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Friday, September 19, 2014

Hartford Rides a New Retirement Zeitgeist, with Help from MIT

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

Investors worried about retirement are rapidly changing their view points about what's coming next in their lives, and Hartford Funds is racing to take advantage of these lightning fast changes in the financial zeitgeist.

Armed with an ad campaign touting its global investing prowess, a growing lineup of alternatives products and a partnership with the MIT AgeLab, Hartford is continually refining its value proposition for investors nearing their Golden Years.

"We continue to look at the retirement space and think on how we can best organize ourselves around that opportunity," Marty Swanson, chief marketing officer for the Hartford Funds.

Hartford has been able to ride the evolving retirement zeitgeist with a number of initiatives that have resonated well with senior investors.

For example, there is the ongoing advertising campaign for Hartford's global investing capabilities, titled The New Face of Global, promoting its Hartford's brand globally. Handled by the Boston ad firm SapientNitro North America, the campaign was an important first step for Hartford in establishing its new identity for all investors.

'This has been a very successful, multifaceted campaign," Swanson says. "We have really seen significant inflows into our equity funds and our global bond fund."

Another initiative that has resonated with senior investors has been the firm's buildup in the alternatives space. For example, this year the Hartford has launched two alts funds, a multi-asset income fund and a long-short equity fund.

Regarding the multi-asset income fund, Swanson said "We think it is going to be a really big product for us. It balances corporate municipal bonds and treasuries with equities and other asset classes like emerging market debt, bank loans and MLPs."

"It is a product that really gets at the income challenges that investors are facing today, the challenges with generating income in a lower rate environment," he said.

Likewise, the long/short equity fund is "one of the hotter areas in alts," Swanson said. "We really kind of think that this is where clients are thinking about generating growth in the portfolio, but right now, most investors or advisors are trying to generate growth, but with some downside protection."

Both strategies are run by Wellington.

Lastly, there's Hartford's partnership with the MIT AgeLab. The lab, according to Swanson, researches how people age and how it changes their lifestyle, all of the factors they are dealing with. Much of this research, of course, has a financial or retirement focus to it, and Hartford packages much of these insights for its advisors.

For example, Hartford recently distributed amongst its advisors a white paper that encouraged the advisors to ask three questions for their retiring clients: How will I change a lightbulb? How will I get an ice cream cone? Who will I have lunch with?

"This is something that we feel is unique to us in the marketplace. Something that has really taken off with financial advisors," he said. "The MIT research is very important for our wholesalers. It's not just 'Let me tell you about my fund. Let me talk to you about how I can improve your practice. Better engagement. Better understand your clients."

At the same time, Hartford is developing in-house line of advisor content focused on more technical issues of practice management. 

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