Clal Finance Has the Biggest One

The investment banks have scaled back their marketing efforts since missiles started to fly.  Like everyone, the capital market players are in waiting mode, but we can expect their highly expensive campaigns to resume soon, as they wrestle over the hearts and wallets of the public. That's how it is in a market undergoing major change.

Advertising is an art form, in which the company tries to show the prettiest sides of its products, while hiding less appetizing truths.

Billboards may scream: "Dun & Bradstreet rules that Clal Finance Batucha is the No. 1 investment house in Israel".

But ? what on earth does that actually mean? Clal Finance Batucha would like us to take that literally, and assume that it achieves the best returns and is the most reliable and gives the best service, and it is not Clal Finance Batucha tootling its own horn, it's a third-party analyst, Dun & Bradstreet, which gets tossed a bone: Clal Finance Batucha calls it "the leading business information company in the world".

Then there is the small print in the ads (but not on the billboards). That truth is that Dun & Bradstreet checked only one thing, and that's in doubt too: asset value. And the quote is not accurate, either, because Dun & Bradstreet did not rule that Clal Finance Batucha is the No. 1 investment house: all it said is that Clal Finance Batucha manages the biggest portfolio.

So be it. But what does it mean, if Clal Finance Batucha manages $800 million more than say Psagot Ofek? Does it mean that the Clal group has more talented managers? Does it mean that its managers strive more? Of course not.

Over the years, Israel's banks were dreadfully negligent in managing the public's billions. They were condescending to the clientele, which they held in contempt. They were the biggest, but that didn't confer any advantage on their clients.

We therefore think that it's not a good idea to place your money with somebody boasting that it's the biggest. Or at least, look for other reasons to choose it. For instance, see if the adventures it leads you onto are less dangerous than the rivals are suggesting, or check if it gives the best service. And by all means, check its returns over time.