Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Should stock analysts use Twitter?

If you're an analyst, should you consider using Twitter for research?

Check out "Should Analysts Use Twitter?" by Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, for three key questions that'll help you decide. Basically, it depends on what industry you cover and whether the people in your industry are Twittering. To see if people are Twittering on your topic, search key words at http://search.twitter.com/.

You may also enjoy Owyang's post on "How crowdsourcing helps some--but not all research activities."


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, September 29, 2008

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.

_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

New GIPS standards will change the rules for marketers of separate accounts

Marketers of investment strategies marketed using performance composites will have to learn new recommendations and rules once GIPS 2010 goes into effect. If you're a reader of marketing materials for separate accounts, you will find new information to digest.

GIPS is short for Global Investment Performance Standards. The next draft of GIPS standards will be issued for public comment in early 2009, with new standards to be issued in early 2010 and to become effective on January 1, 2011, according to a presentation on "GIPS Update: What to Expect in 2010" by Sunette Mulder, chair of the GIPS Executive Committee and Investment Manager Subcommittee, and Karyn Vincent, chair of the GIPS Interpretations Subcommittee. They spoke at the CFA Institute's GIPS Standards Annual Conference on Sept. 25.

I nodded my head when Vincent said that common practice in the U.S. is to show 10 years of investment composite performance and to drop off the eleventh year once an additional year of performance is completed. I remember salespeople gleefully anticipating when a bad year would drop off the bar graph.

However, the draft of GIPS 2010 will recommend that firms show more than 10 years of history. That was just one of many points made by Vincent and Mulder. 

Another change that will impact marketers: the composite description must be expanded to include "enough information to understand all of the key characteristics, including risks, of the composite strategy." Apparently it was felt that firms don't adequately discuss risks.

Speaking of risk, another innovation is to require disclosure of a risk measure such as standard deviation for the composite and the benchmark for the most recent three-year period. If standard deviation isn't the best risk statistic, you may show additional statistics.

If you don't like what you're hearing--or if you think some of these ideas should definitely get implemented--remember you'll have an opportunity to give feedback on the draft of GIPS 2010. You can keep up at the GIPS Standards website.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

What the heck is Twitter?

It's tough to keep up with all of the social networking tools and their business uses. 

One that I've struggled to see the value of --at least for me--is Twitter. Twitter is like a series of mini blog posts or updates, as described in the slide show on "Twitter in Plain English." As the Twitter FAQ explains, a Twitter communication--known as a tweet--tells us what you're doing in 140 characters or less.

What does Twitter have to do with business? Here are "50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business."

Check out the left-hand column of the FP Pad blog for an example of a financial professional's Twitter feed.

If you really want to delve into the details of using Twitter, I've heard that the Twitter Fan Wiki is the website for you.

You won't see me Twittering any time soon. 
_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, September 26, 2008

Better client reporting on investments is coming, says speaker at GIPS conference

Better client reporting on investments is on the horizon, according to "The Future of Performance Measurement," a Sept. 25 presentation by Stefan Illmer, head of client reporting for Credit Suisse, at the CFA Institute's GIPS Standards Annual Conference in Boston.

There is "increasing pressure to provide analytics...from the client's point of view" in addition to providing them for the portfolio manager. That translates into:
  • Providing the money-weighted rate of return, which is the client return, rather than simply the time-weighted rate of return
  • Using analytics to address where absolute profits are coming from in addition to analyzing returns vs. the benchmark; this is especially true for private clients
Illmer also foresees more reporting for clients' total portfolios, incorporating clients' externally held assets such as real estate, private equity, assets held with other custodians, and advisory accounts.

An audience member asked how firms can aggregate client portfolios for look-through given the 90-day delay in mutual funds reporting their holdings. Illmer replied that the data exists because it is used for daily net asset value calculations. He believes that pressure from clients may eventually win the release of this data.


For a related post, see "Financial crisis will change client reporting, according to Credit Suisse executive."

_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Financial crisis will change client reporting, according to Credit Suisse executive

In response to my question about how the current financial crisis will impact performance measurement and reporting, Stefan Illmer, head of client reporting for Credit Suisse, said that the investment industry needs standards for client reporting

He said he wasn't referring to performance reporting to clients, but to a broader array of topics such as valuation, pricing, transparency, and disclosures. 

For example, if a firm regularly runs return attribution software, it will immediately notice when a bond defaults because there will be no price for the bond. Of course, that assumes that the firm doesn't let the portfolio manager define the price for the bond.

