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Meet me in the middle. Actress Elizabeth Banks touts midcap stocks for State Street

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Mid-sized companies often get lost in the shuffle on Wall Street. Investors love big, brand-name multinationals and they also have a thing for small-cap stocks, which tend to have sexier growth potential and less exposure to trade war worries than larger rivals.

But State Street, which manages the popular SPDR exchange-traded funds, is trying to give midcaps their moment in the sun … and they’ve enlisted actress Elizabeth Banks, known for her roles in “The Hunger Games” and “Pitch Perfect” movies, as their champion.

State Street launched a campaign last year that featured Banks interviewing executives from several well-known companies that just happened to be mid-caps, including Dunkin’ Brands, Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer and The New York Times. The average mid-cap tends to have a market value between $2 billion and $10 billion.

Banks is now starring in a new five-minute video for State Street titled “The Middle Bias,” where she talks about how investors often overlook the sector and asks people how much they know about mid-caps.

How did this come about? Banks said in an interview with CNN Business that the ad agency she worked with pitched it and State Street liked the idea.

Banks said she was attracted to the idea of profiling top business leaders and hearing what they had to say. The videos are more about the companies than they are an ad pitch for State Street.

“This was all about story telling,” Banks said. “It’s a campaign about entrepreneurship and was a great opportunity to learn. It was an interview style and I was in control of the interview. It was not very scripted. I had a lot of fun.”

Using humor to sell ETFs

Matthew Bartolini, managing director at State Street Global Advisors and head of its SPDR Americas research unit, said working with Banks allowed the company to do something more distinctive than other investing ads.

“Trying to get across a message for mid-cap investing can be dry. We wanted to cut through the noise so investors could understand the benefits of mid-caps,” Bartolini said. “We didn’t want to go the route of showing a bicyclist climbing up a mountain with a voiceover talking about investing for the long haul. That’s tired and has been done.”

He got to experience this firsthand. Bartolini spoke to Banks in the most recent video about the virtues of mid-caps while she held an air horn that she threatened to blow anytime he lapsed into financial jargon. She wound up doing so once — and followed that up by later honking a car horn at him.

“The thing I loved about this campaign was the opportunity for humor. It helps makes the message sticky,” Banks said.

She added that as a middle-aged woman with kids, she’s more interested in taking a more active role in planning for retirement. She said she never paid much attention to mid-sized companies before but now owns the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF as a result of her working with State Street.

Mid-cap stocks have a strong track record

That ETF is up nearly 14% this year. That’s trailing the year-to-date performance of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, which has gained about 18%, but it’s better than the 9% increase for the SPDR S&P 600 Small Cap ETF. But the MidCap ETF has outperformed both its large cap and small cap brethren slightly over the past decade.

Bartolini said that the Banks campaign has helped attract more interest for the MidCap ETF. Trading volume is higher, he said, and investors are also taking more notice of two companion funds — the SPDR S&P 400 Mid Cap Value and SPDR S&P 400 Mid Cap Growth ETFs.

Banks, who spoke with CNN Business from a set in Toronto, added that she’s now getting grilled for investing tips.

“My hair and makeup people just today asked me how I know about this so I gave them a tutorial about midcaps,” she said, adding that even though she went to the University of Pennsylvania, she did not take any business classes at Wharton.

But she recalls what it was like in the mid- to late-1990s, a time many compare to now because of the huge rally for tech stocks.

“I’m interested in what’s going on with the market. I remember the tech boom and bust. It’s wild how volatile it feels right now,” Banks said.

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