Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My top five tips for financial advisors dipping their toes in the Twitterverse

Every day more of your clients, prospects, family, and friends get on Twitter. If you're ready to dip your toe in the Twitterverse, here are the top five tips from my personal experience.

1. Use Twitter Search to check out Twitter before you begin tweeting. Go to http://search.twitter.com and type in your company name or other keywords that interest you. For example, you could type in "Fidelity Investments." Even if you don't start tweeting, you can set up ongoing Twitter searches, similar to Google Alerts, and have them delivered to your RSS reader. By the way, if you need motivation to research your company on Twitter, read "Commonwealth Bank all a-Twitter over mortgage approval tweet."


2. Find interesting people to follow after you set up your Twitter account. Reading their tweets will help you understand how people use Twitter. If you're a financial advisor, here are some folks who may interest you
* Bill Winterberg, technology specialist for financial planners and the writer of "Yes, Financial Planners Can Benefit from Twitter," which helped put me on Twitter
Russ Thornton, financial planner and investment advisor
* Kristen Luke, marketing consultant to independent financial advisors
 * Lawain McNeil, the Advisor Blogger
* Marion Asnes, editor in chief of Financial Planning magazine
* Cathy Curtis, owner of financial planning firm focusing on women and money

Also, look to see who's followed by people you respect. For example, I believe I discovered Kristen Luke when Bill Winterberg directed a tweet at her. By the way, Kristen has written "Twitter Your Way to New Clients, Part One" and "Part Two."

3. Learn the nitty-gritty of how to tweet. I like "Getting Started on Twitter" on the Tech for Luddites blog written by Elizabeth Kricfalusi. There are lots of social media gurus out there. Many of them are good, but few are as consistently helpful as Elizabeth with my technical questions. She gives great step-by-step instructions for non-technical people like me.   

4. Interact with people on Twitter. The people who get the most out of Twitter interact with others on Twitter. They answer questions posed by other folks on Twitter or get a conversation going in some other way. The few times I've posted questions on Twitter, I was surprised by how quickly I got answers.   

5. Figure out why you're on Twitter, so you can plan your time--and tweets--accordingly. But be prepared to adjust your expectations. I got on Twitter to promote my blog. But I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've learned from people on Twitter. I hope I can give back as much as I've gotten.

If you dip your toes in the Twitterverse, let me know how it goes. Also, feel free to leave your Twitter tips--or questions--in the comments. I'm still a Twitter novice, so I can learn from you.



Related posts:
* What the heck is Twitter? 
* Should stock analysts use Twitter?
* 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

A top marketing blog for financial advisors

The market has slashed your clients' wealth and your revenues based on assets under management. So gaining new clients is more important than ever. If you'd like to get some fresh ideas about marketing, check out Kristen Luke's Financial Marketing Wire blog.

Are you puzzled by how to leverage social media? Kristen has posts on topics such as
* Using Facebook to build business in "A Social Media Marketing Success Story"
* "How to Host a Webinar for Your Clients"
* "Twitter Your Way to New Clients"--By the way, you can follow Kristen on Twitter

If you don't like social media, Kristen has advice for you, too. I especially like this one: "Touch Your Clients 24 Times a Year without Breaking a Sweat."  She's delivering a webinar on the same topic on April 6.

Are there other blogs on marketing or communications that you'd recommend? Please let me know. I have a couple in mind for future posts on this blog.





_________________
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, March 30, 2009

"Quiz: Are You a Grammar Geek?"

If you're reading this, you probably care about grammar.


So test your grammar knowledge with the quiz in "Are You a Grammar Geek?" It's tough.


_________________
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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

Please answer my poll.




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


_________________
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, March 27, 2009

Harvard Management's Mendillo grapples with challenging environment

Even Jane Mendillo admits she had awful timing in becoming president and CEO of Harvard Management Company (HMC) on July 1, 2008. As she said in her presentation on "Endowment Management in a Changing World" to the Boston Security Analysts Society on March 25, she assumed her post
* Two days before commodity prices peaked
* Six weeks before the beginning of a massive rescue of financial institutions
* Just before six to nine months of the most challenging markets that most investment professionals have seen
Nonetheless, Mendillo showed a cheerful face to the friendly audience containing many fellow CFA charterholders.

Mendillo is cautious about investments because "At this point, uncertainty is a big factor in markets and economies. The short-mid term may be challenging," she said. It could take many years, she acknowledged, for the size of the Harvard endowment to return to its $37 billion level of June 30, 2008. Still, she noted, the endowment has posted excellent gains since its beginnings, including its growth from only $19 billion five years earlier.

Mendillo's caution is reflected in the endowment's actions. "We're not rushing for the exits. Nor are we rushing to get back into the markets," she said. Mendillo took pains to correct what she called misperceptions that HMC has sold private equity holdings for "pennies on the dollar." The firm has made some transactions in secondary markets, but hasn't taken major chunks out of its private equity holdings, she said.

HMC is taking a more conservative tack under Mendillo. It has cut back its -5% cash weighting to -3% for the first time in decades. Moreover, the portfolio is "seriously in cash," she said, because she wanted to create more flexibility in the portfolio and make room for new investments.

Where is HMC heading? Mendillo gave some clues, saying
* We continue to be cautious about deploying cash."
* "If we don't think we have an edge in a market, we stay out or we index."
* External management is significantly more expensive than internal management, so if external management doesn't pay off, HMC will hire a team that can deliver
* The failure of the illiquid portion of the portfolio to be self-funding has "impacted our appetite for further illiquid assets"
* She expects to see very attractive opportunities in real estate, but they may lie a couple years ahead.
* She is very excited about what the firm's natural resources team has uncovered.



_________________
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, March 26, 2009

MFS Investment Management is using LinkedIn to circulate commentary

MFS Investment Management has set up a LinkedIn group called MFS Investment Commentary. 

Its purpose? According to the group profile, it is "A group for financial advisors and investment industry professionals interested in getting updates on MFS's outlook on financial markets around the world. James Swanson's Chief Investment Strategist corner, the Week in Review, and the month Global Perspective are featured here. U.S. investment products offered through MFS Fund Distributors, Inc."

At a quick glance, it looks as if many of the group members are MFS employees. But perhaps they haven't publicized it yet among the professionals whom they're targeting.

Have you noticed any other fund or investment management companies setting up LinkedIn groups? What about other uses of social networking?

Related post: Eaton Vance, Evergreen, and FRC on "Communication Strategies for Good Times and Bad"


_________________
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, March 24, 2009

A financial advisor's "Cure for Money Madness"

People are too obsessed with money and need to get over their irrational beliefs about it, so they can focus on living their lives. That seemed to be the main point of Spencer Sherman's March 19 talk to the Wharton Club of Boston. Sherman is the author of The Cure for Money Madness.

Sometimes it takes a life-threatening experience to make your aware of your money madness. Take the case of Sherman's friend Billy, who went swimming by himself off a Hawaiian beach. He panicked when he got caught in a riptide. Instead of swimming parallel to the shore, as experts recommend, he headed straight for the beach. Billy thought his life was over. His last thought before he was rescued? "At least I don't have to worry about my finances any more." Finally, Billy put his money into perspective.

Your irrational feelings about money, which are rooted in your childhood, spur you to make mistakes, said Sherman. For example, you may feel that your self-worth depends on your net worth. So you may "buy high and sell low" instead of the more desirable "buy low, sell high." 

Sherman mentioned some techniques for developing a more rational approach. For starters, think about how you'd advise a friend who's in your situation because it's easier to be rational about someone else's money. Would you advise her or him to buy this stock, build this addition to the house, or take this job? Sherman's book has a section devoted to exercises and he offers presentations and free conference calls on money madness

One of Sherman's suggestions surprised me. He'd like us to ask ourselves "How can we make our current financial situation the goal?" I'm so accustomed to financial advisors focused on growing their clients' wealth instead of finding satisfaction now. Ironically, he said, when we stop striving for more, we see the possibilities in what we've got. The idea of making the most of what we've got seems very appropriate today. 

I liked Sherman's exercise for adjusting to less wealth.
1. Together with your spouse or significant other, write down your spending intentions for 2009.
2. Figure out how to create a great life within the limitations of those spending intentions.
3. Cut your 2009 spending intentions by 25% or even 50%. Get creative about working within those limits. For example, instead of eating out, you could organize potluck dinners and spend more time with family and friends.

If you're intrigued by Sherman's approach, check out his website or one of his YouTube videos.

_________________
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

Recruiter Ted Chaloner on job interviews that get results

Think of your job interview as a sales call, said recruiter Ted Chaloner, president of Chaloner Associates, a Boston-based executive search firm specializing in communications, in his March 11 presentation to Boston's Marketing Professionals Network.

You should present the features and benefits of your product--yourself--and demonstrate their value to the buyer. So don't meander in response to your interviewer's request to "tell me about yourself." Focus on your career as it relates to your potential employer's needs. If you haven't learned what the company needs, ask. For example, you can say "I'd be happy to go into detail, but first can you tell me what the three things that are most important to you?"

Don't get rattled if your interviewer asks negative questions. Instead, acknowledge the legitimacy of the question, said Chaloner. Then give an example of how you've overcome the problem. In fact, interviews have moved beyond the classic "What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses" to specific examples of how you've demonstrated the characteristics that the employer seeks.

A job interview shouldn't be a one-way flow of information. Ask probing closed- and open-ended questions, advised Chaloner.


For my friends in marketing or communications, here's a link to the firm's current searches

You can hear Ted interviewed in "Social networking sites help job hunting."

Related links:
Three recruiters talk about hiring at investment management and mutual fund firms 
Who's hiring CFA charterholders 
Top five types of freelance writing for CFA charterholders 


_____________
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, March 18, 2009

How can I come up with ideas for a weekly newspaper column on personal finance?

That's the question a newly independent advisor asked me.

Before I offer some ideas, I'm going to challenge the idea that a newspaper column must be weekly. As newspapers decline, this advisor would be lucky to get into print once a month. But let's assume the paper DOES need a weekly column. How about offering to rotate authorship with three advisors who have different niches?  You'll reduce your burden and increase the range of topics covered by the column. That sounds like a win-win situation to me. If you know of anyone who's tried column-sharing, please leave a comment below. 

Once you've landed your column, here are some sources for ideas.
1. Questions your clients ask you
2. LinkedIn and other social networking sites--See what questions appear in LinkedIn's "Personal Finance" or other "Answers" categories. Pose a question in a social networking forum. For example, "What's your most pressing personal finance question?" or "What questions do you have about managing your 401(k)?"
3. Professional publications--Have you read an interesting article in Financial Planning, Advisor Perspectives. Financial Analysts Journal or some other trade publication? Talk about the topic in plain terms that regular folks can understand.
4. Newspapers, TV, and other media--It's especially good to pick a controversial topic.
5. Personal finance blogs--There are lots of good blogs out there. For a list of financial and econonmic blogs read by financial advisors, check out the list on page 3 of my article, "Investment Strategy Blogs Slow to Influence Financial Advisors."

Can you suggest more sources? Please leave a comment.



_________________
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, March 17, 2009

"Quantitative easing" is a weasel word

Governments should speak more plainly, says David Champion in "Bankers Turn to Weasel Words as a Desperate Measure." 

As an example of what not to do, he cites the Bank of England's references to "quantitative easing." Quantitative easing is fancy talk for increasing the money supply.

Campion says, "I cannot help but feel that a term like quantitative easing is designed to obscure a rational discussion around policy. If the Bank of England were to come out and simply say that all it could do to get us out of the crisis was print new money, then we might all feel that we had to sit down and think of something more sensible to do."

Are you using terms like quantitative easing in your investment commentary? If so, you run the risk that your readers, like Champion, will think you're trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

By the way, there's a decent explanation of quantitative easing at "Quantitative easing explained" on FT.com.




_________________
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, March 16, 2009

Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos speaks

You can see Harry Markopolos speak in the video excerpts that make up part of "One-On-One With Harry Markopolos: Validated, But Not Satisfied" on WBUR's website.

According to an editor's note, "More interview excerpts will be posted March 30 in conjunction with a special profile of Markopolos slated to air on Morning Edition."

Also, you can view the "60 Minutes" interview with Harry, including some clips from the BSAS Market Outlook dinner.


_________________
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, March 12, 2009

What Bernanke does well as a speech writer

Ben Bernanke's speech construction is perfect, says blogger Richard Miles.

What's so good about it? Bernanke abides by the maxim, "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them again."

According to Miles' analysis of Bernanke's March 10 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Bernanke spent 20% of his words setting up his speech, 75% on "tell them," and 5% on re-telling.

Think carefully about that 25% the next time you write a speech--or any sort of complex communication.


_________________
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, March 10, 2009

Fixed income attribution falls short

Attribution analysis can help investment managers keep their clients, even in down-markets, said David Spaulding, president of The Spaulding Group, Inc. in his presentation on "Fixed Income Attribution: An Introduction" to the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS) on March 5. But good attribution analysis has been hard for fixed income managers to find. While equity managers have long enjoyed good models and software, the fixed income world is only catching up now, according to Spaulding. The Campisi model for fixed income attribution offers a solution. 

Explanation of underperformance can save the day
Some managers underperform their benchmarks, but keep their clients because of attribution. How's that? Attribution helps them to explain what's working--and what's not. With that information, managers can reassure clients with their strategies for fixing things. This is a technique I talked about in "How can you report underperformance in your client letters?" 

Equity-based models don't cut it
But many fixed income managers create their performance attribution with the equivalent of one hand tied behind their back, based on what I learned from Spaulding. They're using attribution models developed for equities, which look only at security selection and sector allocation. That's a poor match for fixed income, where decisions about duration, sectors, and risk levels (ratings) are most important and security selection typically doesn't count for much.

"If you're not looking at duration, you don't have fixed income attribution," said Spaulding. That's because the duration decision typically has the greatest impact on fixed income performance. 

Campisi model fixes problems 
The Campisi model, developed by Stephen Campisi, CFA, may help. It is an attribution model with the potential to  play the role for fixed income that two Brinson models play for equities, said Spaulding. The model views bond returns as coming from income in addition to price change. Spaulding ran through the steps in applying the model, including gathering the data, calculating the contribution effect for the benchmark and the portfolio, and calculating the attribution effect.

The BSAS audience seemed receptive to the Campisi model. But some expressed concern about handling derivatives in a fixed income portfolio. Spaulding said that assets that aren't in a portfolio's benchmark should be isolated and only their contribution should be discussed. However, I got the sense that managers who invest heavily in derivatives aren't satisfied with that solution.

It looks as if challenges still remain until fixed income attribution achieves the usefulness of its equity counterpart.

If you'd like a copy of Spaulding's PowerPoint presentation, e-mail your request to The Spaulding 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

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Cut Out the Doom and Gloom Talk"

"In tough times, words matter. Leaders must choose them carefully," says John Baldoni in "Cut Out the Doom and Gloom Talk." Baldoni's trying to get leaders to stop using terms such as "financial Armageddon." I don't think that Armageddon talk is much of an issue for financial advisors. Advisors are trying to calm clients, not stir them up. 

But Baldoni's advice for the doomsayers can also help advisors. He suggests that you:
1. "Think ahead." Don't wing it and get emotional when you're talking about serious issues.
2. "Pause before you speak." "The pause radiates calmness. It demonstrates that you are in control," says Baldoni, even if you don't feel in control.
3. "Avoid hyperbole." It'll just upset your clients.
4. "Convey urgency." But only about actions that your clients can take. Not about things they can't control
5. "Be like Warren [Buffett]." Throw in some humor to lighten the mood. I'm sure Baldoni would also tell you not to use humor to make light of your clients' concerns.

Have you tried these techniques? How have they worked for you? Please leave a comment.




_________________
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, March 3, 2009

"Op-Ed Guidelines for The Wall Street Journal"

The Wall Street Journal is a great place for you to get noticed. Getting your opinion piece published on the op-ed page carries cachet. Plus, it'll make a great reprint to share with clients and prospects.

Check out "Op-Ed Guidelines for The Wall Street Journal." Your essay should run 600 to 1200 words and be pasted into the body of your email to edit.features@wsj.com. Those words should be "jargon-free," according to Robert Pollock, editorial features editor. The 1200-word upper limit is on the long side, so keep that in mind if you submit to other newspapers' op-ed sections.

The guidelines don't say this, but your essay should get to your point quickly. A busy editor may reject your essay after reading only one or two paragraphs.

Also, try for what reporters call a "news hook." Tie your essay to something in the news.
_________________
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

Test your business spelling skills

"The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words" is an interactive quiz. Test your spelling skill today!



_________________
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