Prudential Insurance Company of America is aiming its Strategist investment program to attract overseas investors as other U.S. financial services companies have done with similar programs.
Strategist, which was launched last Thursday, uses extensive client profiling, as well as investor customization technology, to offer specialized advice to its customers, who can neither be U.S. residents nor U.S. citizens.
A Prudential spokesman said the program offers 135 model portfolios, each with an investment philosophy ranging from conservative to aggressive and including a choice of 20 country and sector asset categories, which comprise 95% of the world's major investment opportunities.
The model portfolios are managed by advisers in Prudential's London office, which is neither related to nor connected with the British insurer Prudential PLC.
Each portfolio is adjusted to reflect such factors as the investor's stated goals, total wealth, and geographic location. However, when the advisers want to change the allocations within their models, or when investors want to tweak their portfolios, the changes are made by employees in the company's Newark, N.J., headquarters who have been dedicated to this business.
Anthony Wiseman, senior vice president and head of product development at Prudential International Investments, said Strategist's technology lets the company's London advisers manage numerous accounts at relatively low cost.
Prudential's account minimum of $50,000 is very low for a private-client program, Mr. Wiseman said. He said he expects the average account size to be much larger.
The Newark-based insurer has long had an international presence through its Prudential Securities unit, as well as its Prumerica insurance and mutual fund subsidiary, which offers investment products to overseas investors. However, this is the company's first asset-gathering program geared exclusively for the overseas market.
Prudential has also been making deals for and with foreign asset-gatherers. Last fall it bought Matheson Investment Ltd., a London brokerage, and it recently signed deals to invest in CJ Investment Trust and Securities Co. of South Korea and Masterlink Securities Investment Trust Enterprise of Taiwan. Some of these companies are likely to be primary Strategist distributors, Mr. Wiseman said.
A banker in a New York private-client group said that, though U.S. banks and brokers have had overseas private-client businesses for years, or in some cases decades, many have had mixed success breaking into those markets. This is largely because the business is based on personal contact and most wealthy people are not eager to entrust their money to an unfamiliar institution, he said.
A New York analyst said Strategist's balance between upscale advisory services and the currently fashionable do-it-yourself investing may have particular appeal.
Jim Thomas, vice president at First Manhattan Consulting Group, a New York financial industry management consulting firm, said the tendency of overseas investors to avoid U.S. firms could be changing. The spectacular worldwide success of U.S. investment banks and brokerages in recent years has helped raise the reputations of these companies' wealth management arms, he said.
The appeal of an American investing style will probably continue to grow abroad, Mr. Thomas said. Since Strategist's investing style is identifiably American, Prudential hopes it to capture the emerging wealthy worldwide.
Harold Evensky, chairman of Evensky PFO, a wealth management firm in Coral Gables, Fla., said one reason U.S. private-client departments have not been more successful overseas is that they generally had few opportunities to work in many countries.
However, countries such as India, South Africa, Australia, and Singapore are giving foreign firms more access to their markets, which will probably increase the presence of U.S. firms there, he said.
Strategist's funds are registered in Luxembourg. A Prudential spokesman said the company has no plan at this time to offer Strategist or a similar program to domestic investors. However, he would not rule out such an offering in the future.