Illmer answered my question during the Q&A section of his Sept. 25 presentation on "The Future of Performance Measurement" at the CFA Institute's GIPS Standards Annual Conference in Boston.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who's hiring CFA charterholders...and other job search tips

Who's hiring?

Evergreen Investments and Leerink Swann are among those hiring, according to their representatives on a panel called "Talent Search Professionals Uncensored" at "Investing in Your Career," a CFA Institute program held in Boston on September 23.

Some firms will always hire in down- as well as up-markets, said Bob Gorog, a partner with CT Partners, an executive search firm. Certain areas are stronger than others, in his experience, including:
  • Senior risk professionals and international (especially frontier markets) portfolio management professionals
  • Client-facing professionals, especially those who can make clients feel better
  • Alternative investments professionals
Sascha Bernitsky, a senior recruiting consultant with Evergreen Investments, echoed Gorog's comment about interest in international and alternative investments. Evergreen is also interested in fixed income professionals who have managed through market turmoil, he said.

Investment banking firm Leerink Swann especially likes job candidates who combine health care and financial expertise, said Alice Avanian, associate director of equity research. 


More job hunting tips for investment professionals

These three panelists offered additional job hunting tips. Here's what I took away.
  • Make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to see how you fit their opening. In addition to your resume, craft a cover letter that highlights how your expertise makes you the best candidate for the specific opening for which you're applying
  • Prepare for your interview because your oral communication skills are more important than ever as investment professionals spend more time in front of clients.
  • You can turn your failures to your advantage. Bernitsky looks for candidates who can talk about how they learned from a failure.
  • Have plenty of references. Gorog said some of his clients are asking for seven to 10 references, although they may only call three to four of them.
  • Social networking can help--or hurt. Bernitsky has used LinkedIn to search for hard-to-fill positions. On the other hand, be cautious about posting personal information on sites like Facebook because your name will be Googled, said Gorog.
As for your written communications, consider the following.
  • Proofread and critique your letters and emails. Automated spell-check is not enough. Bad grammar can automatically disqualify you, said Avanian and Bernitsky. Also, a friend who reads your cover letter can objectively assess how well the letter makes your case.
  • Write a strong email subject line. For example: "small cap equity analyst--resume of Bob Johnson." It's important to include the title of the position you're applying for.
  • Don't bury the name of the person who referred you. Bernitsky said he'll be sure to read your resume, if you mention the person who referred you at the top of your email. Presumably the referrer should be an employee of his company or someone he knows.
  • Resumes should run two pages or less, and be laid out in a reader-friendly style.
  • Send a thank you note within 24 hours. Either email or snail mail is fine, said Avanian.
Good luck with your job hunt!

_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is a global infrastructure fund right for your clients' portfolios?

With their high returns and low correlations to other major indices over the past five years, investments in global infrastructure-toll roads, airports, utilities and the like-are attracting attention from financial advisors and new products from fund providers. But will such impressive performance continue? And, if you buy the case for this kind of investing, how should you evaluate the funds vying for your attention?

Continue reading my article on infrastructure investing in Advisor Perspectives for insights from Jay Rosenberg, lead manager of First American's Global Infrastructure Fund, and from Harold Evensky, president of wealth management firm Evensky & Katz.
_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Do NOT hire me to ghostwrite your blog posts

I'm a professional writer who spends much of her time ghostwriting for financial professionals.  But today I'm advising you against hiring me to ghostwrite your blog posts.

Top Blog Mistake #4 is "ghostwriting blog posts," according to "GM Blog Manager Shares Top 10 Blog Mistakes and How to Avoid Them," a MarketingSherpa interview with the manager of General Motors' Fast Lane blog.

Using ghostwriters makes a blog "lose its transparency - one of those trust-building, relationship-building elements," according to the interview with Christopher Barger, Director, Global Communications Technology, General Motors.

However, I'll bet that GM's communications team edits--and provides other guidance for--the blog posts written by GM execs.

The other top blog mistakes are:
Mistake #1. Treating the blog like a channel for corporate messaging
Mistake #2. Rushing to respond to negative feedback
Mistake #3. Fearing the critics
Mistake #5. Giving blog writers the impression that once a post is written, it’s done
Mistake #6. Relying on writers who are too corporate
Mistake #7. Not establishing blog rules
Mistake #8. Posting infrequently
Mistake #9. Going against your comment policy
Mistake #10. Editing, hiding, or taking a post down when you make a mistake 



_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Resources to help you cut through investment jargon

Jargon is a barrier to your effective communication with clients. But sometimes it's hard for you to think of a replacement for a term like "secular" that's convenient shorthand for communication among investment professionals.

