The power of analogy: U2 and alternative investments

What could the band U2 and hedge fund-style investing have in common? 

This unlikely combination came up in a March 15 presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society by Robert Kaimowitz, CEO and portfolio manager, Bull Path Capital Management.  

Kaimowitz asked the audience, “How many of you think U2 is an alternative band?” No hands went up. The band is mainstream now. Yet it was considered an alternative band when it first emerged.

So-called “alternative investments” will follow a similar path, suggested Kaimowitz. They’re new and poorly understood, so they’re considered “alternative.” That will change as they become accepted. He figures alternatives will become mainstream partly because a long-only fund can’t be conservative because it’s 100% exposed to the market.

Kaimowitz’ comments about U2 and alternative investments demonstrate the power of analogy. They stuck with me long after the details of his fund’s performance faded.

If you’re trying to convince your clients to adopt alternative investments, consider trying this U2 analogy on them. I’d like to hear if it works for you.

Question re: client portals–is there a way to capture your emails to clients?

It’s tough to separate investment communications from technology, especially given the strict retention guidelines of the SEC and FINRA. That’s why my ears pricked when an investment manager said that client portals can’t retain emails sent through them. I took that as a challenge.

I discovered that at least one client portal, FamilyOfficeNetwork (FON), satisfies this retention need. 

“FamilyOfficeNetwork does retain messages sent within our portal and they meet the SEC’s retention requirements. We can also have any notification email sent from our system BCC to any email address a firm desires,” wrote FON’s Aaron Pickett in response to my inquiry.

Bill Winterberg, I must thank you again for helping me find an answer to a technology question.

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The next session of “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A Five-Week Teleclass for Financial Advisors” will start in April. For more information, sign up to receive “Information on upcoming classes, workshops, and other events” as well as my free monthly newsletter.
Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

"What the HELL is Social Media?" with a hat tip to Sree Sreenivasan

If you’re still wondering why you should learn about social media, check out this video, which I discovered thanks to Sree Sreenivasan.

Reader question: How can I share my investment commentary on LinkedIn?

You can use LinkedIn, yet stay within your compliance officer’s guidelines, by sharing approved materials through your LinkedIn “status line.” I often suggest this to investment managers and financial advisors.

So I wasn’t surprised to receive an email saying, “Help! Please remind me how to share a link to my investment commentary on LinkedIn.”

Here’s my answer.

Step 1 Shorten the URL that takes readers to your commentary. The URL for your commentary is probably too long for the limits of LinkedIn’s status updates, especially because you need text to lure readers to your commentary. This is when link shorteners come in handy. You can use a free service, such as TinyURL.com. To shorten your link, simply follow the directions at the link shortening website of your choice.


Step 2 Enter your text into LinkedIn. When you go to your LinkedIn home page, you’ll see below your Inbox the Network Updates section.  Type your text into the box. If your commentary is provocative, you might say something like “You won’t believe what I’m saying about the stock market  http://tinyurl.com/…..” LinkedIn automatically converts URLs beginning with http:// into live links.

Hit the Share button and your investment commentary becomes available to folks on LinkedIn.

Related posts
* The LinkedIn status line is your friend, whether you’re looking for clients or a job
* My top tips for LinkedIn newbies who want to attract financial clients, referrals, and jobs

Financial writers clinic: Lessons from Floyd Norris of The New York Times

I’m a big fan of New York Times columnist Floyd Norris. His Feb. 27 column illustrates techniques you can use for your financial articles and blog posts. 

Lesson 1: Make your title provocative–and consider giving away your conclusion. “Think Banks Are Out of the Woods? Maybe Not,” says Norris’ title. 

The title achieves two positive results. First, it challenges a growing number of pundits who believe banks are in much better shape than one year ago. That’s provocative. Folks will want to know the reasons behind his statement.

Second, the title gives away the article’s main point. Making your conclusion clear up front will attract more people than a title that doesn’t express an opinion, such as “Percentage of bad bank loans” or even “Bad bank loans soar.” Busy people want to get a sense upfront of whether an article will justify their spending the time to read it. 

Lesson 2: A startling fact will hook your readers in your opening sentence. Norris opens with “More than $1 in every $10 that American banks have outstanding in loans is lent to a troubled borrower, a ratio far higher than previously seen in the quarter-century that such numbers have been compiled.” I had to continue reading after that opening. 

Lesson 3: Lead with your message, not your source, as I’ve written on this blog. Norris didn’t mention the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation report that’s the source of his data until his third paragraph. Naming your source boosts the credibility of your article or blog post. But it’s usually not a particularly interesting piece of information. 

Lesson 4: Use graphs or some sort of graphic. A non-text element attracts the eyes of people who might otherwise skip an article. However, Norris’ graphs could have been stronger if they were integrated into the layout of the article and carried more descriptive text. 

Lesson 5: Your ideas count. Norris always has something interesting to say. I might read his articles even if they weren’t well organized.

Image courtesy of pakora at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Related posts
Vary your paragraph length like NYT writer Floyd Norris
Financial writers clinic: Getting rid of “mitigate”
Financial writers clinic: Rhythm can help you 
Financial writers clinic: Great title, lousy intro

If you MUST use "secular" in your investment commentary…

…please follow The Wall Street Journal‘s example. Define secular the first time you use it. 

Here’s how Mark Gangloff did it in “TALF and Ilk Won’t Cure Economic Ills” The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 5, 2009), p. C1: “Instead, credit has dried up this time because of the more secular—meaning structural or long-lasting—phenomenon of a debt bubble.”

Secular is great shorthand for conversations between investment professionals. But it may confuse investors who think of secular as the opposite of religious.” After all, see what comes up when you Google “define: secular.”

 

 

 

Related posts:
* “Quantitative easing” is a weasel word 
* “Amid Market Gloom, Fund Manager Fights Against Jargon


 

Do NOT copy this wealth management firm’s navigation scheme

There’s a lot that I like about the way that a certain wealth advisory firm communicates with clients and the public. But its website navigation is terrible. It should get rid of the website frames that prevent users from going directly to content loaded on its website.

In its email notices, the firm tells me “Our latest quarterly commentary is now available on our Web site, www. [Firm Name.com], under News Room>Quarterly Overviews.

That translates into my having to click three times because of the frames. In today’s quick-fix world, many people won’t have the patience to follow through.

Website frames have other disadvantages, too, as Shirley Kaiser’s article notes. For example, they may prevent your website from being properly indexed by search engines. That makes it harder for people to find the content over which you’ve labored.

I’d like to balance my criticism with some praise. I like how the firm always relates its investment commentary to the performance of clients’ portfolios. In fact, I’ve used some of their commentary to help teach “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” to portfolio managers and marketers.

Note: updated on Dec. 18, 2017.

Writing sample: Three key lessons from “Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability”

Sometimes a little tweaking can make your email message more compelling to your readers. That’s especially true when you make your message reader-centric.

Below you’ll find a “before” example of a message I received recently and the “after” version with my edits to make it more client-focused.

BEFORE:

Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability

We received a number of phone calls the past few days about the financial stability of Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade who we use to custody client accounts.  I am pleased to report that they are both in fine shape, as they are not investment banks.   Investment banks create products and sell them to institutions such as insurance companies, pension plans and banks.  In addition, your accounts are separately held and each account has both SIPC and supplemental insurance far in excess of your accounts’ value. For more information about SIPC and supplemental insurance please click on the following link:

 

 

AFTER MY EDITING:

Schwab and TD Ameritrade are Financially Stable

Has the recent financial turmoil made you worry about the  financial stability of the firms that provide custody for your accounts with us?

Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are both in fine shape. They are not investment banks and they have strong balance sheets.

In addition, your accounts are separately held and each account has both Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and supplemental insurance far in excess of the account’s value. For more information on SIPC and supplemental insurance click on the following link:

COMPARING THE BEFORE AND AFTER

What are the key lessons from the two versions?

  1. Use headings to convey your message. My heading, “Schwab and TD Ameritrade are Financially Stable” conveys a lot more information than “Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability.” It puts readers’ minds at ease quickly and may spare them having to read the entire message
  2. Talk about you, not us. The first version starts with “we received…” and talks about “we use to custody….” The second begins with a focus on you.
  3. Don’t assume that your reader understands acronyms. Spell out that SIPC is short for Securities Investor Protection Corporation.

Still, I give the authors credit for e-mailing their clients promptly. It’s not easy to craft a perfect communication when time is short.

 

Image courtesy of Rinjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net