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

Six lessons from the CFA Institute’s conference tweets

You can learn some lessons for how to tweet a conference from the CFA Institute. It has done things right as it timed its Twitter debut to coincide with its annual conference. But there’s still room for improvement.

Lesson 1:  Deploy a team. The CFA Institute mobilized a team of 14 people to report on its three-day conference. One person will burn out if she or he tries to cover every session. Plus, it’s impossible for one person to cover concurrent sessions.

Lesson 2: Use a hashtag. The hashtag #CFA2010 allowed people to find conference tweets by both official and unofficial sources.

Lesson 3: Complement your tweets with blog posts. You can’t say much of substance in a line of 140 characters or less. You’ll engage your conference attendees more deeply when some of your tweets lead them to blog posts. Tweets may be the sizzle that leads some reader to the steak. Read the CFA Institute’s 2010 conference blog.

Lesson 4: Decide on a strategy for engaging with fellow Twitter users. The CFA Institute included non-staff #CFA2010 tweets in the Twitter feed. It might also have engaged with other people tweeting about the conference.

I may have overlooked something, but I didn’t see any CFA Institute Twitter users getting into conversations on Twitter. On the other hand, there aren’t many CFA charterholders on–or even knowledgeable about–Twitter. “You can tweet, although I don’t know what that means,” joked John Rogers, the CFA Institute’s President and CEO, to widespread laughter when he introduced the conference’s Monday morning sessions.

Lesson 5: Monitor the back channel. This isn’t an issue for the CFA Institute yet, but it’s becoming more of an issue, as reflected in the publication of The Back Channel: How Audiences Are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever by Cliff Atkinson. The CFA Institute kept its eyes on the back channel by featuring #CFA2010 tweets on its conference blog and on screens at the conference.

Lesson 6: Go multimedia. Some folks like to take in their information in written form. Others prefer audio and video. The CFA Institute did a great job of getting its headline speakers interviewed on camera by reporters and tweeting the interviews as they became available online. It has also gradually fed the interviews onto its blog.

Congratulations CFA Institute on a conference well-tweeted!

Related posts:
* My blog posts related to #CFA2010

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Pull your white papers into the year 2010

Investment and wealth managers, you can get a lot more mileage out of your white papers today.

How’s that?

Don’t forget about the content once it’s up on your website. Reuse it using social media.

Recycle as blog posts
White paper content can be recycled into blog posts. In some cases, you can pluck a few paragraphs and drop them into your blog “as is.” However, most of the time, you’ll need to frame and re-write the content. I’ve been doing this recently for a white paper client.  

Another possibility: Send your white paper to a blogger whom you respect. Offer to answer questions about your topic on the other person’s blog. Check out “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments,” if you’d like to explore this option

Tweet it–and don’t forget LinkedIn
It’s a no-brainer to tweet the availability of your white paper. Smart marketers go beyond this. They tweet intriguing excerpts, keeping them short enough to be retweetable. Pithy quotes are popular on Twitter.

Remember, tweets are also great fodder for LinkedIn updates. While you’re over at LinkedIn, you may also want to raise a question in a Group related to your white paper topic.

Go multimedia
Different members of your audience prefer to take in content in different ways. So, also consider turning your white papers into podcasts, videos, or interactive webinars.

Related posts

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

BNY Mellon: I liked your "truth ad" until you used that word

BNY Mellon Wealth Management has a catchy new print ad asking “Can you handle the truth?” 

I love the simplicity of “Can you handle the truth?”

You can view one version of the ad on BNY Mellon’s website. However, I first saw this family of ads in the print version of The Wall Street Journal. 

Print vs. online ad
The Wall Street Journal version uses the same big “truth” box, but it is mostly better than the online version.

It’s better in the sense that much of its text is simpler and more direct than in the online version. I imagine that individuals seeking financial advice would find it very appealing. Let’s compare the two versions. 

Print version

The truth is most investors’ portfolios did not handle the past years’ market volatility well. A more alarming truth is that most plans have not been changed to mitigate future risks or capture opportunities.

We have helped many investors with an honest assessment of their current portfolio and plan. May we help you?

The first sentence is disarmingly honest. At least in my eyes. 

The language charmed me until I got to “mitigate.” If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I don’t like “big words” and “mitigate” is one of my pet peeves. Why couldn’t the writers substitute “ease,” “cut,” “reduce,” or even “manage” for “mitigate,” depending on what they meant? I suspect that a lawyer or compliance person pushed for “mitigate.”


Online version 
The first line of the online ad’s text–which you can read in the indented section below–is much stiffer and institutional. It doesn’t sound like something a human being would say in conversation. I’ve italicized the words I don’t like in this ad’s text below.  

The rest of the text is better. I like the second sentence. However, in the fourth sentence, “complimentary analysis” suffers when compared with the “honest assessment” of the first ad. Also, “please contact us” isn’t as appealing as “May we help you?”

Fundamental changes in the financial landscape have rendered many investment plans null and void.

Your plan may be one of them.

Let us help you learn the truth about whether your portfolio is positioned for the years to come.

To get started with a complimentary analysis of your investment plan, please contact us.

Related posts
* Timely, creative financial ad from Northwestern Mutual
* No more fancy-pants prose, please
Financial writers clinic: Getting rid of “mitigate”
* Can you make a case for “mitigate”?

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Guest post: "Talking to clients about social investing"

Socially responsible investing can make for a difficult conversation between investment managers and their clients. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you follow the tips provided by my friend Annie Logue, the author of Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies.

Talking to clients about social investing
By Ann C. Logue

Often, an individual client will walk into an office with a list of industries and companies that he or she does not want to own. Some clients have well-thought out objections or religious obligations that set the tone, but others have a vague idea of the goodness or badness of an industry without any real reasoning behind it.

How do you deal with such a customer?

Social criteria can be legitimate investment constraints, so one tactic is to approach it as a constraint. Get the client to identify the real issues, ideally in writing. Are they religious? Well, you can’t argue with religion! If they are more vague, then use some good questioning to get them onto paper, or ask the client to do some research. Some good sources are CSR Wire and Triple Pundit.

The real conversation is about what your client would rather invest in. Social investing doesn’t have to have lesser performance than traditional investing; the KLD Social Select 400 Index has minimal tracking error to the S&P 500 and, right now, outperforms it slightly. The secret is making sure that the companies you do invest in have a similar risk and return profile. If your client wants to sell BP, then you’d better find a company with similar characteristics. Replace BP with a speculative green tech company, and you’re changing the portfolio’s nature. Replace it with a large multinational food company with responsible business practices, paying a high dividend, and subject to commodity price fluctuations, and you’re getting closer to the portfolio contribution of BP without the oil exposure.

Keep holding the conversation, too. BP had a great reputation for its social responsibility right up until April of 2010. Social investing is still investing, and you still take on company risk. Just as there is no perfect job and no perfect boyfriend, there is no perfect investment. Remind your client of the long-term goals. Many clients prefer to separate their investing from their philanthropy, figuring that the more money they make, the more money they can donate and the more time they have to volunteer.

Finally, turn your clients into activists. Talk to them about proxies. They can vote their proxies and have an influence on companies even if they do not change their ownership positions. That gives the client power without disrupting an investment position.

Social investing doesn’t have to underperform, and it doesn’t have to be a wedge between you and your client. You can use a client’s interest as an opportunity to educate them and to show how you can add value to their portfolio.
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

My May blog posts by category: Blogging, economy/investments/wealth management, marketing, social media, writing

Did you notice that I went wild in May, posting every day as part of the Word Count Blogathon? For your convenience, I’m listing my May posts by category.

Blogging

Economy, investments, and wealth management

Marketing

Social media

Writing

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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

"Have mutual fund fees gone up or down?"

Investment expenses have been on my mind this month, as you know, if you’ve read “Morgan Creek Capital’s Yusko on investing,” “Morgan Creek Capital’s Yusko riles up Tweeters with comments on investment fees” or you follow me on Twitter.


This prompted me to revisit my article, “Have mutual fund fees gone up or down? Are they fair or unfair? It depends on whom you ask.” 


Many of the points raised in this 2006 article still apply.

  •  For most advisors, it’s a no-brainer to pick the fund with lower expenses, assuming the fund’s style, market capitalization and other major factors are equal. 
  • Controversies swirl around several topics related to fees, including their fairness, their correlation with higher fund returns, whether they’re rising or falling, and whether fund firms are responding adequately to advisor demands.
  • Some financial advisors say both critics and boosters of mutual funds may be missing the point by focusing on disclosed expense ratios. 
  • One thing seems clear: Advisors will continue to gravitate toward low-cost funds that also meet their other investment criteria.

One change since my 2006 article: The Investment Company Institute’s research no longer shows that overall mutual fund expenses are dropping. The headline for its latest study says, “Mutual Fund Expense Ratios Ticked Up in 2009, While Total Fees and Expenses Remained Steady.” Morningstar Advisor put a more negative spin on fees in “Mutual Fund Expense Ratios See Biggest Spike Since 2000.”

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Using CFP in your Twitter name–Read the CFP Board’s position

    Using a term such as CFP in your Twitter name makes sense as a marketing strategy for financial advisors. It immediately identifies you as a credentialed professional. However, it also means you’re violating the CFP Board’s rules.

    Twitter alerted me to this issue. When I dug into the CFP Board’s Guide to Use of the CFP Certification Marks, I discovered that point 1.7 says “CFP certificants may not own or use an email address or internet domain name that includes the CFP mark.” (Sorry CFP Board, I don’t know how to make the (R) mark appear in a Blogger blog). 

    Here are some examples from the CFP Board of proper and improper use of their mark.



    A Twitter name isn’t an email or a URL. But Twitter does make the name into a URL following the format http://twitter.com/TWITERNAME.

    I contacted @CFPBoard to ask if a Twitter name using CFP would violate its rules. Here’s the reply:






    It sounds as if the CFP Board is open to your feedback about using CFP in Twitter names. So shoot SLaBonte an email, if you’d like to be heard.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved