In 2002, Makovsky & Co. was engaged by National Financial Partners, an independent financial services distribution network for high-net worth individuals and successful corporations, to build brand awareness and educate its key executives on how to act as a public company in preparation for an eventual IPO.
After successfully raising awareness of the firm in 2002, mainly through media relations, in 2003 Makovsky was charged with paving the way for NFP’s IPO, which launched successfully on September 18, 2003.
The NFP program presented several challenges and opportunities for the Makovsky team, particularly due to the steady barrage of front-page press coverage of corporate misdeeds, which was impacting the IPO market overall. The biggest challenges the team faced were media misperceptions about NFP’s business model (they were often referred to as a “roll-up”) and distancing the firm from the family connections of CEO Jessica Bibliowicz, daughter of Citigroup Chairman Sandy Weill, who came under fire for several corporate governance issues. These challenges continued in the post IPO environment.
Throughout the year, Makovsky helped NFP put the pieces of their IPO communications strategy in place through a number of key initiatives including, conducted a survey of investment professionals to gauge market perceptions of NFP’s business model, management, growth prospects and industry peers in order to create optimal positioning and messages for the firm, develope a Corporate Communications policy encompassing media and analyst protocols that leverage PR and IR as strategic tools while complying with Regulation Fair Disclosure and other corporate governance practices and finally developing a roadshow presentation, identify corporate spokespeople and held comprehensive presentation/media training sessions.
The key objectives of this program were to: Facilitate a successful and oversubscribed IPO, create strong after-market support, lower the firm’s cost of capital through a variety of IR tactics designed to increase shareholder value, establish credibility for senior management, build confidence in NFP’s growth strategy and communicate a focused, persuasive investment rationale, maximize media coverage in the post-IPO environment and continue to attract new firms to the NFP model through placements is trade media
The first goal was to generate business and media awareness for NFP’s various top-performing firm principals. Makovsky developed a targeted media campaign geared towards major personal finance publications. Selected media highlights include several articles in The Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal section; features in SmartMoney and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; and expert commentary in Advisor Today and Physician’s Money Digest.
The second goal was to educate the media and enhance understanding of NFP’s business model. To accomplish this goal, Makovsky reviewed and edited the S-1 filing for readability; developed a detailed Q&A document of potential questions investors and media would ask regarding NFP’s business model; and prepared a backgrounder on NFP, for use with the media after the quiet period ended.
The third goal was to establish and develop visibility for CEO Jessica Bibliowicz, independent of her father, Sandy Weill. In order to do this, Makovsky conducted intensive media training sessions with Bibliowicz; wrote a robust biography detailing her industry accomplishments; and positioned her as an expert on the financial planning industry. Profiles were written on her accomplishments and the NFP business model in various publications including SmartMoney and Financial Times.
The day after NFP’s offering The New York Times ran a business feature story on the firm’s success.
In addition, when NFP issued its first earnings release in November 2003, Jessica Bibliowicz was interviewed by Anchor Bill Griffith on CNBC Power Lunch and by Neil Cavuto on FOX Your World with Neil Cavuto, who provided a ringing endorsement of her independence, referring to her as “The Most Powerful Woman on Wall Street.”