August 29, 2022

This morning’s happy birthday call

After clocking 5.5 million podcast plays and 15,000 daily listeners, NAB’s Morning Call is celebrating six years of market highlights, with even more expert analysis to come.

Pictured: Celebrating in Sydney… Rodrigo Catril, Tapas Strickland, Ken Crompton, Ray Attrill, Skye Masters and Stacey Pharro.

Skye Masters is the first to say her role as an interest rate strategist won’t put her at the top of every party invite list.

But the regular guest on NAB’s Morning Call as the podcast turns six knows she is reaching a diverse audience of almost 15,000 daily listeners, all keen to understand what makes the world of financial markets tick.

“Sometimes I think I get up early too many times already,” Masters says of her pre-dawn preparation before dialling in to record. “But then there’s the feedback from people saying, ‘I really like hearing what you’re talking about’ and the breadth of who you’re connecting with which makes me get up and go.”

In more than 1400 episodes, and just as many 4am starts for the NAB guest analysts, the Morning Call has clocked up 5.5 million podcast listens since 2016, with an audience in Australia, New Zealand and the world’s financial hubs in the UK, US and Asia.

The 15-minute format offers an accessible and informative conversation, with host and guest updating listeners on key economic and market movements while sharpening focus on what to look out for and why.

For Masters, who is NAB’s Head of Markets Strategy, the podcast is an important extension of the valued reports the team files for clients, only this time filtered through a different medium and reaching a different audience.

“As an analyst you want to help people understand what’s going on in what can be a highly volatile and uncertain environment,” she says.

“I’ve spent my whole working life thinking what I do is so specialised that no one outside this area would have any interest in listening. But the podcast is such a great vehicle – it’s created so that anyone can listen and understand. It’s very fulfilling to know that we’re hitting such a broad audience and to know that NAB is really supportive of this.”

History in the making

When the podcast first started in 2016, the Brexit referendum had just happened and Donald Trump was about to be elected 45th President of the United States. Since then, there’s been a global pandemic, conflict in Europe and now an increased focus on rates after the US Federal Reserve’s “hawkish pivot” – as the podcast has it – last year amid what seems to be ongoing geopolitical and economic volatility.

But whatever happens overnight, for Masters the experience is about having a one-on-one conversation with UK-based host Phil Dobbie, whose background in radio and lively lay interest in economics makes for an energetic start to the day.

“All of us in research are more than happy to chat, so in that sense it’s OK,” she says. “The stressful part is the preparation of looking at what’s happened in markets and getting an understanding of why did the rates go up or down or is it just noise?

“For our listeners, having a valid analysis of what’s happened overnight is important. This year it’s all about the data. You wake up and look at what payrolls did or what wages did or inflation or the divergence between forecasts and actuals, which have been quite big, and then the market reactions.”

Yield curve obsession

The Morning Call concept started from a friendship between Dobbie and NAB’s Head of FX Strategy, Ray Attrill, who at the time were both living in the same street on Sydney’s upper north shore.

Today the pair communicate from other sides of the globe and at different ends of the day, all in the rush to produce each segment based on what will become the overnight market action for Down Under.

The results combine Dobbie’s expertise and passion for the medium with the specialist knowledge the guest roster of NAB analysts brings to the call.

For Attrill, whose business is numbers and who takes economic surprises with appropriate measure, there remains some pride – but even more astonishment – at the figures they have achieved over the past six years.

2022 has seen the podcast go from strength to strength, with over 1.7 million listens so far this year – more than double the figure for the same period in 2021.

Most of the current daily audience stay to the end of each episode, which Attrill sees as the podcast confidently hitting the mark.

“When you start something new you can have some degree of faith that it’s going to be successful,” he reflects today. “But really, it’s experimental. You have no way of knowing exactly whether your confidence is justified or not.

“We didn’t imagine there were 15,000 people every day that were very, very interested in hearing about the shape of the yield curve at 6.30 in the morning – that’s a little bit surprising.

“But from the get-go it’s been a conversation between two people – it’s not a monologue from an analyst that’s dull as dishwater – it’s very much the opposite of that. That’s been a consistent feature, that it has been very conversational. There’s been a little bit of irreverence in it, if you like.”

Diversity of expertise

Attrill says despite the stylistic differences, the podcast is still very much a NAB research product, which ultimately conveys the expert views of NAB’s market analysts and is ideal for the morning commute.

“For any analyst I think what motivates us is knowing that what we do is in demand and it’s being read or listened to,” he says. “It’s very gratifying to know.”

The team of guests has grown to extend the diversity of thought involved, with a range of specialists in areas including FX, economics and rates – a breadth both Attrill and Masters say is essential to understanding the complexities driving global markets today.

These NAB expert voices include: Rodrigo Catril, Ken Crompton, David de Garis, Gavin Friend, Taylor Nugent and Tapas Strickland.

Masters says the aim is to continue adding to this diversity going ahead, with JBWere Chief Investment Officer Sally Auld the latest addition to the podcast talent pool.

NAB Corporate and Institutional Banking’s Chief Economist Ivan Colhoun also sometimes joins the call.

The NAB Global Markets research team which takes part is already highly regarded in the field, topping a range of metrics in the annual Peter Lee industry surveys covering interest rate derivatives, foreign exchange and fixed income.

Listen now: The Morning Call turns six

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Phil Dobbie says… a word from our host:

“The Morning Call works because the team all get on so well. There’s a lot of mutual respect. We all know what we’re there to do and we just do it. There’s not time to finesse the finer details, we just focus on getting a half-decent product out on time every day. That reliability, I think, has been a big part in us winning a large audience.

“I still love doing it, after six years it’s still fun to do. I think that’s because it’s an ever-changing picture – we’ve been through Brexit, Trump, Covid, war in Europe and now rampant global inflation. I think there might be one episode where I declared ‘nothing happened today’, but there’s almost always some last-minute surprise.

“I’m proud of how up to date it is. The NAB team are up early preparing and we record about three quarters of an hour before it is published. Then price information and the intro are added at the very last moment. If something significant happens soon after we have published an episode, we’ll update it. It’s as close to live radio as you can get in a podcast.”

Six for six: Ray Attrill’s major market-shaping global events (in chronological order)

  1. The November 2016 election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency
  2. Trump’s 2018 launch of the trade war against China
  3. The 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Joe Biden’s November 2020 election win, followed by Pfizer BioNTech’s announcement of a 95% effective vaccine
  5. Post-pandemic inflation, the Fed’s mid-2021 “hawkish pivot” and all that flowed from that in global interest rate markets
  6. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Top rating episodes

Reflation reigns for now: April 27, 2021

The mood is generally positive, says NAB’s Gavin Friend, with Europe now getting into gear on vaccination rollouts and most S&P companies in the US have beaten their earnings estimate and copper – which is tied to the global reflation trade – is now at a decade high.

A blue wave is still possible, but two months of ‘no’: November 9, 2020

There’s still a chance that in January the Democrats will take control of the Senate. Until then, President Trump is still in charge and the US faces rising COVID cases without a fiscal stimulus. Larry Kudlow suggested that Friday’s non-farm payrolls were so strong there isn’t a need for support but NAB’s Tapas Strickland says high-frequency data suggests the job recovery is slowing.

Peace hopes and understanding: March 21, 2022

Reports from Turkey that an understanding between Ukraine and Russia might be closer. There’s even speculation that the two leaders will meet face to face – obviously at opposite ends of a very long table. Phil Dobbie talks to NAB’s Ray Attrill about the market optimism right now, with equity markets rising despite the prospect of many rate hikes this year.