Monday, May 31, 2010

My Boston-area networking suggestions

Social media are great, but sometimes I want to meet my business colleagues, prospects, and referral sources in person. 

In this post, I share some names of networking organizations in greater Boston. Perhaps you'll find an organization that works for you. Even if you're not in Boston, some of these organizations have a national presence.

My anchor organizations are the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS), the local chapter of the CFA Institute, and the Women's Business Network (WBN). I'm a volunteer for the  BSAS. I try to attend at least one program monthly to keep on top of investment management issues and to meet new people. I belong to WBN out in Wellesley to get myself out of my office to chat with other small business owners.
 
Here are some other organizations I've enjoyed on multiple occasions. They're a mix of financial, communications, and business groups.

There are many more worthy organizations in greater Boston. One that intrigues me is the Boston Economic Club. If only I had more time... 

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The two most important words are...

Copyblogger Brian Clark's lessons in "The two most important words in blogging" apply equally to any form of marketing communication. Pay attention because using these words will make your communications more persuasive.

See if you can guess the two words before you surf to Copyblogger's site. If you have attended any of my presentations on writing, you should know one of the two answers.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to write subheads that command attention

Copyblogger Brian Clark accurately notes in "How to write exquisite subheads" that subheads can turn scanners into readers.

I especially like his advice that a subhead should "express a clear and complete benefit."

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Executive's lesson for your communications with clients and prospects

Financial advisors who want to communicate effectively will follow the example set by Bill Carter in "The Scoreboard Can't Tell You Everything." Carter's lesson boils down to this: Put yourself in the mind of the person with whom you're communicating.

Here's what Carter, partner and co-found of Fuse, said in his interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:
In terms of communication, I think that I do my best to try to step away from my own belief system and my own priorities, which are the priorities of a 41-year-old man who’s married and has a young daughter. Instead, I try to evaluate decisions based on what the 25- to-32-year-olds in our office are trying to get out of their career, what they want in a workplace. 
Your articles and conversations will be more persuasive when you phrase them in terms of what your clients, prospects, and referral sources care about. 

For example, say "Your interests come first because we don't accept payments from product providers" instead of "We are a fee-only financial advisor."

Do you apply this rule to your communications? Please share your examples.


Related posts
* Focus on features, not benefits, in your marketing
* Encourage good communication or lose your multi-generational clients

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Have mutual fund fees gone up or down?"

Investment expenses have been on my mind this month, as you know, if you've read "Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko on investing," "Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko riles up Tweeters with comments on investment fees" or you follow me on Twitter.


This prompted me to revisit my article, "Have mutual fund fees gone up or down? Are they fair or unfair? It depends on whom you ask." 


Many of the points raised in this 2006 article still apply.
  •  For most advisors, it’s a no-brainer to pick the fund with lower expenses, assuming the fund’s style, market capitalization and other major factors are equal. 
  • Controversies swirl around several topics related to fees, including their fairness, their correlation with higher fund returns, whether they’re rising or falling, and whether fund firms are responding adequately to advisor demands.
  • Some financial advisors say both critics and boosters of mutual funds may be missing the point by focusing on disclosed expense ratios. 
  • One thing seems clear: Advisors will continue to gravitate toward low-cost funds that also meet their other investment criteria.
One change since my 2006 article: The Investment Company Institute's research no longer shows that overall mutual fund expenses are dropping. The headline for its latest study says, "Mutual Fund Expense Ratios Ticked Up in 2009, While Total Fees and Expenses Remained Steady." Morningstar Advisor put a more negative spin on fees in "Mutual Fund Expense Ratios See Biggest Spike Since 2000."
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    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Tip for how to connect with your workshop attendees

    Advisors, you can deepen your connection with folks who attend your investment or financial planning workshops using a technique I observed at the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts annual conference on May 7.

    Consultant Shari Harley, whom I wrote about in "How to improve your financial planning client relationships," handed out postcards to her audience. There's nothing unusual about that. But what she said next grabbed my attention.

    Harley asked us to write on the postcard (shown in the photo above) at least one thing that we learned from her presentation that we'd like to apply. Then she promised to mail the postcards to us in one month, if we dropped them off on our way out of the auditorium.

    I like Harley's postcard idea because
    1. Her question spurs the audience to think about what was most valuable in her presentation.
    2. She gains valuable feedback when participants hand in their cards.
    3. She reminds potential clients of her existence--with their permission--when they receive their cards one month later.
    4. If audience members haven't acted on their goals by the time they receive the cards, they may say, "I need a consultant to help me act on this."
    This postcard technique should work nicely as follow-up to any sort of financial seminar or workshop.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Financial bloggers' posts may violate copyright law

    Copyright law isn't on the curriculum of most business schools or for CFP or CFA candidates. So it's not surprising that I've seen well-meaning financial advisors unintentionally violate copyright law in their blogs. 

