Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quit being passive: A grammar tip

If you reduce your use of the passive voice, your writing will become more powerful. That's something I often tell my writing students.

If you can't recognize the passive voice, check out the passive voice resources highlighted by Barbara Feldman in "Surfing the Net with Kids" (Nov. 27, 2009). Don't be put off by the "Kids" in Feldman's column title. She's referring you to websites appropriate for adults.

According to the Guide to Grammar and Writing's "The Passive Voice" page

In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a be-er or a do-er and the verb moves the sentence along. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (The new policy was approved).
In my opinion, the active voice has a couple of advantages compared to the passive voice
  • It shortens sentences
  • It clarifies the relationship between cause and effect
If you're not sure you can recognize the passive voice, take the Guide to Grammar and Writing's passive voice quiz, "Exercise in Revising Passive Constructions." 

Some of the other resources mentioned by Feldman include
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Investment management job outlook for 2010

There are glimmers of hope in the investment management hiring outlook for 2010, especially for job applicants who help to generate revenues or who are in an area where cuts have been too deep. That's what I gathered from exchanges with three observers, Michael Kulesza, managing director of Horton International's Boston office; Bob Gorog, partner in CT Partners' Boston office; and Michael Evans, president, FUSE Research Network in Boston. This updates my 2008 posts, "Three recruiters talk about hiring at investment management and mutual fund firms" and "Who's hiring CFA charterholders."

"I do sense an uptick in hiring for 2010," said Kulesza. "Many companies scaled back heavily, so now they and are planning to add people to their organizations." That's particularly true in the areas of sales, new business development, mutual fund wholesalers, and advanced sales support, he said.

Smaller firms hiring to grow market share 
Small- to medium-sized firms are hiring more aggressively than bigger firms, added Kulesza. They're taking advantage of large-company layoffs to upgrade their staff and to increase market share. 

Given the big banks' involvement with mergers and TARP funds, some smaller banks see an opportunity to expand their  high-net-worth businesses. "Customers are gravitating toward more local or regionalized high-net-worth services," he said. 

Aside from these sales and marketing opportunities, Kulesza believes there may be additions to investment research and analysis. "Back office operations will stay lean,” he said. 

Privately held and mutual companies are freer to take advantage of hiring and market share expansion opportunities, said Kulesza, because they aren't answerable to the stock market. Meanwhile, it will take four to five years before investment management hiring returns to its previously high levels, he predicted. 

Some niches offer more opportunities  
"The better firms are coming back into the market," said CT Partners' Gorog. On the investment side, he sees more searches for international equities than for domestic equities. Opportunistic hiring is also happening in fixed income areas such as credit and distressed debt.

Some hedge funds are beefing up their distribution. They're trying to upgrade their clients to include institutions as well as the high-net-worth, fund-of-fund, and family office clients with whom hedge funds typically launch. Funds that have survived three years and delivered decent relative performance over that period figure they have a good shot at expanding their client base. 

Hiring in product management
Fuse's Evans shared the hiring outlook uncovered by the firm's recent research report on product management at asset management firms. His comments are reproduced below with his permission.

Increased Activity – Two areas in which product leaders anticipate increased activity is improving web content and capabilities, and hiring of additional staff. A review of firm websites indicates that much of the research and marketing content is dated. In terms of the actions listed, improving web content and capabilities was among the least time-consuming and least expensive actions firms could take, but its impact could be great in that it would signal to advisors and investors that the firm is moving forward.

In terms of hiring, firms indicated a strong desire to add back staff. Fully 50% of respondents indicated that they plan to hire in 2010. When asked the areas to which they planned to add staff, responses included:
·  Product managers
·  Marketing managers
·  Associates/analysts
·  Junior product managers
·  Manager research/due diligence

This suggests that firms may be feeling the burden of carrying out new organizational initiatives using skeleton staffs. Recent analysis by Russell Reynolds Associates concurs that hiring should resume in 2010; particularly on the sales and marketing sides of organizations, as these were among the hardest hit in terms of headcount reduction.

For wealth managers and financial planners 
Wealth management professionals and employers should check out Bill Winterberg's "Your Next New Hire: By Providence or Planning?" Bill lists some resources that may help both job hunters and those who are looking to hire. He also links to some trade publications suggesting that hiring in this arena will pick up in 2010.

By the way, Winterberg hopes that operations hiring is more robust than Horton International's Kulesza suggests. "If anything, firms need to support additional capacity ahead of growth, rather than hire after growth exposes bottlenecks in operations." 

Good luck to all of you job hunters out there!


If you're willing to be interviewed by a reporter--and you fit the criteria mentioned below--please contact Emma Johnson at the email address she provides.

"Hey Wall St., what's the job market really like? For a story, looking for those currently or recently employed in finance to comment on job outlooks. Anonymous sources OK. emma@emma-johnson.net"

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What your kids can teach you about writing

"My kids learned that in school." I've heard that comment several times after my writing workshops. Schools are teaching mind mapping to help children to organize their thoughts before writing. That's why I use it, too.

If your child talks to you about mind mapping, consider learning more from them about this technique. Your daughter or son may be able to teach you a useful skill. Based on what my friends tell me, schools typically teach mapping in second or third grade. Instead of mind mapping, they may call it idea mapping, concept mapping, semantic mapping or writer's workshop.

I never write a long, complex article without mapping my information first. Mapping makes me a more efficient writer. Try it, you may like it.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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?
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CFA Magazine on social media and your career

"Stepping Out: Digital Footprints Can Make Or Break a Career" by Rhea Wessel appears in the Nov./Dec. issue of CFA Magazine, starting on page 34 of the digital edition (page 32 of the print edition). 

It's a cautionary tale that quotes several CFA charterholders including yours truly. It even refers indirectly to my "Top five tips for financial advisors dipping their toes in the Twitterverse."

Here's the bit that quotes me
"Don't land yourself in hot water by starting to blog before you consult with your compliance officer," she says. "However, you can get an idea of industry norms by studying bloggers whom you respect and who work in positions similar to yours."
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest post: "How to Use LinkedIn When Your Compliance Department Says No"

Financial advisors--and all kinds of professionals in investment and wealth management--need to be on LinkedIn. I feel strongly about this, so I'm happy to feature a guest post from marketer Kristen Luke. In this post, which originally appeared on Kristen's Financial Marketing Wire blog, she tells you how to benefit from LinkedIn, even when you must work within compliance constraints.

Recently I have been conducting one-on-one LinkedIn training sessions for advisors on how they can better utilize the professional social networking site. Each advisor has different restrictions on how they can engage with the site depending on the rules set forth by their compliance department. I have found that most compliance departments will allow advisors to have LinkedIn profiles, but will not necessarily allow them to actively participate in groups, install applications, update their status or mass email their connections. For those advisors who are allowed to have a LinkedIn profile but have been restricted in their use of the site, there are still strategies that can be utilized to make LinkedIn a valuable sales and marketing tool. Below are four strategies to implement even if you can’t use LinkedIn to its fullest potential.

Strategy 1: Build Your Network

LinkedIn becomes more powerful as the size of your network increases. This is because you are only able to see profiles of people within your network (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd Connections and Group Members). To make effective use of LinkedIn, you will need to continuously build your network. This will allow you to discover more potential clients and centers of influence. Start expanding your network by importing contacts. You can do this by selecting “Add Connections” in the Contacts menu and uploading a spreadsheet of your contacts’ email addresses. The resulting list will show you who is on LinkedIn and will allow you to send a mass invitation to connect.

Once you have started with your initial network, you’ll want to continue adding all new contacts to your network. Make inviting all new contacts to join your LinkedIn network a part of your weekly routine. This includes people you meet professionally and socially. You never know where the next client or referral will come from, so don’t exclude people from your network.

Another way to build your network is to install an Outlook toolbar which will notify you when an email contact is on LinkedIn. You can download and install either the LinkedIn or Xobni toolbar which will show you LinkedIn profile information about each of your email contacts and provide you with a link to send an “invitation to connect” request. These tool bars eliminate the need to manually look up a contact to see if they are on the site and then send an invitation request. Plus, they constantly remind you to build your network.

Strategy 2: Join Groups

You may have been told by your compliance department that you can’t post a discussion question, answer a discussion question, post a news article, or comment on a news article. That doesn’t mean that joining groups is a waste of time. Even if you never actively participate in a group, joining allows you to expand your network. By joining a group, you are able to view the profiles of everyone in the group. This helps when you are researching prospects since their profiles might not be available to you otherwise. In addition, you are able to send an email directly to fellow group members without being linked in with them through the “send a message” function. Joining groups provides you with direct access to hundreds if not thousands of individuals who would otherwise be outside of your LinkedIn reach. Just be cautious when emailing through LinkedIn since some compliance departments require a screenshot of the message you are sending including the name of the person to whom who you are sending it.

Strategy 3: Research Prospects

LinkedIn provides a wealth of information about a prospective client. By reviewing a prospect’s profile prior to your first meeting, you can discover past employment history, educational background, professional associations and personal interests. This will give you a better understanding of the prospect and may assist in directing the conversation during a first appointment. The only limitation with this strategy is that you are only able to view profiles of people within your network. Having a larger network, as described in strategies one and two, will increase the likelihood of being able to see a prospect’s profile.

Strategy 4: Research your Network for Introductions & Referrals

Do you know which of your clients have relationships with the types of people you would like to meet? If they have a LinkedIn profile you can easily find out. When you connect with your clients, centers of influence or networking contacts on LinkedIn, you can look through their connections to see who they know. By researching your LinkedIn contacts’ network, you can make informed decisions about who has the ability to make quality referrals and introductions and create a marketing strategy around that information. For example, you can ask for referrals and introductions to specific people within your contact’s network when you have a referral conversation. Or, you can plan a private client event and make extra effort to ensure that clients with strong networks attend. Researching your network will allow you to focus your referral efforts.


In my personal experience, the strategies listed above are acceptable by most compliance departments who allow advisors to use LinkedIn. However, you will want to consult with your compliance department before implementing any of these ideas to make sure you are in observance of your firm’s policies.

For information about Kristen's marketing strategies and support for financial advisors, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Registered reps, it's time to 'fess up

Ghostwriters offer valuable marketing support to financial advisors. But some registered reps--and the marketers who support them--have felt confused since the issuance of "Misleading Communications About Expertise,"  FINRA Regulatory Notice 08-27,  in May 2008. They don't know how much editorial assistance reps can receive before they must acknowledge the assistance in writing--or even sacrifice their byline.

At least one compliance officer is interpreting the rules relatively strictly. Paul Tolley, chief compliance officer of Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass., says that registered reps should disclose the role of any other writers who contribute to text for articles or books that a rep would like to distribute under the rep's name.  That's much stricter than the informal advice I received from some financial marketing writers when I drafted "FINRA's limits on registered reps use of ghostwriters," an earlier blog post on this topic.

FINRA's "Misleading Communications About Expertise"  says, "Registered representatives may not suggest (or encourage others to suggest) that they authored investment-related books, articles or similar publications if they did not write them. Such a publication created by a third-party vendor must disclose that it was prepared either by the third party or for the representative’s use."

Tolley thinks FINRA's intentions are clear. "Few things in compliance are black and white, but this is one of them" he says. If the rep's only contribution was to pay for an article, then the rep can't take credit for the article. However,
"Reps who pay for someone else to write an article can still put their name on it, as long as the actual author is credited," says Tolley. An appropriate byline might be "Submitted by Rachel Registered-Rep and written by Glenda Ghostwriter" or "Written for Rachel Registered-Rep by Glenda Ghostwriter."

But what if the registered rep contributes content and editorial guidance to a ghostwriter? For example, what if a ghostwriter pens an article based on interviews with a registered rep? Can the registered rep claim authorship?

"What it really comes down to is that you can't say it if it's not true," says Tolley. If reps are 100% responsible for the text of an article or other written communication, they can claim sole authorship.  If not, they should disclose the details of who contributed what, he says. For example, if someone writes an article on the basis of content and editorial review provided by a rep, the article's byline should include the writer's name in addition to the rep's. "The rep can't claim sole authorship because it's not true," he adds. However, a byline such as "By Rachel Registered-Rep with Glenda Ghostwriter" could work, as long as Rachel truly contributed to the writing.

Tolley says that it's probably okay for a rep to send an ghostwritten article to a newspaper  with a note that it was "submitted by Joe Smith," when Joe Smith is not the author. However, I doubt that most newspapers would accept this. They'd want to credit the real author.

On a related note, "In accordance with Notice 08-27, if a rep is merely paying for a publication that is designed to look like a magazine, article or interview, the material must be clearly identified as an advertisement (typically by including the word 'Advertisement' at the top center of the publication)," says Tolley.

Registered reps, it's time for you to 'fess up, if you're not really the author of your bylined articles or books.

Background of FINRA rules
Tolley says that FINRA's approach to ghostwriting has its roots in Conduct Rule 2010, which says that all FINRA members, "in the conduct of its business, shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade."

But ghostwriting first became an issue in 2007. That's when FINRA became aware of reps who, as part of their marketing to seniors and retirees,  paid to have their names presented as authors of books written by others. "FINRA made it clear they thought that was a violation of conduct rule 2210 and just and equitable principles of trade," says Tolley. FINRA expressed its views in Regulatory Notice 07-43 "Senior Investors: FINRA Reminds Firms of Their Obligations Relating to Senior Investors and Highlights Industry Practices to Serve These Customers."  In 2008, as mentioned above, FINRA extended that explicit prohibition beyond communications aimed at seniors, so it applies to any ghostwritten materials.

What about registered investment advisors?
I'm not aware of any rules governing the use of ghostwriters by registered investment advisors (RIAs).  Should there be? I'd like to hear what you think.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guest post: "Seven steps toward a better webinar"

More financial advisors are using webinars to market themselves. That's why I'm featuring this guest post, "Seven steps toward a better webinar" by D. Bruce Johnston and John Drachman. Bruce Johnston is a social media financial distribution consultant with 25 years as a  senior executive for asset management firms. John Drachman is a senior writer and integrated communications expert who has developed the content for financial services marketing communications programs for almost two decades.

Seven steps toward a better webinar

Easy to set up, webinars are a friendly, low-cost way to help you develop your peer network. The webinar tool box provides you with a turnkey way to establish your thought leadership, expand your presence and measure the results.

Here are seven suggestions that can add some luster to your next webinar.

1.    Write down your objectives 

What are the specific actions you want your audience to take? Be as specific as possible. Develop a pathway for your audience to learn more about you. For example, many webinars urge attendees to request a white paper. This action permits a greater degree of contact capture and qualification. The goal is to provide your audience with just enough information to realize they can benefit from your insights and service offering. At the end of the day, know precisely those outcomes that would make your webinar successful for you. We had one client whose goal was to attract 10-15 new clients with investable assets of $1 million-plus. The client signed up 12 new clients and considered the experience to be a grade-A success.

2.    Find a Center of Influence in your region to collaborate with 

Put a financial advisor together with a tax attorney and the possibilities for timely topics are endless. Sharing each other’s e-mail lists is a valuable way to reach out and connect to new audiences in a way that does not detract from each professional’s capabilities.

3.    Use a moderator 

Flying solo in a webinar creates a lot of pressure. You are out there all by yourself. Moderated webinars on the other hand are more engaging and relaxing. The moderator can even serve as a counterpoint to your position, which makes your presentation sound more like a news event and less like a sales presentation. You don’t need to rent a moderator either. Look around your office or circle of friends for a volunteer.

4.    Encourage real-time dialogue 

The webinar is a specific type of web conference, mostly one-way from the speaker to the audience. You can still give your webinar a real-time sense of one-to-one collaboration. Most webinar teleconferencing services make it possible for your audience to respond through on-line polling. You can also solicit questions that can be posted and addressed real-time through the course of the webinar.

5.    Treat your webinar like the news event it is 

The degree of media penetration that an interactive press release from BusinessWire or PRWeb can achieve is remarkable. Thanks to powerful news aggregators that search out keywords from your press release to publicize your webinar news event, you can dramatically expand the reach of your message to attract a bigger audience. Pay services permit a rich degree of hyperlinking opportunities to your web site, blog, Twitter account, social media site – and the list goes on. Also, if you are budget-minded, consider some of the free press release services. The namesake www.free-press-release.com even facilitates feeding your article to social media sites like LinkedIn and FaceBook for free.

6.    Learn from your metrics 

Webinar software generally has easy-to-use contact capture tools, as well as analytics that track attendees, who registered, who are prospects (requested information), who are already existing clients, who viewed replays, forwarded replays to friends and colleagues and more. A quick look at the numbers can tell you a lot about the degree of acceptance your webinar engendered in your audience.

7.    Let your webinar live again as a webcast 

Keep a good thing going. Consider uploading your presentation to SlideShare, adding a voice track and retweeting it to the world as a webcast. You will be surprised how many will download your presentation if your key words lead them to your message.____________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, December 3, 2009

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?

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank you, NAPFA MA Study Group, for your great response to my email/letter writing workshop

The NAPFA MA Study Group asked lots of great questions during my November presentation to them on  "How to write effective emails to your financial planning clients." Thank you, NAPFA members and guests, for your energetic participation!

Here's some of their feedback.

  •  "I found this presentation very helpful in the sense that it focused on key elements to being an influential but understandable advisor." 

  •  "Susan's presentation brought to life the benefits of better writing."

  •  "Great tips for jump starting my client communications"

  • "Susan's presentation made me want to go back to my office and juice up my emails and letters."

  • "I learned how to make my emails and letters more reader-friendly, how to simplify technical information, and how to entice people to actually read the email."
  • "I have been making presentations to Fortune 500 companies for 20 years. I wish I had taken Ms. Weiner's course years ago!"
  • "It was a very good presentation. I found it very useful and helpful....I learned how to simplify sentences, how to emphasize client's interests, and how to structure emails or newsletters."

  • "I feel like I now have a variety of tools available to write better emails, letters, and all correspondence."
Now I can't wait for my next opportunity to present this workshop to financial advisors!
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Financial writers, lead with your message, not your source

Sometimes you go to a conference or talk with an expert and return to your office with a message you've just got to share. That's great. But in their enthusiasm, financial advisors often make the mistake of starting their article or blog post with the name and credentials of the expert or conference, instead of their message. 

Here's a made-up example of this common mistake. It's the kind of problem I often see in advisor-written articles.
Last month, Jane Miller, an estate planning attorney with 30 years experience, gave a great talk at the Anytown Library about estate planning for families including children with special needs. Jane practices in Nexttown with the firm of Miller, Brown, and Lopez. I'm going to share some of her main points with you.
Let's assume this paragraph went out in a client newsletter. Do any clients care about Jane, where she spoke, and the identity of the partners in her law firm?  Maybe some do. But I'll bet the families with children who have special needs care a lot more about the details of Jane's advice.

I suggest rewriting the beginning of the article to focus on the message, rather than the source.
Sometimes your clients' best-intentioned efforts to help their children with special needs may backfire, as I learned in a presentation by attorney Jane Miller of Miller, Brown, and Lopez. There are three steps you can take to help your child financially, while maintaining their access to means-tested programs.
Do you grasp the difference between the two approaches?

Unless you're reporting on your one-to-one meeting at the White House with President Obama or your Hollywood meeting with the hottest movie star, start your article with your strongest message.

Related posts
Grab readers with an anecdotal lead
Bloggers' top two punctuation mistakes
How to make one quarterly letter fit clients at different levels of sophistication

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Use a tip sheet to get PR for your financial business

"Tip Sheets: One of the Most Effective Publicity Tools You’ve Never Heard Of" tells you how to use this PR tool to get exposure for your business. A tip sheet is a list of tips on how to do something.

I like that the author quotes PR maven Sandy Beckwith, who taught me almost everything I know about tip sheets. You can go to Sandy's website to read more detailed instructions on how to write a tip sheet.

If you've got old tip sheets, you can update and reissue them. That's a tip I got from one of Roger C. Parker's Published & Profitable teleseminars.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, November 20, 2009

Five great writing tips: They're not just for ads

Even if you've never looked at Twitter and you'll never advertise, you should take the time to read "what can Twitter teach us about advertising?"

The IDTAGS blog's five tips include
  1. Be brief.
  2. Be impactful.
  3. Less is more.
  4. No one likes to read.
  5. Just give us the headlines.
That almost sums up what I spend 60-180 minutes discussing in my writing workshops.

If you visit theIDTAGS blog, you'll see the power of brevity combined with visual images.

Thank you, @MarkRaganCEO, for pointing me to this IDTAGS piece.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thank you, Boston Women in Finance, for your feedback on my writing workshop

Boston Women in Finance gave me great feedback on my workshop "How to Write What People Will Read About Investments." Before I share some their feedback with you, I'd like to thank all of the participants. Your energetic participation made it a very enjoyable workshop for me, too.

Here are some participant comments.

  •  "A very practical workshop! You'll get tips you'll use as soon as you return to the office."

  • "I truly learned a lot from this presentation. It was refreshing to have someone break down how to best reach people and to say it's okay to write in simple short sentences."
  • "It's always good to hear these reminders to get you back to the basics of effective writing. This seminar was a great way to refocus."

  • "The mapping technique was helpful. I will use this for brainstorming and helping with project plans and meetings."

  • "Susan's 'how to' approach packed dozens of indispensable tips into 1 1/2 hours. Incredible!"

  • "I believe the mapping exercise will help me organize my thoughts and overcome writer's block and get past the first blank page or screen."

Some of you said that you would prefer "More time; more opportunity for individual exercises." I'm interested in creating longer, customized training sessions for corporate clients that would allow more interaction. I'm also for hire to present the one-and-one-half hour version I delivered to Boston Women in Finance.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The best private equity opportunity in generations

"Our database tells us we're in a multigenerational opportunity to be a private equity investor," said Martin Grasso, CEO of Pearl Street Capital Group, a private equity fund-of-funds manager. He believes that investors with longer time horizons can get above-benchmark returns without significant volatility. Grasso made his comments as a panelist on "The State of Private Equity: Opportunity Through Crisis," presented to the Boston Security Analysts Society on November 5.

Data suggests that capital growth and buyout private equity get the highest returns in years with the lowest levels of EBITDA leverage, said Grasso. That's the situation we're in now.

It also pays to invest with the best, according to Grasso. Top quartile and top decile private equity fund managers show much higher levels of persistence than long-only public securities managers. In other words, top performers in private equity have a greater tendency to remain top performers. The difference in performance between top and bottom quartile managers is much greater in private equity than among public equity managers.

Implications for advisors:
* Access to top firms is still difficult, so go with a fund-of-funds to gain that access.
* Invest in 10 vintage years and consider some secondary offerings, which are available now that some investors can't meet their funding obligations as limited partners.
* Best private equity opportunities now are in small-medium companies where there's less competition and where private equity managers are more inclined to partner with management to "accrete value" and make minority investments.
* Diversify across geography and sectors.

The last two paragraphs of this post were revised on Dec. 7, thanks to some clarifications by Martin Grasso of Pearl Street Capital Group.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interesting example of fund company using YouTube

I  normally think of a fund company using YouTube--if it uses YouTube at all--to show off its talking heads. But times are changing.

U.S. Global Investors' "Shanghai City Lights" video, which you can view below, doesn't mention the fund firm's name or investments. It doesn't even show any people. I think this video has the potential to reach more viewers than the firm's more traditional videos. Heck, I already forwarded the video to my husband to remind him of our visit to Shanghai.  However, I wonder how many of this video's viewers will be potential fund buyers.

US Global Investors seems to have moved away from talking heads and toward more visually appealing pieces. Its initial YouTube video was "Frank Holmes Explains the Key Drivers for Gold and Mining Stock," followed by "What the Global Infrastructure Story Looks Like" and "A Firsthand Look at Mining Operations in Brazil." To view these videos, go to the USFunds YouTube channel. So far the Frank Holmes video has gained the most viewers on YouTube, with 218 views as of Nov. 16.

However, US Global Investors hasn't given up on more traditional communications. For example, "Five Reasons China is Not a Bubble" appears on its blog and the firm's Fall 2009 Shareholder Report leads with a letter titled "Just Back from Shanghai."

Do you think US Global Investors' YouTube video about Shanghai represents the start of a trend? While their videos haven't attracted many viewers yet. the firm's YouTube presence is pretty new.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, November 13, 2009

If you're marketing to RIAs...

...email should be your top method for communicating with them. That's the message I took away from "Marketing to Today's RIA: What Every Asset Manager Should Know," a webinar and report from Morningstar Advisor and Swandog Strategic Marketing. Their webinar and report are based on an online survey of 500 financial advisors that was supplemented by interviews.

Their research suggested some lessons that may apply to everyone marketing to registered investment advisors (RIAs), even though the Morningstar-Swandog report focused on RIAs' interactions with asset managers. 

Lesson 1: Stay in touch via email rather than heavy-handed personal contact or expecting RIAs to visit your website. The graph on p. 13 shows a strong preference for email communications over web access, wholesaler visits, and phone calls.

Lesson 2: Tailor your marketing materials to RIAs rather than using materials for registered reps. RIAs fall between registered reps and institutional investors in their sophistication. The Morningstar-Swandog webinar quoted one RIA saying, "Give me substance!" RIAs want meatier content than registered reps. Another telling quote: "Most info from investment managers is propaganda. Real objective analysis is rare and valuable" (p. 7).

Lesson 3: Get your company's thought leaders exposure in  arenas that confer apparent third-party endorsements. Print publications used to be the best method for this. But now, as moderator Leslie Banks pointed out, you can use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to push out your content AND get it endorsed by people whom RIAs respect.

Take the time to read the report and watch the webinar on "Marketing to Today's RIA: What Every Asset Manager Should Know." I've barely touched on their content and each covers slightly different content.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twitter to the rescue of my colleague with a RFP dilemma

Twitter can be mighty handy in a pinch. Especially when used in combination with other social media. That's what I learned from the response to my colleague's RFP dilemma.

My colleague asked me to post his dilemma on my blog, so I wrote it up as "RFP dilemma: What should my colleague do?" I figured that a blog post alone wouldn't draw helpful responses, so I tweeted--and emailed some colleagues on LinkedIn--for help. 

Within an hour, I received five constructive comments on my blog post plus some tweets.The exchange raised some issues that I'd never thought of before. For example, the fact that an RFP may be considered part of a contract.

This illustrates social media at its best. 

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the conversation!

Nov. 13 update: A reader recently asked "What's an RFP?" 

RFP is short for request for proposal. It's a questionnaire that businesses fill out to compete for a prospect's business. 

In the investment industry, institutional investors often use RFPs in their investment manager selection process. You can read more about this topic in "How to Create an Investment Management Request for Proposal."

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, November 6, 2009

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.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Poll: Which brings you the most new business--email or U.S. mail marketing?

Contact via email and U.S. mail can spur referrals and turn prospects into clients. Accordingly, this month's poll asks which brings you the most new business--email or U.S. mail marketing? Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of this blog. Thank you! 

Also, if you have time, leave your comments about why you prefer one form of communication to the other. In addition, I'd enjoy hearing about what kind of communications you send. Newsletters? Sales letters? White papers? Invitations to in-person or virtual gatherings? It would be great to get a conversation going.

My monthly e-newsletter has brought me new clients. Sometimes new clients have called me within 24 hours of publication. Other times, they've sent an email inquiry as a reply to my newsletter. Perhaps U.S. mail marketing would work for me, but I haven't done much with it because of the costs and additional steps required when compared to email.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

May vs. might: It may matter, but it might not

I thought I might have absorbed the difference between "may" and "might" after reading "I Wish I May, I Wish I Might" in Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips (a similar explanation is on the Grammar Girl blog). Grammar Girl, AKA Mignon Fogarty, wrote "If something is likely to happen, use may." Might is for cases when the thing is "a mighty stretch."

But the next day I read "Mighty Likely" by Jan Freeman in the Boston Globe. Freeman uncovered disagreement among usage mavens about which word is more optimistic. In her opinion, this distinction doesn't matter much. It may be much ado about nothing. 

However, cautioned Freeman, it is important to use "might" rather than "may" when discussing past events.

For another perspective on this dispute, read "May, Might, Muddle" on The New York Times' "Times Topics" blog. It may help. Then again, it might not.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, October 30, 2009

The LinkedIn status update is your friend, whether you're looking for clients or a job

LinkedIn status updates are a low-key way of reminding your contacts that you exist. My status updates have directly resulted in an editor asking me to write an article and new subscribers signing up for my newsletter. 

A brief positive message 
A status update is a brief update on your activities. It's designed to show off something positive about you. For example, an asset manager might say "Peter Portfoliomanager is sharing his latest Economic Update." A job hunter who wants to show that she's not moping around might post "Joan Jobhunter just completed a marketing plan for Her Favorite Charity."

Include link to maximize your impact
Peter Portfoliomanager should provide a link to his Economic Update. This makes it easy for a reader to engage more deeply with him. He can use a site like TinyURL.com to shorten the link to his Economic Update. This is worth doing because long links are cumbersome and LinkedIn limits the length of status updates. Here's one of my status updates as an example: "Susanblogged: Statistics to calm nervous investors: Research on dollar cost averaging http://bit.ly/qKf3p" 

Everything you need is on your LinkedIn home page 
When you go to your LinkedIn home page, you'll see below your Inbox the Network Updates section. First comes the box where you can update your status. Below that, you'll see status updates from your connections. Status updates are also emailed to your connections as part of their Network Updates. By the way, LinkedIn lets you exercise some control over who sees your updates.

LinkedIn provides instructions for how to update your status.

Have YOU benefited from LinkedIn status updates? I'd love to hear your story.

Related posts
* My top tips for LinkedIn newbies who want to attract financial clients, referrals, and jobs 
* "Exploring the Social Media Networking and Media Landscape" for financial advisors
* Useful LinkedIn groups for investment and wealth management job hunters
* Compliance makes social networking tougher for registered reps than for RIAs

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

"Exploring the Social Media Networking and Media Landscape"

Financial advisors should learn about social media, whether or not they participate. 

"Exploring the Social Media Networking and Media Landscape," a presentation by John Stone of Revenue Architects, got advisors talking at the Schwab Impact conference. Stone looks at social media with an eye to how they can help grow revenues. You can view Stone's slide show below.

Thanks to Kristen Luke for suggesting John as a speaker and Bill Winterberg for sending me to the Impact 2009 slides, where I initially discovered John.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to make one quarterly letter fit clients at different levels of sophistication

You have clients with different levels of financial sophistication. But you probably don't have the time to write separate letters tailored to each client's understanding of investment jargon. To help you manage your time--and keep your clients happy--here are my top five tips for a one-size-fits-all client letter.

I'd like to thank the Maine CFA Society for suggesting this blog post topic when I presented to them in October on "How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read."   

1. Keep it simple 
If you use plain language, all of your readers will understand you.

Follow the example of Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, who says, "When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters…. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them." Despite Buffett's easy-to-understand style, plenty of financial sophisticates read his firm's annual report. 

2. Explain briefly 
The Wall Street Journal has mastered the art of explaining technical terms with phrases set off by commas. For example, a reporter might write about "the carry trade, where investors borrow in currencies with low interest rates to invest in those with high interest rates."

Savvy investors skim over the explanations, while the less knowledgeable gain a quick understanding.  

3. Use a sidebar
A sidebar, which is a text box that's set off from the main body of your article, can help you to accommodate different levels of knowledge among your readers.

Let's consider my example in Tip #2. You could use a sidebar to explain the carry trade in more depth. Your goal could be to educate less sophisticated investors. Or, you may convey details to more educated investors that wouldn't interest the rest of your readers. 

4. Provide a glossary
A glossary at the end of your printed communication can help when you can't squeeze all of the necessary explanations into the body of your text. 

If you send electronic communications, you can provide click-through links to definitions on your website or elsewhere. 

If you're willing to link to third-party glossaries, you've got a variety of choices. I've found some good definitions on the following sites:
* Investopedia.com
* InvestorWords.com
* Morningstar.com
* Wikipedia.org 

5. Provide a newsletter with articles for different audiences
If you have the luxury of writing a multi-article newsletter for your clients, consider including articles aimed at different levels of sophistication. 

However, don't vary your level willy nilly. I'd suggest aiming your newsletter at a general audience and then consistently including one column targeting better educated readers. 

How do YOU handle this challenge?
I'm interested in hearing from you. Please leave comments below.

Related posts:
* If you MUST use "secular" in your investment commentary
* "Quantitative easing" is a weasel word
* Advice from SEC's expert on plain English
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grab readers with an anecdotal lead

Starting your article or blog post with with a real-life story can draw in readers who'd otherwise ignore you. 

"The anecdotal approach, by framing [your topic] in personal terms, becomes instantly accessible and—more important—readable," as Mark Ragan says in "How to write an anecdotal lead."

To write good anecdotal leads, Ragan suggests that you 
1. Find some good stories.
2. Write your explanation of what the story is about before you write out the story. This will help you to pick the right story and focus it.
3. Start your article with a short anecdote, followed by a colorful quote, and then your explanation of the story's main points. After that, you can dive into the body of your story.

Have you seen any examples of financial advisors making good use of anecdotal leads? I'd like to see them.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tune up your writing skills on Nov. 10 or Nov. 19--or hire me to help you

Could your writing skills use a tune-up? If you work with investments, you'll get useful tips from my November 10 lunchtime presentation to Boston Women in Finance (BWF) on "How to Write What People Will Read About Investments." Lunch is included in the program cost.

This program sold out the first time I presented it to BWF, so register early. 

It would be great to meet you at this program. Please introduce yourself as one of my readers.

If you're a NAPFA member who lives in the Boston area, you can see me present on "How to Write Effective Emails and Letters to Your Financial Planning Clients" at your November 19 study group

If you can't attend either presentation, consider hiring me to train people at your company. I've presented across the U.S. and Canada on "How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read." I can develop presentations tailored to you. 

Note: I updated this blog post on Oct. 21 with the BWF registration link and NAPFA information.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

3Q09 vs. Q3 09 --which is better?

You probably know that Q is the abbreviation for quarter. But what's the proper way to abbreviate "third quarter of 2009"?

I prefer 3Q09 to Q3 09. It seems cleaner to separate the 3 of third quarter from the 09 of 2009. I worry that readers will get confused if the numbers in Q3 09 run together, as in Q309.

Looking for evidence to back up my opinion, I did a Google search. I found about 121,000 instances of 3Q09 vs. 10.9 million for Q3 09.

Wow--that's quite a disparity! Q3 09 is the format that @BillWinterberg sees in regulatory filings. Perhaps that explains it. I wonder if the SEC requires the Q3 09 format. 

Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of my blog. I'll track your answers with interest and will report on them in my November e-newsletter. Thank you!
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, October 12, 2009

Advisors, now's the time to build clients' NON-financial emergency funds

Financial advisors, encourage your clients to set up a non-financial emergency fund, says Kol Birke, financial behavior specialist at Commonwealth Financial Network. The fund will help them to make better financial decisions. Plus, it'll strengthen their bond with you.

A non-financial emergency fund consists of family, friends, and activities such as volunteering and exercise. These relationships and activities are resources your clients can draw on in difficult times that will help focus their minds on positives, so they aren't as easily rattled by market downturns or other stresses. 

In fact, psychologist Barbara Frederickson has shown that positive emotions widen individuals’ receptiveness to a broader range of options, so they can choose the best one. If you can help your clients feel more positive emotions, they’re less likely to react to a market downturn by saying “Sell, sell, sell.” That kind of single-minded “Sell” response served humans well when they were fleeing wild animal attacks. It’s less appropriate in today’s complex world.

Advisors can help clients build their funds by asking what activities are soothing, nourishing or enriching.  In other words, what they do to blow off steam, and what do they do that provides most meaning in life.

Now is a great time to raise this topic with clients. They’re past the shock of the market decline. Yet the decline is fresh enough in their minds that they’re receptive to new techniques to make them more resilient emotionally.

A nice side effect of creating positive emotions through your clients’ non-financial emergency funds is that it makes them feel more connected to you. That will serve you both well.

To learn more about this topic, contact Kol Birke at kbirke@commonwealth.com or 781.663.9663.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Estate planning for unmarried and same-sex couples

Estate planning for unmarried and same-sex couples is mighty complicated, as I explain in "Unwed and Planning," in the October issue of Financial Planning magazine. 

Here's a table that got squeezed out of the story due to lack of space.

This data is frequently updated on the Human Rights Campaign's Relationship Recognition Map.

Some resources I consulted in researching my story 
Related story in The New York Times 
A same-sex couple may spend significantly more for the same services than an opposite-sex married couple. In fact, costs could run as much $467,562 over their lifetimes for a hypothetical couple analyzed by Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber in "The Costs of Being a Gay Couple Run Higher," in The New York Times (Oct. 3). 

Bostonians can learn more on October 22
"Estate Planning & Family Litigation Avoidance Strategies for Gay & Lesbian Individuals and Couples" is the topic of a breakfast meeting to be held by the Boston Estate Planning Council on October 22.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guest post: "Can I replace my paper newsletter with an e-newsletter instead?"

Are you considering scrapping the newsletter you send via U.S. mail in favor of a newsletter delivered via email? If so, please read the guest post below by Tom Ahern of Ahern Communications, a specialist in fundraising, advocacy, and "persuasion" communications. It is excerpted with permission from his Love Thy Reader newsletter.

Ahern writes from the perspective of non-profit organizations seeking donations. But most of what he says applies equally well to investment and wealth managers seeking to retain existing clients and attract new ones through communications with clients, prospects, and referral sources.

Can I replace my paper newsletter with an e-newsletter instead?

This is the most commonly asked question at my workshops. My considered answer has stayed the same for the last five years: "Ummm...no. You really want both."

A well-done paper newsletter can produce significant revenue. Witness the Gillette Children's Foundation in Minnesota, which went from generating $5,000 per issue to $50,000 per issue just by changing a few things.

Understand, too, that paper and electrons are two very different media.

Paper is slow -- the good kind of slow, the kind that's made the "slow food" movement so popular among the health-conscious. Paper is a reader's medium, a relaxing place where you, as the writer, have the elbowroom to tell stories, show terrific pictures and report results.

An emailed newsletter, on the other hand, is fast. It's an ACT NOW! medium. Words are kept to a minimum.

In December 2008, Jeff Brooks shared with me some conclusions from his company's ongoing research into e-newsletters.

"I had a hypothesis," he wrote, "that e-newsletters were radically different from print newsletters. Not about story-telling," Jeff clarified, "but about the actions you can take. We've tested that notion a couple of times, and so far, that's proving to be true. It seems what works is to have one topic with 3 to 5 actions a reader can take, at least one of which is to give a gift, but the others aren't."

A fully firing communications schedule stays in touch with the donor base at a minimum once a month. Electronic newsletters help you satisfy that torrid pace. But if you pull the plug on paper and switch to utterly electronic, your donor income will almost certainly fall.

Here's a tantalizing bit of confirming data from Convio, via Ted Hart: Donors you contact with BOTH email and conventional mail give $62 on average annually versus a $32 average gift for those donors whom you contact ONLY through postal mail.

In other words, it's NOT an either/or situation, paper or electronic. It's a BOTH situation: paper AND electronic, if you want to maximize results.

Of course, that assumes you are actually getting results.

If you aren't currently making money with your paper newsletter, don't expect to do any better with an e-newsletter. Really good donor newsletters are few and far between, in my experience. Most nonprofit newsletters sent to me for audits are unwittingly built to fail, due to a variety of unguessed fatal flaws.

Related posts:
* Should you drop subscribers who don't open your e-newsletter?
* Boost readership of your e-newsletter with powerful subject lines
* Three tips for how often to publish your newsletter

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Fixed income viewpoints from CFA Institute conference

Here are opinions on currency and CDOs that grabbed my attention at the CFA Institute's Fixed Income conference last week.

If YOU were at the conference, I'd be interested to learn what surprised or intrigued you. 

“The New Currency World Order”
Ron Liesching of Mountain Pacific Group, LLC

The U.S. dollar cannot be replaced as the world’s reserve currency, but its role will be profoundly altered.

It’s time for investors to consider
*  Hedging their U.S. dollar risk
*  Active currency management
*  Active long commodity allocation
*  Long commodity currencies
*  Strategically long emerging market currencies
*  Global is the new core

“The Pricing of Investment-Grade Credit Risk during the Financial Crisis” 

Joshua Coval, Harvard Business School

There’s evidence that ratings agencies bent their standards to bestow too many AAA ratings.  They rated 75.5% of CDOs’ capital structure as AAA, when the rating agency model allowed 63.4%, according to “Did Subjectivity Play a Role in CDO Credit Ratings?” by John Griffin and Dragon Tang. Thanks, Prof. Coval, for sending me the link to Griffin and Tang's article!

The collapse of structured products will impact the economic recovery to the extent that cheap credit is less available. The U.S. consumer had been the engine of U.S. GDP growth thanks to cheap credit.

Related posts:
* Dan Fuss: Bond investors have learned from experience...not

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dan Fuss: Bond investors have learned from experience…not

In some ways, famed bond investor Dan Fuss is pleased by how far the bond market has come during the last year. October and November 2008 made for a “horrific experience” he said. Since then, bonds have made an incredible recovery. However, their rebound has also brought back some of the behavior that fed their problems, said Fuss to the Fixed Income Management 2009 conference of the CFA Institute on October 1. Fuss is vice chairman of Loomis, Sayles & Company and co-manager of a number of institutional separate accounts for the firm’s fixed income group.

Fixed income’s bleak months in 2008, when it was difficult to get bids for even the highest quality investments left an impact on Fuss. On paper, October and November offered a fantastic buying opportunity. He spoke of a “50-year opportunity in bonds”  in November 2008. Unfortunately, instead bond funds struggled last autumn to sell in response to mutual fund redemptions. 

As a result, now Fuss pays more attention to liquidity of his investments, even if it means that “I’m fighting the last war.” Compared to 18 months ago, “I’ll give up something to buy something more liquid,” he said.

Until a few months ago, Fuss thought he wouldn’t see a repetition of the risky behavior that he illustrated with his fable of Colossal Corporation, the world’s largest maker of “colossals,” a product Fuss made up for the purpose of his story. Colossal Corp. began by dabbling in hedging the price of ore and the Australian dollar, and then went heavily into the carry trade. Eventually, it got burned by the credit crunch and decided to give up its speculative ways.

For awhile Fuss thought that the Colossal Corporations of the world had learned the lesson that they should stick to their business rather than speculating in financial markets. “I thought that was all history,” he said. However, over the last three to four months, he observed that “By God, this thing is starting to replay…. The people who skate on thin ice when they shouldn’t are starting to skate on thin ice again.”

Speculation is reviving because of the steep yield curve, said Fuss. There is an enormous incentive to go out the yield curve to pick up yield. He discussed a risky new product that made its debut in Japan in March 2009. The Japanese product is being copied by others. “I can’t believe this is happening,” said Fuss.

Recently, traders at Loomis Sayles told Fuss that he should act quickly if he’d like to get in on a B- credit that would pay a special dividend. “I thought it was a joke,” said Fuss. But it was not.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved