Guest post: “How Seeking Alpha Can Build Your Professional Reputation” looks like a great way for investment professionals to share their opinions and market themselves. So when I met Geoff Considine and learned he’d done exactly that, I asked him to guest-blog about his experience.

How Seeking Alpha Can Build Your Professional Reputation

by Geoff Considine

Writing for has helped me develop my professional reputation and gain attention for my quantitative modeling software and consulting services. Financial professionals can build a substantial brand from SeekingAlpha.  Quite a few writers, advisors, consultants, and others have developed enormous reach on the basis of SeekingAlpha.  I am certainly not even among the most successful.

If I can do it, so can you, especially if you follow the six rules I give at the end of this article.

My experience publishing on

I have been writing for since January 2006.  At that time, I had fairly recently launched a software tool for financial advisors and individual investors and I was trying to drum up some attention.  All in, I have written 127 articles on, even though I have not written for them since September 2009.  I have written a lot over the last year, but I have developed a sufficiently deep audience that I have only been writing for advisor-focused publications such as Advisor Perspectives.  I am quite confident that I never would have been able to write for these professional publications without the experience and reputation gained from writing for

Quantext, my small company, gets about 100,000 hits a month on its website in a good month.  I sell software and e-books, along with doing consulting on analytical models for portfolio management and asset allocation.  The only marketing that I have ever done for my business is writing—and was the only place that I published articles (aside from my own website) in the first couple of years of building out the software side of my business.

Once something is published on a site like SA, people will go back and look at what you have said in the past—it’s a fairly permanent record.  This can be great when your thinking is validated, but can pose reputational risk if you make some outlandish statement.  Back in 2007, for example, one of The Motley Fool’s best-known columnists came out and said that he risk measures such as Beta and volatility just didn’t matter at all, not matter what all the academics say.  His timing was very unfortunate.  Investors who ignored standard risk measures are likely to have suffered disproportionately large losses in the subsequent decline.  This type of reputational risk is quite easy to avoid if you stay away from making assertions in articles that strain common sense or that fly in the face of all standards of practice.

One of the ways to build credibility with articles is to identify thought leaders with whom your thinking is consistent.  One of my early articles looked at Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio using my portfolio analysis software.  My software identified a number of ways that Berkshire’s portfolio looked very attractive.  If my analysis had suggested that Warren Buffett didn’t know what he was doing, I would have had something of a problem.  I have also analyzed portfolios and strategies proposed by David Swensen (head of Yale’s endowment), Mohammed El-Erian (co-head of PIMCO), and Jeremy Grantham.

The previous paragraph notwithstanding, I am not suggesting that writers steer away from controversy.  If you can make a really solid case for a contrarian theme and publish it in an open forum, you can really stake out territory for your thought leadership.  One of my major early themes that I wrote about in 2006-2007 was that there were a number of really robust reasons to believe that market volatility would skyrocket.  This theme in a number of my SA articles got the attention of an editor at Kiplinger’s and resulted in an interview that appeared in the magazine in early 2008.  As the market conditions have evolved, my writing on this theme has continued to get me very positive attention.

If SA is so great, why don’t I publish much there anymore?  The answer is that I have found that my audience is mainly professional advisors, there are better publications to reach this targeted audience, and I get paid to write these days.  There is a significant opportunity cost for me to write a piece for SA.  If I have more time on my hands in the future, I would certainly put more pieces in SA.

How YOU can thrive on

There are a few guidelines that I would offer for financial professionals who want to use Seeking Alpha to develop their professional brands:

1)     Make sure that you have something to say, and good arguments to support your ideas

2)     Craft your writing carefully

3)     Use feedback on your articles to develop your writing style

4)     Respond to comments—be an active member of the community

5)     Write regularly and consistently

6)     Learn your special niche

Seeking Alpha can be a powerful channel for reaching your audience, but you need a long-term strategy for how to tap this channel.  If you simply plan to write one article, SA won’t do much for you.  If you write a consistent series of articles that is well articulated and make sense, SA can be enormously powerful.  When I started writing there, I thought of SA as a somewhat narrow channel for getting my ideas out there.  Whether or not I was correct then I am not sure, but this is certainly not the case today.  SA has enormous reach.

Introverts, steal this idea for your next conference!

Conferences can be shy financial advisors’ worst nightmares. You spend so much time among so many strangers. You feel intimidated if many attendees seem to know one another. As an introvert, I feel your pain. My shyness inspired an idea that may help outgoing as well as shy financial professionals.

