the company’s chief investment officer. That’s because, while this company does have some specific products and services it offers, what it’s most “selling” is expertise, advice, and education. And sometimes, said Matty, this can be dispensed on the Market Show floor, during lulls in the action for other exhibitors or between answers to the endless questions from passersby who are desperate to know, ‘how’s the market doing today?’
“People will often come over to the booth and say, ‘I’ve been meaning to stop by your office and talk to you about something,’” said Matty. “Sometimes we’ll schedule a time when they can actually do that, but in many cases, we can take care of it right there.”
This has been the pattern for St. Germain, which has been a Springfield institution since 1924 and a presence at the Market Show for many years — a “conservative” presence, said Paul Valickus, president and portfolio manager, who noted that helping people manage investments is serious business.
“When it comes to money, people don’t want gimmicks,” he explained, adding that the St. Germain booth is rather straightforward, with no bells, whistles, or contests. It is designed purely as a vehicle for imparting information, and does so with a library of literature and a host of professionals who take shifts over the course of the day.
While doing so, they see long-time customers, as well as many prospective new ones, tell a few thousand people how the market’s doing that day, and actually resolve a variety of issues for booth visitors.
“It happens quite often … someone will come over the booth and say, ‘I have an account with you guys, and something happened to my wife’s aunt; we inherited a bunch of money, and we’re not quite sure what we should be doing with it,” Matty explained. “Or, they’ll say, ‘our kid’s going to college in two years, and we have this much saved up for college; what’s our best option?’
“Sometimes, you can answer those questions standing at the trade show booth in two minutes or 10 minutes,” he continued. “That person has been thinking about it ever since he heard he was going to inherit this money, so you can bring a resolution to his question very quickly oftentimes.”
Overall, whether it’s at the booth or the company’s offices in downtown Springfield, St. Germain acts as its clients’ “financial partner,” said Valickus, adding that this boils down to excelling at that basic tenet called education. And while this takes many forms, a common denominator is stressing a long-term approach to investing and the need to not get caught up in how the market is doing today.
Indeed, one of the company’s marketing slogans has been, “in the stock market, slow and steady wins the race.”
The trade show provides one of the year’s best opportunities to spread that message, while also introducing, or re-introducing, the company’s brokers to their target audience.
“We get face-to-face time with our existing clients, and with prospective clients as well,” said Valickus. “We do a lot of marketing and advertising in the area, but it really helps you put a face and a personality with a name by meeting one-on-one.”
Matty said that if he and other St. Germain representatives are diligent, they won’t have many lulls in their action at the Market Show booth. That’s because other individuals’ lulls will become their company’s opportunities to do more business.
“Some of the people we see at the show are individuals we haven’t seen since last year’s event,” he explained. “And as much as we encourage people to come over and see us, we understand that most of these people are business owners, and they’re very busy. So quite often, they can come over to our booth, spend 10 minutes with us, and they’re good till next year.”