Google definitions can help 
You can always do a Google search to define terms that may derail your client. For example, inputting "define: credit default swap" will yield some definitions that you can paraphrase for your client's benefit.

But sometimes a Google search doesn't cut the mustard. 

For example, investment strategists often talk about secular trends. But "define: secular trend" yielded no definitions when I tried it recently. And "define: secular" spoke about the term only as the opposite of "religious."

Online investment glossaries fill the gap 
Sometimes an investment glossary comes to the rescue.

Here's what Investopedia says when I input "secular." 

Sometimes it pays to go to investment glossaries.

Here are some options:
Your recommendation? 
What investment glossaries do YOU recommend?
_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing
Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Personal Branding for the Business Professional"

Your personal branding can help you find a job, new clients or a promotion. But developing a personal brand has become much more complicated in the age of social networking. Check out the free e-book on personal branding offered by Chris Brogan for a nice combination of traditional and new techniques for personal branding.

I'm checking out some of the websites and other resources that Brogan mentions. Like Website Grader, which will generate a free report on your website's marketing effectiveness.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, September 19, 2008

Webcast: "What to Say to Clients Now"

Investment News is running a webcast on "What to Say to Clients Now" on September 23.

Check it out, if you'd like to hear how others are talking to their clients about the craziness on Wall Street.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Avoid these mistakes when you evaluate single-manager hedge funds

If you focus only on investment essentials such as philosophy, process, performance, and people when evaluating single-manager hedge funds, you could miss out on some key information.

Some of the other questions you should consider, according to "Selecting Single-Manager Hedge Funds for Private Client Advisers" by Richard Boutland, include:
  • For a non-U.S. fund, who is the fund administrator and how extensive is their role? Boutland prefers strong, involved administrators.
  •  Is the fund managed in a country with a strong regulator?
  • Does the fund manager have adequate operations expertise and adequate capital? Boutland notes that "on many occasions 'star traders' have set up their own firms only to fail through lack of adequate information technology, compliance, trade support, personnel, investor relations, and all of the other operational support."
  • Are there special terms for other investors that discriminate against redemptions by new investors? 
Boutland's article appeared in the CFA Institute's Private Wealth Management e-newsletter.



_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Make your clients smile, while you stay safe from lawyers

Making a client smile can bring your meeting one step closer to a successful result. 

So, consider using a cartoon about the economy or stock market. It's easy to find them by searching CartoonBank.com, a collection from the New Yorker

Could you use the cartoon described by the following caption?
I got out of tulips after the market collapsed, but I’m slowly getting back in. Especially pink ones.” 
Or, how about this one?
“Actually, ‘Monkey see, monkey do’ has served me quite well in this market.”
When you license cartoons for use in presentations, you keep yourself safe from charges of copyright infringement. Lawyers can't come after you. That's an added benefit. 

Have you used cartoons successfully in your presentations?


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing

Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 All rights reserved

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips"

You can't be an effective financial advisor, if you can't communicate effectively via e-mail.

Your e-mail subject line is key. If you write a weak subject line, your client or colleague may ignore or even delete your message. Write a strong one, and you're more likely to get the response you need.

"Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips" by Dennis Jerz does a nice job of critiquing subject lines as he explains how to "write a meaningful subject line."


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing
Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Get to the point quickly, or lose your web readers

"Web content must be brief and get to the point quickly, because users are likely to be on a specific mission."

I agree with this assertion by Jakob Nielsen, a guru of website usability, in "Writing Style for Print vs. Web." 

Nielsen gives good pointers for web writing in "How Users Read on the Web." 

If you don't please your readers, your website will suffer from a high bounce rate. In other words, readers will quickly desert your website. In "Reduce Bounce Rates: Fight for the Second Click," Nielsen suggests solutions. They boil down to providing links to relevant information on your website.
_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing
Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Ten Speech Tips for Writing Powerful and Persuasive Presentations"

"Always work out what you want to achieve before beginning the speech process," says author Thomas Murrell in "Ten Speech Tips for Writing Powerful and Persuasive Presentations." 


The same rule applies to your written communications. Figure out your goal ahead of time. Then focus on achieving it. Weed out any content that distracts.




_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing
Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.