Create a provocative badge.
“If I can’t strike up conversations about my professional services, can I make people ask me about them?”

This is the badge that helped me meet people despite my being an introvert.

That’s the question I asked myself before I attended the CFA Institute’s annual conference in Boston. So I created a homemade badge to spark conversation. My badge, printed on bright yellow paper and slipped inside a name tag holder, said “Ask me about top 10 tips for investment commentary.”

You can customize your badge to use any good conversation starter.

Offer an incentive.
Everybody likes to get something valuable for free, so offer a free report, consultation, or other benefit to the people who ask about your badge. At the CFA Institute conference, attendees who asked about my badge could give me their business card to receive a free special report via email. It was a win-win situation. They got tips honed by my investment commentary presentations to CFA societies across the U.S. and Canada. I got the chance to deepen my relationship with them.

Note: I tweaked this post on May 30, 2013.

Shy/Bold image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

First, pick your target market and niche

Scattershot marketing of your investment or financial advisory services will sap your energy. Plus, it makes it harder for you to distinguish yourself from your gazillion competitors. This is why I’d like you to pick your target market —the group of people whom you target—and niche, meaning the services you provide, before you write any marketing materials, including your blog.

Don’t know how to choose your target market or niche? “Why People Buy What You’re Selling,” Chapter 2 of Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid offers exercises that will help.

“What are your clients’ compelling desires?” asks Port in this chapter. Understanding the answer to this question is a key to your marketing—and blogging—success.

Knowing your target market, niche, and your clients’ “compelling desires” will tell you who to address in your blog and which benefits of your services you should stress.

Edited July 21, thanks to comment from Ben.

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

FINRA/SEC compliance guidance for bloggers

Photo by Steffe

Registered representatives and registered investment advisors (RIAs) fall under two different regulators when they blog. Reps must grapple with FINRA’s regulations, while RIAs enjoy more freedom under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as I learned from Bill Winterberg’s guest post in December 2008. Do things right because “You can be sure that FINRA is going to start including social media reviews in their next round of examinations,” as attorney Mark Astarita said in “Advisors Allowed To Get Social.” That goes for the SEC, too.

However, if you treat your blog posts as sales literature or advertising, you’re unlikely to run into problems with your compliance department. This is true whether you’re a rep or an RIA. This has implications for your content, administrative processes, and recordkeeping.

You’ll find some guidelines below. Don’t rely solely on this blog post for guidance because I only skim the surface. Always check first with your compliance officer. If you’re the compliance officer, it’s important to monitor compliance developments for more details–and because standards may change quickly. You’ll find compliance resources at the bottom of this blog post.

Content: No recommendations

“The bottom line here is do not make specific recommendations in any of your communications.  You should keep your comments, posts, and interactions general in nature if you are referring to anything that is financially related,” says Stephanie Sammons, CEO of Wired Advisor, in “The Good News/Bad News of FINRA’s Social Media Guidelines Release.”

If you’re regulated by the SEC, you should observe the following policies when writing content, as summed up by Triplestop LLC’s Joe Polidoro in “Social Networking for RIA’s.”

  • Disclose all material facts
  • Don’t publish testimonials–When you wander off your blog, this includes LinkedIn recommendations, Twitter favorites, and the Facebook “like”
  • Don’t use “RIA” improperly

Polidoro also stresses that, aside from crafting your content carefully, you monitor your sites frequently so you can remove testimonials and other noncompliant content, keep records (see more details below), and develop and post your social media policy.

Some SEC compliance tips I picked up include during my dealings with compliance professionals include

  • Never make guarantees
  • Use “we believe” to make statements more palatable to your compliance officer
  • Avoid mentioning specific products, especially specific mutual funds, whenever possible, or you subject yourself to onerous disclosure requirements


Process: Preapproval preferred

Reps must get their blog content approved by a registered principal before they post to the web, according to Polidoro’s How FINRA Regulations Play Out in Social Media, At a Glance. RIAs have more leeway, especially if they’re at a small firm. I believe that larger RIA firms are likely to demand preapproval.

Recordkeeping: Archive your posts so they’re easily retrieved

FINRA wants you to keep your records for at least three years; the SEC, for at least five years. There are plenty of vendors that would like to provide you with an automated solution for tracking your social media. You’ll find some of them in the list of “Twitter and other resources.”

