December 2012 Trends & Highlights – Fiscal Cliff, Predictions for 2013 and Holiday Giving

Alex Filiaci by on Jan 09, 2013

altIn December, Financial firms kept busy by communicating to clients about the fiscal cliff, prognosticating about 2013 and introducing new mobile apps.

Fiscal Cliff Prompts Commentary Deluge
Politics continued to be a dominant topic on the minds of commentators across the online financial industry. In December, we saw firms cover the fiscal cliff from every imaginable angle. The “Fiscal Cliffhanger,” became a popular way to refer to the event in the mutual fund space. Lord Abbett got seasonally creative in asking, “Will the ‘Cliff’ Steal Christmas?” E*TRADE Financial created an entire Fiscal Cliff microsite that centralized articles with the stated intent of helping investors plan for volatility and opportunities.

All told, at least 20 firms addressed the cliff and how to prepare for it in December. We expect they will spend the next month discussing the tax deal and what investors can expect legislators to do about the debt ceiling and federal spending.

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Lord Abbett Fiscal Cliff Commentary Banner

Financial Firms Stare into Their Crystal Balls
A number of firms published 2013 outlooks in December and every single one features an optimistic prognostication for growth in the new year. Fidelity remarked on the prospects for a continued housing recovery and long-term opportunities in manufacturing. In the firm’s 2013 Playbook, the firm expressed hope for a Europeans stock rebound. iShares promoted a 2013 outlook webcast and was one of several firms to base its optimism on an expected Chinese economic recovery. While no one was willing to predict 4% annual GDP growth for the U.S. economy, the overall tone across these outlooks was one of cautious optimism.

 

A Christmas Gift for Children or Those in Need
Three firms promoted opening an investment account for children or grandchildren as a Christmas gift. The Hartford and Putnam encouraged site visitors to open 529 plans for relatives. Lord Abbett promoted IRAs for children or relatives with an image featuring a red bow for Christmas.

PNC Bank announced the launch of its annual Christmas Price Index sitelet, which functioned as an economic indicator by determining and comparing the “True Cost of Christmas.” Users could view the current market value of the items gifted in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” through an interactive gift hunt in which they traverse the virtual globe in search of the 12 gifts. The sitelet was meant for educators working with high school and middle school students.

 

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PNC Christmas Price Index Sitelet

E*TRADE partnered with ShareGift USA to provide clients with an easy way to donate to charity this holiday season. Clients transfer shares to the organization, which then sells them and donates the funds to a charitable organization of the client’s choosing.

 

December Mobile Roundup
Raymond James joined the mobile universe with its new Investor Access Mobile apps for iOS and Android. The app’s main strength is its account information, which includes total balance and portfolio data including value and day change. The apps provide account activity going back over a year.

In other mobile news, ShareBuilder and Wells Fargo also released their first iPad apps, bringing the total number of Mobile Monitor firms with apps optimized for tablets up to 15 out of 21. U.S. Bank announced it will release Mobile Photo Bill Pay in early 2013. The service will allow customers to set up bill payments through their smartphone or tablet by taking a picture of a paper bill.

Merrill Edge Encourages Users to “Face Retirement”
The firm released the Face Retirement tool, an interactive retirement planner that takes a current image of the user’s face and ages it to reflect their future appearance, in an attempt to promote the importance of retirement savings.

TradeKing and Zecco Complete Account Migration
In December, all Zecco accounts were officially moved to the recently upgraded TradeKing site. In addition to the new TradeKing logo, the site now includes most of Zecco’s old research content, including stock, ETF and mutual fund profiles. TradeKing also received a design overhaul with a new color scheme and navigational menu.