    What NOT to do
    You cannot copy someone's entire  newspaper article or  blog post  word-for-word, then make it okay by giving credit to the author. This won't suffice. Not even if you link back to the original article. You are violating copyright law. 

    When in doubt, paraphrase
    U.S. law allows you to quote part of a written work under the doctrine of fair use, which you can read about on the federal copyright website.

    Fair use is a murky concept. "There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work," as it says in the federal government's FAQ on on "How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?"

    As the Copyright Office says:
    If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.
    Your safest course is to simply paraphrase or summarize the article that interests you, while also citing the source. It's courteous to provide a link to the article, if it's available online.

    Using quotes very selectively will keep you safe, while protecting other authors' copyright.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Start with a good lead, or lose your reader

    "...the lead is the doorway into every text. Its job, never a minor one, is to draw the reader over the threshold," says Francis Flaherty in The Elements of Story, p. 201.

    The lead, also spelled lede, is the first sentence or paragraph of your blog post or article.  Write a weak lead and you may lose your audience at the very beginning of your piece.

    When you write your lead, Flaherty suggests you ask "What lead will prompt in the reader the most irresistible questions, questions powerful enough to propel him through that doorway and into the story?" p. 202.

    When you write an investment or wealth management blog post, the most powerful leads often pose a problem faced by your readers and dangle the possibility of a solution. Have you written a powerful lead of this type? Please post a link to your blog post, so we can see how you've mastered the lead.
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    Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Using CFP in your Twitter name--Read the CFP Board's position

    Using a term such as CFP in your Twitter name makes sense as a marketing strategy for financial advisors. It immediately identifies you as a credentialed professional. However, it also means you're violating the CFP Board's rules.

    Twitter alerted me to this issue. When I dug into the CFP Board's Guide to Use of the CFP Certification Marks, I discovered that point 1.7 says "CFP certificants may not own or use an email address or internet domain name that includes the CFP mark." (Sorry CFP Board, I don't know how to make the (R) mark appear in a Blogger blog). 

    Here are some examples from the CFP Board of proper and improper use of their mark.


    A Twitter name isn't an email or a URL. But Twitter does make the name into a URL following the format http://twitter.com/TWITERNAME.

    I contacted @CFPBoard to ask if a Twitter name using CFP would violate its rules. Here's the reply:







    It sounds as if the CFP Board is open to your feedback about using CFP in Twitter names. So shoot SLaBonte an email, if you'd like to be heard.
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    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Poll: Which should investors fear more? Which #CFA2010 speakers were right?

    CFA Institute Annual Conference speakers raised many concerns about the future during the conference, which ran from May 16 to May 19 in Boston. But they didn't always agree with one another. Their mixed opinions inspired this month's poll.

    Which do you fear more? 
    * Inflation or deflation? 
    * Continued fiscal stimulus or spending cuts to focus on deficit reduction?

    Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of this blog. I'll report on the results in the July issue of my e-newsletter.

    For a sampling of the mixed opinions, see
    * Memo from Van Hoisington: Inflation Won't Be a Problem for Some Time to Come on the CFA Institute's conference blog
    * Why Niall Ferguson's Forbidden FT Headline is the Key to Understanding Sovereign Risk on the CFA Institute's conference blog
    * Harvard Professor Kenneth Rogoff Offers a Historical Perspective on Financial Crises on the CFA Institute's conference blog
    * R Koo, "Lessons from Japan: Fighting a Balance Sheet Recession"
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    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Plain English can bring your financial topic to life

    Must an article about how to prevent another Flash Crash be difficult to understand?

    Not if you use plain English, as Floyd Norris did in "Time for Regulators to Impose Order in the Markets," his May 14 column in The New York Times.

    Here's Norris' first sentence: 
    "If your machine makes a mistake that the dumbest human would never make, then maybe you don’t have a very good machine." 

    Even a child can understand Norris' lead sentence. Norris created an image in my mind that made it easier for me to follow the rest of his column about the changes he believes are needed for the New York Stock Exchange.

    The next time you write an investment or financial article, try to use plain language to introduce your topic. Your readers will thank you.

    Related posts
    * Financial writers clinic: Lessons from Floyd Norris of The New York Times
    * Vary your paragraph length like New York Times columnist Floyd Norris
    * Financial writers clinic: Rhythm can help you

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    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    The compliance-constrained advisor's guide to LinkedIn, Part II: Status updates

    Your LinkedIn status updates are powerful reminders of your existence to clients, prospects, and referral sources. You can use them in ways that even compliance officers can love.