Reports, articles, and regulations on social media compliance

Here are resources that complement the blog posts I’ve mentioned above. If you’re aware of more, please let me know.


Twitter and other resources on social media compliance

Most of the people named below don’t focus on social media compliance. But they have put out useful information in the past. I expect they’ll do so again. Thanks to Bill Winterberg for adding some names to this list. Check Bill’s compliance list on Twitter in case new resources emerge.

This list gives Twitter names first. You can recognize Twitter names because they start with the @ sign. They’re followed by blog or website links. If the resource lacks a Twitter name, I give their real life name.

Do you recommend other resources on social media compliance for financial advisors? Please add them in the comments. I’m especially interested in resources for investment managers, wealth managers, and financial planners who blog.

April 2016 update: For a more recent post, read “Top 3 Compliance Concerns When Writing Your Blog.” In April 2016 correspondence, Cindi Hill confirmed that her advice is still current.


“Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston”

The future of investment management in Boston was the focus of a panel presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society’s annual meeting on June 24.

The view that Boston is being left behind made the greatest impact on me, but I’ll report some of the opinions of the four speakers, all of whom are industry veterans.

Reamer: Emphasis on actively managed equities hurts Boston

The investment world is shifting toward aggressive hedge funds and passive quantitative funds, said Norton Reamer, vice-chairman and founder, Asset Management Finance LLC. There’s also currently an emphasis on fixed income. This is because the public has been discouraged by the stock market returns of the past two years. They want defensive, safe investments. On a related note, large pension funds are moving more toward indexing.

These trends don’t favor Boston, the home of the original mutual fund, because local firms emphasize actively managed mutual funds. At least these trends don’t bode well in the immediate future.

For Boston to prosper, it must attract assets from around the world, said Reamer. However, he sees the action shifting to New York, London, and even Philadelphia and California. Boston has only one of the 10 largest hedge funds and three of the 30 largest. While Boston has a history of venture capital, venture capital is less important than private equity, which is concentrated elsewhere, said Reamer.

One of Reamer’s comments held a glimmer of hope. Universities–along with arbitrage groups, traders, and others–are the source of the new ideas that are changing the investment world. Boston has some great universities. Perhaps the universities can fuel the region’s resurgence as an investment center. I’m happy to note that the Boston Security Analysts Society’s program committee has a subcommittee devoting to inviting speakers from academia.

Putnam: Four trends will create many losers, few winners

Investment management is a craft, said Don Putnam, managing partner of Grail Partners, who moderated the panel. He emphasized the need to avoid losing sight of the craft before he described the four trends that he believes are changing the industry.

As a result of these trends, there will be many losers and few winners, said Putnam. The winners will be global firms as well as small cadres of capable people. The big challenge for money management will be to connect these two groups.

Trend 1: The long, complicated supply chain is reordering. For example, people are seeing the problems with “the slices taken off for people who deliver golf balls.” I assume Putnam was referring to wholesalers and the broader issue of 12b-1 fees and the like, though he said that he was not making a case for fee-only advisors. Changes are coming as a result of regulatory pressures, client demands, and “better mousetraps,” such as ETFs and active ETFs. Putnam said he’s sceptical about growth opportunities for the mutual fund industry.

Trend 2: The relevance of specialization is declining. Why? Because the efficient frontier–and the need to diversify into many slices of the market–has been challenged. “It has been proven to be nonsense for the client,” said Putnam. Clients’ “true utility equation” can be delivered more efficiently with quantitative solutions, he added.

Trend 3: The arithmetic of the investment business is changing with the rising importance of asset allocation. As the utility of money management has declined, fees have risen, said Putnam. This can’t last. While clients have bought the “myth of comfort and control,” the past three years have increased client dissatisfaction.

Trend 4: Technology is increasing in importance. Technology should be woven into every aspect of money management, said Putnam. Technology’s influence on money management has barely begun.

Manning: Structure your firm to have an edge over your competition

You must deliver great results to keep assets, said Robert J. Manning, who spoke as CEO of MFS Investment Management, but is scheduled to become the firm’s chairman on July 1. This means you must structure your firm to have an edge over your competition. Manning discussed three key elements of MFS’ structure.

1. Follow a long-term investment philosophy. The world is preoccupied with short-term investment returns. However, MFS believes that you need a culture of long-term investing backed by an appropriate compensation structure. When MFS conducts performance reviews, it only considers periods of three years or longer.

2. Create a global footprint. If your people are only in Boston, you can’t be a winner, said Manning. For example, if you don’t have staff in Europe, you can’t respond quickly enough when credit default swaps widen in Europe. As part of the global footprint discussion, Manning emphasized the need to integrate the firm’s fixed income and equity teams.

3. Analysts are more important than portfolio managers. The old model is broken, said Manning. The most important employees are career analysts who have expertise in specific sectors. MFS has eight global sector heads. These are the people who, if they “see a storm coming” get the entire firm out before it hits.

The increased importance of analysts has been driven partly by the fact that clients want to buy “specialized sleeves of alpha.” This is reflected in analysts’ compensation. At MFS, analysts earn more than portfolio managers.

We sell the global research platform, not the portfolio manager, said Manning. The portfolio manager simply assembles the alpha streams from the analysts the way that clients want.

Hughes: Confident in Boston’s future

Larry Hughes, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management, said that Boston’s talent and innovation makes his firm feel confident about Boston’s future.

Still, the next decade will pose challenges for wealth managers in terms of how to protect clients against continued market volatility and how to capture the related opportunities. Hughes suggested three areas for focus.

1. Investment innovation–The “set it and forget it” ways of the past won’t work any more, said Hughes. It’s important to capture trends that develop–and disappear–in months, or perhaps even just weeks.

2. Seamless and dynamic planning–Wealth managers must “plan across silos,” considering all aspects of clients’ lives, including taxes, estate planning, health care, and more.

3. Better manager-client engagement–It’s important to speak in your clients’ terms. Clients don’t talk about the efficient frontier, standard deviation, or r-squared, said Hughes. So neither should wealth managers. Instead, wealth managers should present issues in straightforward terms, such as “helping you maintain your lifestyle.”

Investment management career advice from industry veterans

Investment industry veterans’ somewhat gloomy outlook for Boston’s asset management firms prompted me to ask, what should the people in this room do to promote their careers? I asked this question during the Q&A session following “Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston,” a June 24 panel presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society’s annual meeting. You’ll find the panelists’ suggestions below.

Keep learning, said Donald H. Putnam, managing partner, Grail Partners LLC. As the role of technology accelerates, you can’t achieve the same outcomes as in the past using old skills. The great investors spend more time on their own skills as they get older, he added.

Take new challenges and learn new things, said Norton Reamer, vice-chairman and founder, Asset Management Finance LLC.

Be passionate about what you do, said Larry Hughes, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management. If you don’t feel passionate, then find something else to do.

Focus on your trade, said Robert Manning, CEO. MFS Investment Management. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll find a job despite the industry trends.

Guest post: “Making Research Readable”

Investment research analysts can learn to write better. In his guest post, Joe Polidoro gives directors of research his advice on how to make this happen. I’m delighted to have met another advocate of good investment writing thanks to Twitter, where Joe tweets as @joepolidoro.

Making Research Readable
By Joe Polidoro

Is it worthwhile, or even possible, to improve the quality of your research analysts’ writing? Yes and yes, and I’ll tell you how. First, the business case.

It seems reasonable that good writing—clear, engaging, memorable—should be more effective than sub-par writing at reaching your audience. But let’s see the numbers.

One of the best proofs I’ve come across is courtesy of Dame Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson PLC and former CEO of the Economist Group (hat tip: Vicki Cobb and I.N.K.)

Scardino located a study in which three groups—linguists, writing professors, and journalists –were asked to improve passages taken from a history textbook. Students were then asked to read the original passages and the rewrites and immediately record as much as they could remember.

Recall of the journalists’ rewrites beat recall of the other groups’ rewrites and of the original text by a whopping 40%. Good writing matters.

And I think average writers, including research analysts, can measurably improve their writing—with the right help.

First, look for a writer
In your quest for a writing coach, avoid anyone who doesn’t make a living—and a decent one—by writing. As Stephen King said, anyone who is paid to write knows how to write effectively. Professional writers “get the story told memorably … and quickly,” says Scardino. Those who make their living doing other things, including the teaching of writing, usually can’t.

Hire a writer/coach
A writing pro isn’t necessarily a good writing teacher, however. Aside from references, here’s how to tell. Effective teaching is less about charisma, more about preparation, perseverance, and a passion for the work. So ask questions: What are you going to teach my analysts? What are your goals? What’s your plan? How will you deal with indifference or egomania?

Your writer/coach should be quick with confidence-inspiring answers.  Look for someone who emphasizes telling a story (yes, even in a research report), clarity, and effective editing. Steer clear of those who get deep into grammar and theory. Good writer/coaches use real examples and show how it’s done.

Follow through with your swing
No writer/coach worth hiring will promise to improve your analysts’ writing in one session. A golfer won’t significantly improve her game with a 3-hour lesson. If she’s serious, she’ll take a series of lessons over the season. And writing well is harder than golfing well.

It doesn’t have to be extensive—even three 45-minute sessions over four to eight weeks with your most problematic analysts will work. But set aside budget for this. It’ll show you’re serious. And it will make whoever you hire that much more effective.

Joe Polidoro spent over a year improving the equity research reports at Bear Stearns, where he worked with past and future research stars including Lee Seidler, Lincoln Anderson, Larry Kudlow, Joe Buckley, Jami Rubin, and Steve Binder. Joe now co-heads Triplestop LLC, a marketing agency specializing in asset management and related industries.

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

My Boston-area networking suggestions

Social media are great, but sometimes I want to meet my business colleagues, prospects, and referral sources in person. 

In this post, I share some names of networking organizations in greater Boston. Perhaps you’ll find an organization that works for you. Even if you’re not in Boston, some of these organizations have a national presence.

My anchor organizations are the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS), the local chapter of the CFA Institute, and the Women’s Business Network (WBN). I’m a volunteer for the  BSAS. I try to attend at least one program monthly to keep on top of investment management issues and to meet new people. I belong to WBN out in Wellesley to get myself out of my office to chat with other small business owners.
Here are some other organizations I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions. They’re a mix of financial, communications, and business groups.

There are many more worthy organizations in greater Boston. One that intrigues me is the Boston Economic Club. If only I had more time… 

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tip for how to connect with your workshop attendees

Advisors, you can deepen your connection with folks who attend your investment or financial planning workshops using a technique I observed at the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts annual conference on May 7.

Consultant Shari Harley, whom I wrote about in “How to improve your financial planning client relationships,” handed out postcards to her audience. There’s nothing unusual about that. But what she said next grabbed my attention.

Harley asked us to write on the postcard (shown in the photo above) at least one thing that we learned from her presentation that we’d like to apply. Then she promised to mail the postcards to us in one month, if we dropped them off on our way out of the auditorium.

I like Harley’s postcard idea because

  1. Her question spurs the audience to think about what was most valuable in her presentation.
  2. She gains valuable feedback when participants hand in their cards.
  3. She reminds potential clients of her existence–with their permission–when they receive their cards one month later.
  4. If audience members haven’t acted on their goals by the time they receive the cards, they may say, “I need a consultant to help me act on this.”

This postcard technique should work nicely as follow-up to any sort of financial seminar or workshop.
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

How to improve your financial planning client relationships

You can improve your relationships with financial planning clients by encouraging them to communicate honestly with you from the very beginning. 

This is the main lesson I took away from Shari Harley‘s presentation on “How to Say Anything to Anyone: Paving the Way to Powerful Working Relationships” to the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts.

Ask for honesty
Harley suggested that audience members achieve this by saying, “I want a great relationship with you. If I do anything that violates your expectations, frustrates you or causes you challenges, please tell me. I promise I will say thank you.”

Assuming that your client says “yes” to your request, then you can add, “I hope I can do the same with you.” This sets the stage for two-way communication. If it works, you’ll never be surprised again by a client defection. 

I asked Harley what she’d recommend saying after “thank you” when a client gives negative feedback. Don’t say anything other than “thank you” right away, she suggested, because you’ll feel defensive. Go away and think things over. You can follow up later.

Follow up with questions
Don’t stop with your initial agreement to be honest with each other. Follow up with questions that help you to understand your client better, said Harley.

Here are some of her suggested questions:
1. Who was the best service provider you ever worked with?
2. What made him/her the best service provider?
3. What are your pet peeves?
4. Do you prefer email or voicemail?
5. What do you wish I would start, stop and continue doing? 

I can see how these questions would benefit me as a service provider and a client. It’s time to rev up my courage and start asking more questions.

I believe Harley’s approach could benefit you in your professional and personal life.

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved