Tag Archive for: BSAS

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.

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

Watch out for inflation, says veteran value manager Jean-Marie Eveillard

Value investing was the focus of the presentation by Jean-Marie Eveillard, senior adviser and board trustee to the First Eagle Funds and senior vice president of First Eagle Investment Management, LLC, to the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS) on April 13. Eveillard also opined on the world economic outlook.

Three economic scenarios
Eveillard thinks there are three potential directions for the U.S. from here.
1. A typical post-WWII expansion— In this scenario, the authorities lever up the system again, so we get a three- to five-year expansion, Eveillard said. This would mean that we are still in a post-World War II environment. Eveillard is concerned about the short-term, even speculative orientation of investors in an environment in which equity mutual funds average 100% annual turnover.
2. Japanese-style stagflation–As the private sector continues to deleverage, the U.S. might fall into stagflation similar to that experienced in Japan for the past 20 years. This would happen if lenders don’t want to lend and borrowers don’t want to borrow, despite the government’s efforts to combat their resistance. Eveillard considers this unlikely because, unlike the Japanese, Americans are not resigned to economic stagnation. We’ll act.
3. Negative, unintended consequences including inflation–Eveillard is concerned about the unprecedented scale of the U.S. government’s intervention. This includes a gigantic budget deficit, zero interest rates, and the ballooning of the federal balance sheet.

The third scenario is most likely, said Eveillard, who spoke about the lessons of the Austrian school of economists. The main lesson: If you’re stupid enough to get into a really bad credit boom, you’ll have a bad credit bust. However, the Austrians also say not to do a short-term patch after a bust because you’ll compromise the medium-term and long-term recovery. This seems to be one of the roots of Eveillard’s fear of the third scenario.

But Eveillard’s inflation fears haven’t made him give up on stocks. People make the mistake of thinking that inflation is all bad for stocks, he said. He believes in owning the stocks of companies that are able to raise prices as their costs rise. For example, that’s something that newspapers were able to do back in the 1970s.

Eveillard did not comment on specific stocks that he favors now. “If I knew what my five best ideas were, that’s all I would own,” he quipped.

Benjamin Graham and The Intelligent Investor
Eveillard spent most of his time with the BSAS talking about the history of value investing. For him, the two big names are Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor, and well-known investor Warren Buffett.

Graham’s emphasis on the role of humility, caution, and order in investing make sense to Eveillard. He illustrated Graham’s approach to investing as finding a business with an intrinsic value of $50 per share, buying it at $30-$35 per share, and starting to sell it at $40. This is what Warren Buffett called the cigar butt–one puff and it’s over, said Eveillard.

Although Eveillard conceded that Graham’s approach to investing is static and balance sheet-oriented, it still offers opportunities. There are “Ben Graham-type stocks” in Japan, especially among small caps, he said. Because “net cash is greater than market cash…you get the business for less than nothing,” he said.

Warren Buffett added qualitative to quantitative
Benjamin Graham was “all about numbers.” Even today,  value investors all start with companies’ publicly available financial information, and then move on only if they’re satisfied with the public numbers, said Eveillard.

Warren Buffett added qualitative analysis on top of Graham’s quantitative analysis, said Eveillard. For example, Buffett likes companies that have a “moat,” a sustainable competitive advantage.

Comparing Graham and Buffett, Eveillard said that the Graham approach is much less time-consuming, though potentially less rewarding, than the Buffett approach. The First Eagle Funds started out in Graham style, then switched to Buffett’s style after adding the analysts that enabled them to do the necessary research, said Eveillard.

The case for value investing
Eveillard gave two reasons for pursuing value investing. First, it makes sense. Second, it works over time. He doesn’t buy the argument that value investing works only in the U.S. In fact, First Eagle has never opened offices overseas because it doesn’t want to be influenced by how the locals think. Still, he noted, “There are few genuine value investors in the U.S., but even fewer outside the U.S.”

Why so few value investors? For starters, it’s hard work. “Sell-side research is seldom useful” because of its six- to 12-month time horizon, said Eveillard. When your time horizon is five years, it makes a big difference in how you look at a business. That’s why First Eagle’s 11 analysts are “the true heart of our operation,” he said.

The psychological hurdle to value investing is even higher than the research hurdle. It’s not easy sticking with value investing’s long-term time horizon. That’s especially true when it means your investment performance may lag its benchmark in the short-term. First Eagle lost seven out of 10 investors during the period when its performance lagged from Fall 1997 to Spring 2000, said Eveillard.

To be a value investor, “there has to be a willingness on the part of the investor to take the short-term pain.” In addition, you have to be willing to move away from the herd when it’s nearing the cliff, said Eveillard, citing Warren Buffett. Value investing takes a temperament that many lack.

If you’d like to learn more about Eveillard’s views, he’s scheduled to appear on Bloomberg TV on Wed., April 14 April 14 at 5 p.m. EST, according to the First Eagle Funds website.

The next session of “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A Five-Week Teleclass for Financial Advisors starts April 22. Sign up to receive my free monthly newsletter.Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tweets on talk by Harry Markopolos, Madoff whistleblower

Here are my tweets on today’s talk to the Boston Security Analysts Society by Harry Markopolos, the Madoff whistleblower and author of No One Would Listen.

  • “This case was a global tragedy” said Markopolos. “It was beyond evil.”
  • Madoff case is only in its 2nd innings, said Markopolos. There’ll be more arrests due to cooperating witnesses.
  • CFA# Code of Ethics is important to Markopolos. “It’s about investors and doing the right thing,” he said.
  • CPAs, is this true? CPA code of conduct lacks affirmative duty to report fraud.
  • Lesson #1 for Madoff victims: 0-25% is proper allocation to hedge funds, said Markopolos
  • Lesson #2 for Madoff victims: Never put all of your eggs in one basket, said Markopolos
  • Markopolos book is a good road map for conducting due diligence, said Sam Jones of the CFA Institute’s board of governors.

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

Technical analysis of stocks can boost the power of your fundamental research

You can use technical analysis in combination with your firm’s fundamental equity analysis to help decide when to buy or sell stocks. This is the message I took away from “Applying Technical Analysis to a Fundamental Investment Strategy,” a March 23 presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society by David Keller, who oversees technical analysis as a managing director of research for Fidelity Investments. 

Technical analysis is not voodoo science, throwing darts at a board, or even a prediction of the future, said Keller. Rather, it’s a way to analyze supply and demand using patterns, he said.

Fundamental research and technical analysis tackle different parts of the decision to trade a stock. Here’s how Keller described them.

  1. Fundamental research analyzes the company for the what and why of buy and sell decisions.
  2. Technical analysis analyzes the stock, looking purely at market activity for when and how to buy or sell

These two approaches overlap, in the opinion of Keller and the Fidelity portfolio managers who use his team’s research. Technical research helps to identify the best time to execute a fundamental strategy, he said. You can think of technical analysis as a trigger, he said.  

When the results of technical analysis diverge from those of fundamental research, portfolio managers should pay attention, according to Keller. He referred to point and figure charts as “a gut check on how I look at individual stocks.”

Relative strength indicators are among the most important technical indicators, Keller said. They can be warning signs, he added.

Keller’s message was warmly received by members of the audience, most of whom raised their hands when asked if they regularly consulted technical indicators. 

Related post
* Fidelity’s head of technical research addresses “Where will the stock market go from here?”
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

Fidelity’s head of technical research addresses "Where will the stock market go from here?"

Will the bull market continue? 

Investment professionals are always curious. So naturally the question came up during a Q&A session with David Keller, who oversees technical analysis as a managing director of research for Fidelity Investments. The question followed Keller’s March 23 presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society on “Applying Technical Analysis to a Fundamental Investment Strategy.”

The bottom line: It appears that the market is in an uptrend and the offensive sectors will outperform their defensive peers. 

However, Keller framed his comments cautiously, saying that there is little evidence that the stock market is not in a sustained uptrend. Nor does he see evidence that the market is overbought.

“I can’t say,” replied Keller, when asked to identify his favorite sector. He’s looking at groups that are traditionally considering offensive. “But it’s not as clear cut as in the past,” he said.

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

Harvard’s Charles Collier on "The Practices of Flourishing Families"

 “The critical challenge you face is not financial,” said Charles Collier, senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard University in his presentation on “The Practices of Flourishing Families” to an audience composed mostly of wealth managers at the Boston Security Analysts Society on December 15, 2009. He believes “The most critical challenges are relationship-based and family-based.”

Of course, money plays a role in these challenges, so this is a topic that should concern all wealth managers. Whether it’s scarce or abundant, money is a challenge in every family, said Collier.

Three questions are critical to addressing family challenges, said Collier.

  1. What topics are easy or difficult for your family to discuss?
  2. How do you manage yourself in life’s transitions?
  3. Is family harmony an important principle for you, and, if so, why? 

Collier’s interactive presentation focused on Question 1 and raised the following difficult questions around finances:

  1. What is an appropriate inheritance for your child?
  2. Who gets the money, and when? Do they get equal shares?
  3. Who gets information about the money and when?
  4. How much will go to philanthropy?
  5. What do you think will be the impact of unearned money on your child’s life?
  6. How can you encourage your children to find their life calling?

Collier did not suggest how financial advisors should raise these questions with their clients. So, I’m asking you, how do YOU address these questions with clients? Do you address them at all?

Recovery will be stronger than consensus, says Barclays Capital chief U.S. economist

“U.S. economic growth is recovering robustly, receiving the usual cyclical boost from housing and inventories,” said Dean Maki, managing director and chief U.S. economist of Barclays Capital in his “U.S. Economic Outlook” presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS) on December 8. 

Maki said the U.S. economy will recover strongly, as it typically has done following past recessions. He disagreed with the many pundits who say “This time is different” and that the economic recovery will be drawn out because tight credit will keep consumer spending weak. Credit is always tight following a recession, Maki said. “In these strong [economic] recoveries of the past, we haven’t needed strong credit growth,” he added. 

Maki discussed the following drivers of strong economic growth:
•    Production is set to grow much faster than final demand.
•    Housing is starting to rise because of its greater affordability.
•    Business has cut too much during downturn, so companies must boost spending soon to grow profits.

Some predictions
•    Real GDP will hit 5% by the first quarter of 2010 and stay at or above 3% in 2010.
•    Unemployment has peaked and will fall to 9.1% by the fourth quarter of 2010.
•    Inflation–and the fed funds rate–will remain low. However, the Fed will raise rates in the second half of 2010.

A couple of unexpected developments could derail Maki’s predictions, he said. One is a sharp fall in the stock market. The other is a sharp rise in commodity/energy prices as a result of global economic growth. 

Do you agree with Maki’s predictions? Please comment.

Dec. 11 update

If you’re a member of the BSAS LinkedIn group, you can join a conversation there about Maki’s talk.

Which wealth managers have the highest profit margins?

People are always curious about who makes how much money. That’s probably why I zeroed in on the profit margin comments made by investment banker Elizabeth Nesvold, managing partner of Silver Lane Advisors, when she spoke about “Trends Amid Turmoil in the Wealth Management Business” to the Boston Security Analysts Society on November 18.

Because multi-family offices (MFOs) deal with wealthier clients than financial planners, I was surprised to learn that their margins are lower than financial planners’ in typical market scenarios, ranging from 10%-30% vs. 20%-35% for financial planners and asset allocators. However, the difference made sense when she explained that MFOs get hurt by “scope creep.” It’s expensive to service a multi-generational family as compared to an entrepreneur who just sold his or her business, Nesvold said.

Here’s the hierarchy of margins under typical market scenarios, in descending order, according to Nesvold.

  1. Hedge funds, 50%-70%
  2. Hedge funds of funds, 25%-60%
  3. Traditional institutional, 30%-70%
  4. Investment counsel, 25%-40%
  5. Financial planning/asset allocation, 20%-35%
  6. MFOs, 10%-30%

Do these margins sound realistic to you? 

Private equity job hunting tips from four professionals

Don’t bring me a resume. Bring me a deal,” said Daniel Meader, founder and managing partner, Trinity Advisory Group. Meader offered his advice during the Q&A following “The State of Private Equity: Opportunity through Crisis,” a sold out presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society on November 5.

Other advice from panelists:

  • In New England, the best job prospects are in venture. The corporate growth and buyout styles of private equity are stagnant locally, said Martin Grasso, CEO, Pearl Street Capital Group.
  • It’s good to have consulting experience as well as investment expertise, according to Scott Stewart, MS in Investment Management Faculty Director, Boston University School of Management.
  • Get operating experience in turning around a distressed company, suggested Norman Rice, partner, ConsensusCapital Group.

Do you have more tips for private equity job hunters? Please add them in the comments.