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