    My top three suggestions are to use materials that are already compliance-approved, share your professional interests, and share your professional interests.


    1. Use compliance-approved materials


    Every firm has materials that are approved for use with the general public. It could be your quarterly investment commentary, a newsletter, or even a brochure. Take advantage of this information by writing about it in your status update line.


    You can say something as bland as "Check out our 2nd quarter market commentary at http://..." or spice it up by asking a provocative question and following the question with a link. Check with your compliance officer to learn how much you can say without raising his or her anxiety.


    2. Share your professional interests


    You can mention professional meetings that you're attending or topics that you're reading about. 

    Let's say you're trying to attract clients with complex estate planning needs. Your prospects will probably feel reassured to learn that you're reading journal articles and attending panels on these topics. Your update about an upcoming event may lead to your referral source setting an appointment to meet you there.

    You can also share company news, such as the hiring of a new relationship manager or the debut of a new product.


    3. Share your personal interests


    People like to do business with people whom they like. Share your volunteer interests, hobbies, or even something that makes you smile. It'll help people to develop a connection with you.

    Compliance note: For more on the compliance aspects of social media, check out Bill Winterberg's excellent article in the Journal of Financial Planning, accessible to non-members only during the month of May. Chad Bockius' "LinkedIn Compliance Self-Assessment" focuses on compliance for registered reps. Both articles point to the importance of monitoring and archiving social media activity.

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    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    R Koo, "Lessons from Japan: Fighting a Balance Sheet Recession" at #CFA2010

    Lessons from Japan? What lessons can we learn from Japan? They did everything wrong, didn't they?

    The questions above are the reactions that Richard Koo, chief economist of the Nomura Research Institute and author of The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japan's Great Recession often gets when he presents on  "Lessons from Japan: Fighting a Balance Sheet Recession," as he did on May 18 at the CFA Institute's annual conference.

    Koo made the case that the U.S. should continue fiscal stimulus until deleveraging by the private sector is complete. If we fail to do so, we risk a double-dip recession once people become complacent about economic recovery, he said. Meanwhile, the deleveraging is necessary because of "the bursting of a debt-financed asset price bubble that leaves many private-sector balance sheet liabilities than assets."

    The U.S. recession is a lot more like Japan's than most people realize. Koo's first graph showed a striking similarity between the path of U.S. housing prices, 1992-2010, and Japanese housing prices, 1977-1995.

    Japan's recession management has been more successful than you might think. This is especially true in the sense that Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) grew during the recession despite massive loss of wealth and private sector deleveraging, Koo said. 

    Japan could have done even better if the government had consistently supplied fiscal stimulus until private sector deleveraging ended, Koo said. He estimated that Japan might have suffered only seven to eight years, instead of 15 years, if it hadn't tried to "pull the plug" on fiscal stimulus.

    The U.S. has a tough task in front of it. Maintaining fiscal stimulus for an entire period is almost impossible during a peacetime democracy, said Koo. 

    Here's a startling pronouncement: The U.S. has overtaken Japan in savings. This is the result of the recession, said Koo. This jump in the savings rate means that the U.S. could internally finance its fiscal stimulus. 

    Interest rates will stay low, said Koo, because nobody is borrowing or lending. We have to get corporations to borrow money before we can even contemplate reducing the budget deficit, said Koo.

    Some people think that the U.S. will be different from Japan because it cut interest rates more aggressively. But Koo countered that monetary policy doesn't have much impact in this kind of recession because you can't spur borrowing.

    MAY 19 UPDATE: Here's link to Bloomberg.com interview with Richard Koo on the topic of his #CFA2010 presentation.

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    Can you help with my Facebook dilemma?

    Dilemma: I feel as if I need to change my Facebook (FB) strategy. I currently use it to hang out with family, friends, and fellow writers.

    I'm sitting on two FB friend requests from people who feel like friends, but they are also in my business. 

    Another source of pressure: I need to become a "fan" of client/referral source Facebook Fan Pages, so I can learn more about them. Once I do this, I will face more FB friend requests from people who are not family, friends, or writers. 

    Which of the following four options should I pick?

    1. Continue to accept friend requests only from people in my target categories. 

    PRO: This preserves my relative privacy, though I should keep in mind that boundaries may still be breached. 

    CON: Others may feel offended. Plus, I miss opportunities to deepen relationships with them.

    2. Set up a second FB profile for Susan Weiner, CFA, which I'll use for business relationships.  

    PRO: There's less risk of inappropriate information reaching my business contacts. 

    CON: It becomes one more social media profile to maintain. Content will overlap with my non-business profile.

    3. Set up a FB Fan Page for InvestmentWriting.com and try to direct business connections there, while keeping my FB page "personal."  

    PRO: A fan page is more flexible than a profile for my business. 

    CON: Fan page doesn't solve the problem of having a profile that I can use to "fan" business contacts' fan pages.

    4. Accept friend requests from everyone, but control who can see what. 

    PRO: This option involves the least extra work. 

    CON: I'm bound to slip up on categorizing my updates, thus letting clients in on my squirrelmania, etc. Family or friends may make edgy comments on some of my posts.

    What do YOU suggest? It would be great to get comments from you.

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    If you enjoy my #CFA2010 tweets...

    ...you may also enjoy my free monthly e-newsletter with practical tips for your client communications. You'll also find at least one investment or wealth management article. 

    I often report on presentations to the Boston Security Analysts Society, so you know you'll see topics of interest to CFA charterholders.

    Topics in the May 2010 issue included
    • Watch out for inflation, says veteran value investor, Jean-Marie Eveillard
      Treasurys vs. Treasuries--Which is the right spelling? 
    • How to guest-blog on personal finance or investing 
    • Poll: How do you sign your business emails? 
    • Last month's reader poll about ghostbloggers 
    • Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko on investing
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    GMO's Jeremy Grantham on "The Ethical Hole In Finance" at #CFA2010

    I think the financial industry has lost its way and become a rogue industry. It's out of control. 

    These are the comments with which Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief strategist of GMO opened "The Ethical Hole in Finance" part of his presentation to the CFA Institute's annual conference on May 17.

    Grantham criticized the decline of ethics in investment banking since the golden years of the 1960s. Back then head of investment banks would never have permitted today's unethical practices. "They would have shot you," said Grantham.

    "The ethical standard today is 'Don't go to jail if you can possibly help it,' " said Grantham.

    Grantham said the shift from partnerships to public companies has accelerated the decline in investment banks' ethics. It would help to return to partnerships, but that isn't going to happen, he said. A more practical step is to require investment banks to spin off their hedge funds.

    Grantham suggested that investment management firms should shift their business to more ethical companies. However, he admitted, GMO has not made this change. Grantham said that if you take business away from the firm that does business one-quarter point cheaper, that's not in the short-term interests of your clients, even though it's in their long-term interests. There's a "creative tension" between these two forces," he said.

    Follow the CFA Institute's annual conference
    You can learn about presentations at the CFA Institute's annual conference as they occur. Read the CFA Institute's conference blog or follow the conference using the #CFA 2010 hashtag on Twitter.

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    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Dan Ariely says disclosure may hurt investors: Report from his #CFA2010 talk -- #CFA2010

    Most investment professionals, including CFA charterholders, figure that more disclosure about financial advisors' conflicts of interest will help investors.

    Not so, said Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, to the CFA Institute's annual conference on May 16. In fact, disclosure may not improve investors' decisions.


    Two countervailing forces apply when a financial advisor reveals conflicts of interest, said Ariely.

    Let's assume the financial advisor tells a client that he'll receive a higher payment if the client chooses Fund A over Fund B.

    On the one hand, the client will tend to discount the advisor's opinion because of the potential bias, said Ariely. On the other hand, the advisor will feel freer to push Fund A because he has revealed his conflict. Ariely believes that this second force will overwhelm the client's discounting of the advisor's opinion. As a result, investors end up no better off despite disclosures. 


    You can watch Ariely present
    Some of Ariely's past presentations have been captured on video. You can view Ariely on YouTube. 


    Follow the CFA Institute's annual conference
    You can learn about presentations at the CFA Institute's annual conference as they occur. Read the CFA Institute's conference blog or follow the conference using the #CFA 2010 hashtag on Twitter.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Guest post: "Correct Grammar Errors in Your Writing Quickly and Easily "

    Adults often struggle to improve their writing skills. That's why I've become a fan of the teaching techniques of @LindaAragoni. In this article, Linda shares a technique for cutting the number of grammar errors in your written communications.


    Correct Grammar Errors in Your Writing Quickly and Easily
    By Linda Aragoni

    Do you have trouble correcting your writing for grammar errors?

    I know I do.

    I suspect you do, too.

    Here is a simple way to make correcting your writing easy.

    First, keep a list of the grammar errors you make regularly. Most people make a few errors repeatedly. An error you make once in five years is no big deal, but a grammar error you make once every five sentences is an error you need to eliminate.

    Your teachers probably have told you about your habitual errors for years. Errors like sentence fragments, comma splices, and run-together sentences top the list. Subject-verb agreement errors and problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement are not far behind. Chances are you know how to correct those grammar errors if you see them.

    To make sure you see grammar errors so you can correct them, read your completed paper looking for just your most frequent error. If your most common error is writing sentence fragments, scrutinize each group of words between terminal punctuation marks to see if it is a true sentence. Do not worry about anything else when you look for fragments. If you see any other kind of error, highlight it to fix later.

    After you finish reviewing your paper for your most common mistake, go through it looking for your second most common error.

    Keep doing that one-error-at-a time correction until you have examined your paper for each of your habitual errors.

    When you correct for a single error at a time, take a break between errors. Do not try to cram the editing into the hour before a paper is due. If you do your editing in 5-10 minute sessions spread over a day or more, you will do a better job and experience much less stress.

    Although this single-minded correction strategy sounds as if it would be terribly time-consuming, it can be done quite quickly. And it pays off quickly, too. If you can eliminate from your writing three errors you make habitually, your writing will show a big improvement immediately.

    Linda Aragoni's one-mistake-at-a-time strategy grew out of teaching grammar study skills to first-year college students using their error-riddled papers as practice exercises. Her e-book Grammar Abusers Anonymous teaches mature high school and adult students how to master grammar without paying tuition. Copyright 2010 Linda G. Aragoni. 

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    Top four email mistakes to avoid when you've got a referral

    You've probably used a referral to ask a stranger for an informational interview or a chance to talk about your business. If you make your initial contact by email, please avoid the following common mistakes:

    • Burying the name of your mutual acquaintance in the body of your email
    • Not making it clear immediately what you're seeking
    • Not identifying yourself clearly and succinctly
    • Putting the burden on the other party to follow up
    Let's flip these mistakes to get a list of best practices. 
     
    1. Highlight the name of your referrer
    When I've got a referral, I often put the referrer's name into my subject line. For example, "Allan Loomis referred me" or "Allan Loomis suggested I talk with you." The familiarity of that person's name raises the odds that the recipient will open your message. 

    2. Quickly tell your reader what you're seeking 
    3. Identify yourself briefly
    People are busy. They don't want to read a long email to figure out what you want from them. Open with a line such as "Allan Loomis suggested I contact you for a brief informational interview about how you manage your investment research needs." Then, and only then, should you give a brief self-introduction.

    4. Take the initiative to suggest some times when you and your reader can connect. Nothing stops you from writing "I look forward to hearing from you." But don't expect your recipient to follow up. The burden is on you because you're the person requesting the favor. I increasingly find myself writing "I will call you next week to follow up."

    Pay attention to these tips and you'll increase your odds of success whether you're marketing yourself or your company.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Hear Roger Ibbotson on asset allocation for free on May 27, thanks to CFA Institute

    Roger Ibbotson will speak about "The Importance of Asset Allocation" in a live audio webcast on May 27 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. You can register on the CFA Institute's website.

    This event is free, even to non-members of the CFA Institute.

    If you read "Roger Ibbotson attacks asset allocation 'folklore,' " you know I think Ibbotson is worth hearing.
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    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko riles up Tweeters with comments on investment fees

    Mark Yusko, CEO and chief investment officer of Morgan Creek Capital, got off easy when he spoke to the annual meeting of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts (FPAMA) last week. Nobody at the FPAMA questioned Yusko's opinions about investment management fees. But plenty of my Twitter followers took issue with Yusko. Still, nobody's saying that one should always choose the cheapest fund.

    What Yusko said
    Yusko seemed to suggest that fees rise along with the investment manager's ability to deliver performance.

    He made the following statements:
    • "If you pay low fees, you have your money managed by the worst people" 
    • "In what business does the best person not charge more?"
    • "The idea that you want to minimize costs makes no sense."
    • People say they know that indexing beats hedge funds, but for a 20-year period, S&P 500 returned 6.5% vs. 13.2% for hedge funds.
    Disagreement
    @BillWinterberg was the first to weigh in on my tweets of Yusko's comments.





     
    @MariposaCap agreed with Bill.




    @NathanGehring raised another issue, saying "By charging higher fees the manager may feel a need to take additional risk to justify the fee." He also questioned Yusko's hedge fund returns.




    Paul Puckett (@investiphobia) emailed me saying, "Disagree, over the long term the opposite is generally true. Expenses are one factor, not the only factor when choosing managers."

    One lonely defender, but some room for higher fees
    Only one person tweeted in Yusko's defense.










    Still, as Paul Puckett noted, nobody suggests that expenses suggests that expenses should be the only consideration when you're choosing a manager. In fact, this theme came up later in the day at the FPAMA conference. 

    Fees matter, said Karen Dolan, Morningstar's director of fund analysis, in "Beyond Stars: Using Fund Analysis to Improve the Investor Experience." As her slide stated, "Advisors have responded by moving assets to cheaper funds, but there's more we can do to close the gap." 

    Stewardship and portfolio analysis are also keys to choosing good funds, said Dolan. The fund families on her list of "Top Wealth Creators" over the past decade--American Funds, Vanguard, Fidelity Investments, Franklin Templeton, and PIMCO Funds--have all been good stewards, she said.

    The great debate about what really matters in fund selection is likely to continue.


    Related posts
    * Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko on investing
    * "Using Trading Costs to Identify Better Mutual Funds" in Advisor Perspectives (2007)

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Timely, creative financial ad from Northwestern Mutual

    Somebody was on the ball in Northwestern Mutual's marketing department or ad agency. 


    I like their new ad, which I spotted in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. You can view the complete ad on Northwestern's website.

    I like this ad because it
    * Plays off a timely topic as well as people's emotions
    * Is written in a conversational tone, without any 10 dollar words or extensive compliance disclosures

    Nice job!
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    How to improve your financial planning client relationships

    You can improve your relationships with financial planning clients by encouraging them to communicate honestly with you from the very beginning. 

    This is the main lesson I took away from Shari Harley's presentation on "How to Say Anything to Anyone: Paving the Way to Powerful Working Relationships" to the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts.


    Ask for honesty
    Harley suggested that audience members achieve this by saying, "I want a great relationship with you. If I do anything that violates your expectations, frustrates you or causes you challenges, please tell me. I promise I will say thank you."

    Assuming that your client says "yes" to your request, then you can add, "I hope I can do the same with you." This sets the stage for two-way communication. If it works, you'll never be surprised again by a client defection. 

    I asked Harley what she'd recommend saying after "thank you" when a client gives negative feedback. Don't say anything other than "thank you" right away, she suggested, because you'll feel defensive. Go away and think things over. You can follow up later.


    Follow up with questions
    Don't stop with your initial agreement to be honest with each other. Follow up with questions that help you to understand your client better, said Harley.


    Here are some of her suggested questions:
    1. Who was the best service provider you ever worked with?
    2. What made him/her the best service provider?
    3. What are your pet peeves?
    4. Do you prefer email or voicemail?
    5. What do you wish I would start, stop and continue doing? 

    I can see how these questions would benefit me as a service provider and a client. It's time to rev up my courage and start asking more questions.

    I believe Harley's approach could benefit you in your professional and personal life.

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    10 blogs I can't live without--Writer's edition

    You'll learn the names of some useful resources for writers in this post. But first I must tell you why writing this blog post was so hard for me.



    Blogs? What blogs?
    "10 blogs I can't live without" is a topic that participants in the WordCount Blogathon are supposed to post about on May 10. When I read the topic I thought "Blogs? What blogs?" I simply don't consume blogs as blogs. I'm more likely to catch my favorite bloggers on Twitter. 

    On the other hand, some of my readers probably don't think of me as a blogger because they visit my blog through my monthly e-newsletter or my LinkedIn status updates. They might respond to the WordCount Blogathon assignment by saying, "I don't read any blogs."

    People consume their online information in different ways. This  assignment reminded me that it's important to make information available to readers in the format they prefer.




    Online resources for writers 

    Here are some of my favorite online resources for writers. They're not all blogs. Nor have I limited my list to 10. 

    B2B example 
    If I were stranded on a desert island with such slow Internet connection speed that I could only read one e-newsletter or blog, I'd choose Michael Katz's E-Newsletter on E-Newsletters. It has a charming style that sets a good example for business-to-business writers communicating. 

    Attracting readers to your blog
    Some blogs do a great job of showing how to write copy that captivates readers. When I began blogging I regularly read Brian Clark's Copyblogger and Darren Rowse's ProBlogger. More recently, I've found some good ideas on Nicholas Cardot's SiteSketch. They're worth reading, although I enjoyed them more when their creators wrote more of the content.  


    Grammar, punctuation, usage 
    When I've got a grammar, punctuation or word usage questions, sometimes I'll just Google it. But I often don't trust the answers I find. This is when I mosey on over to Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty's Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing or the Purdue Online Writing Lab. By the way, remember how I mentioned delivering content the way that readers like to receive it? Fogarty has been podcasting her blog posts for awhile. She's also on Twitter and Facebook. Plus she has published in old-fashioned print book format.  

    Onlinestylebooks lets you search 42 style books at once. It's a relatively new site, so I haven't used it much.

    For occasional tips, I follow APStylebook on Twitter. They're the folks who officially changed the spelling from "Web site" to "website" earlier this year. As you may have noticed, I was ahead of them in using "website," but I still respect them as a style setter.

    Some other tweeps with useful style tips include EditorMark, Copyediting, and LawWriting. There are many more worth following. You'll find them if you're a Twitter devotee. 

    Inspiration 
    Jon Winokur's Twitter feed, AdviceToWriters, is great for inspiration. I like his book, also called Advice to Writers. 

    Humor 
    For word geek humor--yes, there is such a thing--follow FakeAPStylebook on Twitter.

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Small-cap investing opportunities according to Artio's Dedio

    "Opportunities in Smallcap Investing" was the title of the presentation that Samuel Dedio, head of US equities for Artio Global Management, delivered to the 2010 annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts. The growth of options trading was his most interesting theme, in my opinion. By the way, if you don't recognize the name Artio Global Management, it was formerly Julius Baer. 

    Where the opportunities lie 
    Dedio identified opportunities in financials sector, including regional banks, online brokerage companies, and insurance. He figures that "industry consolidation and stimulus spending may potentially benefit this area." 

    Industrials and materials stocks will benefit from emerging markets' demand. For example, Dedio likes silver, where supply is not keeping up with demand. Compared with gold, silver has many more industrial applications, yet it trades at a discount to gold.

    In healthcare, Dedio likes companies that can help implement cost savings. This means companies in diagnostics, medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and home healthcare providers.

    The survivors of the 2009 shakeout in retailers will benefit in 2010. "We expect margins (and earnings) to recover more rapidly than in prior cycles," wrote Dedio in the consumer discretionary section of his handout.

    Finally, in technology, Dedio focused on the undervalued importance of semiconductors. 


    Options: Why online brokerage may thrive 
    Dedio particularly likes online brokerage companies with exposure to options trading as a play on demographics and rising interest in making money through options. 

    "The younger generation eats it up," said Dedio, referring to options trading. This is apparently tied to younger investors growing up with computers and to educational efforts by companies such as Think or Swim.

    "Don't 85% of options expire worthless?" asked an audience member. That's exactly what makes options a great business, according to Dedio. Investors have to buy more options on an ongoing basis. 

    Dedio displayed a graph showing that total monthly equity option trading volume has more than doubled since the year 2000. Monthly trading volume, which was under 100 million until January 2004, has been  200 million--and sometimes exceeded 350 million--during the period January 2008 to September 2009.

    Dedio's one concern about options trading is pricing pressure. However, cost cutters are at a disadvantage in the options arena, where education remains critical. Education requires more robust margins than cost cutters manage.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko on investing

    "Alternative Thinking About Investments" was the topic addressed by Mark Yusko, CEO and chief investment officer, Morgan Creek Capital Management, when he spoke at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts on May 7. Yusko's wide-ranging talk was provocative and entertaining, with some great one-liners that became tweets that I quote below.


    Alternatives deserve more attention


    Yusko thinks investors should put more into alternative strategies. A small allocation simply cannot have a big enough impact.

    This is a lesson that target date fund (TDF) managers should consider, suggested Ryan Alfred, co-founder and president of BrightScope, in response to my tweet. As he explained,





    Going back to Yusko, he also suggested that your clients should have at least one-third of their assets in illiquid investments because such investments "win" after recessions. He's assuming that your clients have plenty of money that they plan to pass on to others in their wills. Yusko didn't specify which illiquid assets he was talking about.


    Provocative 
    Yusko isn't fond of mainstream media. "Cancel your subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. It's all wrong, it's all biased." He used the example of the war between Russia and Georgia to make his case, mentioning that Morgan Creek pays someone to read Russian newspapers for them. 

    Yusko also spoke in favor of high fees. He seemed to suggest that fees rise along with the investment manager's ability to deliver performance.




    Humorous Yusko 
    In closing, here is some Yusko humor.







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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Spice up your blog with free or low-cost photos

    A photo can make the difference between whether someone reads--or skips--your financial blog post.

    Here are some free or low-cost sources for photos you can use in your blog and elsewhere. 

    1. stock.xchg -- I've used this source without any problems
    2. Flickr's Creative Commons licensed content
    3. morgueFile
    4. RGBStock.com
    Make sure you carefully read--and abide by--the licensing agreements for each photo. Photos on the same website may have different requirements.
     

    I learned about some of these sources from @LawWriting and @ErikSherman. Thanks, Marilyn and Erik!

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    How I've benefited from Twitter

    "Has being active in social media helped you grow your business?"

    This question from a wealth manager set me thinking. Most of my new business still comes through old-fashioned referrals from people whom I've met face-to-face. But that's changing thanks to social media, especially Twitter. There's no doubt that my Twitter has helped my business. I see three main benefits.
     

    #1 Bigger network of experts
    When I've got a problem to solve, I can now call on a much bigger network of experts for help. This has been especially helpful with my technology challenges, where @RussThornton, @BillWinterberg, @RussellDunkin, @Blano, and @KristenLuke have been particularly helpful. This is just a sampling of my expert sources. There are many, many other experts on Twitter whom I've learned from.


    #2 Bigger pool of prospective clients
    Twitter has expanded my newsletter circulation, which is an important source of new clients. For example, most of my teleclass students have been newsletter subscribers for awhile. I've consistently gained more new subscribers post-Twitter than pre-Twitter.


    One of my favorite clients found me through Twitter, got to know me better through my newsletter, and then became a client.


    # 3 Convenient way to network and socialize
    Twitter keeps me from feeling isolated as a solo entrepreneur. It also suits my style. I can hop off a work project for 10 minutes, read and chat with some folks, and then settle back to work. I don't need to spend an hour schlepping into Boston on the commuter rail and then an hour coming back.
     

    Feeling happier from brief spurts of socializing help me to focus better when I'm doing actual work.

    There are other benefits, too. But these three are enough to keep me tweeting.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Roger Ibbotson attacks asset allocation "folklore"

    "The time has come for folklore to be replaced with reality" says Roger Ibbotson in "The Importance of Asset Allocation" in CFA Institute's Financial Analysts Journal (March/April).

    Folklore means "the idea that asset allocation policy explains more than 90 percent of performance," which is a misinterpretation of the classic 1986 article, "Determinants of Portfolio Performance" by Gary Brinson, Randolph Hood, and Gilbert Beebower, says Ibbotson. 

    "Asset allocation is very important, but nowhere near the 90 percent of the variation in return is caused by the specific asset allocation mix," writes Ibbotson. Rather, active management plays a role equal to that of asset allocation, as shown by "The Equal Importance of Asset Allocation and Active Management," an article co-authored by Ibbotson with James Xiong, Thomas Idzorek, and Peng Chen in the same issue of the Financial Analysts Journal.

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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Financial advisor poll: How do you sign your business emails?

    Email communications with clients, prospects, and referral sources are an essential part of  your private wealth management or investment business. Handle them well, and you deepen your relationships. In How to Instantly Connect with Anyone, author Leil Lowndes suggests an email closing technique that may boost your effectiveness.

    Even something as small as your email signature sends a message to your clients, prospects, and referral sources. You set a different tone when you end with "Sincerely, Jane Advisor, CFP, CFA, Senior Vice President" instead of "See you soon, Jane." 

    Lowndes suggests that you forego traditional closings in favor of ending your email with your recipient's name. For example, "Thanks so much for your help, Samantha" when Samantha is the person you're emailing.

    According to Lowndes' approach, you can get away with just your first name or initials--or even nothing at all--after such a line. "Hearing their own name unexpectedly as the last word of your message makes them feel an instant connection with you," she says.

    I like Lowndes' idea. But only in moderation. If you close every email like this, the technique will lose its impact.

    The rest of the time, you've got an array of more traditional closings to choose from. You need to strike the right balance between formality and warmth. This may mean using different signatures for different clients, depending on  your relationship with them. Signatures may also vary by occasion.

    Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of this blog about which of the following closings you use most often. 
    • Best wishes
    • Bye 
    • Cheers
    • Have a great day/weekend
    • Kind regards
    • Sincerely
    • Sincerely yours
    • Thank you
    • Warmly
    • Yours truly
    • --None of the above
    I'll report on the results in my June e-newsletter.

    By the way, in these days of blogging transparency, I'm disclosing that I got Lowndes' book for free. I won it in a Twitter contest when I was the first to reply to a tweet by the publisher.


    Related posts
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Your customers, your inspiration

    "Customer comments can contain pure gold. Many of my most in-demand services came about from a suggestion made by someone who wanted to do business with me."

    What suggestions have your clients made to you? Have they suggested new services? Different ways to deliver your services?  Listen to what they say. You may discover a new way to build your business.

    Marcia's tip has worked for me. An out-of-state client asked if I delivered writing workshops virtually, rather than in person. Her question eventually spawned my first teleclass.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved