You, A 350 Bouncer, Really?

Betterment, MarketRiders Leave Financial Advisers In The Dust is the latest example of how the Internet can fuel investor distrust, and lead clients down the wrong path.

In her Huffington Post article, Catherine New compares investment advisers to 350-pound bouncers who stand between clients and the bar.  She says, “(Investment advisors) want you to believe you have to get past them to get to the good stuff.”

Her main premise is that advisors aren’t any better investors than the average Joe.  She proselytizes that fees and commissions neutralize advisors’ performance gains and thus encourages investors to go the Do-It-Yourself route.  She goes on to critique three online investment sites.

Sun-Tzu’s strategy of keeping friends close but enemies closer prompted us to encourage advisors to take a few minutes to read Ms. New’s article.

See what she has to say.

Poke around on the three sites she references.

Although Ms. New dismisses Mint as a competitor in the DYI investment space, you’d be wise to tool around that site as well.

As personal financial management (PFM) websites gain sophistication and popularity, your clients will see more articles like this.  Even if PFM’s don’t threaten your business, they must be acknowledged for their role in transforming the investment landscape.

Closing the Education Gap By John Coyne, President, Brinker Capital

Every once in a while you meet a young person who is so bright, energetic and dedicated to his or her calling that you want to do everything you can to help them succeed.

That’s how I felt about Alejando.

I first met Alejandro Gac-Artigas through my relationships with Teach for America. I just knew that he would grow to be a great educator.

Brinker Capital provided financial support to help Alejandro earn his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. We felt that it was an investment in not only Alejandro, but also the thousands of lives we knew he had the potential to impact.

It was a good investment. Alejandro has made us very proud.

After Alejandro’s first year teaching, he noticed something that caused him great concern. His returning students’ reading skills were about 20% behind where they had left off at the end of the prior year. When he shared his observation with other teachers, they put a name to it. They called it, “the summer slide.”

The Summer Slide

With limited access to books or computers and fewer high-quality educational interactions with their parents, elementary-aged students in low-income communities regress academically over the summer. Through his research, Alejandro discovered that summer reading losses amount to a two-year wedge between low- and higher-income peers by eighth grade.

The Springboard Collaborative

Determined to make sure his students didn’t fall behind, Alejandro founded the Springboard Collaborative. Springboard Collaborative combines targeted student instruction with parent training in an incentivized system that closes the literacy gap. He piloted a summer enrichment program in 2010. It was a tremendous success. The Teach for America organization was so impressed with Alejandro’s efforts, it named him, Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

We’re delighted to support Alejandro’s efforts to expand Springboard Collaborative in an effort to equalize the educational opportunities afforded to all young people.

Brinker Capital, eMoney, and The Wounded Warrior Project

On January 21, 2012, Brinker Capital and eMoney Advisor teamed up with the Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse team to provide a contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project. Wearing commemorative camouflage jerseys, that were auctioned off after the game, the Wings presented representatives from all three organizations with framed and signed jerseys. Click below to watch the presentation that included a special recognition to Marine Scout Sniper, Cpl. Jesse Fletcher.

On Culture

by John Coyne, President, Brinker Capital

When I was a newly minted stockbroker, I was working on a presentation of two different investments to a potential client when a grizzled, old veteran walked by and asked me what I was doing. After I explained, he looked me in the eye and said, “Remember, every investment should do three things, it should be good for the client, it should be good for the firm and it should be good for you…and two out of three ain’t bad.”

He walked away laughing at what was clearly an old broker joke, but it is a memory that stays with me as clearly as it did 30 years ago. The incredible flap over the recent New York Times op-ed piece from a mid-level Goldman Sachs employee gave me pause to remember it again, and to reflect on Brinker’s founding 25 years ago this week.

I have had the privilege of knowing countless numbers of professionals, from retail producers to financial industry executives at the most senior level, who have the highest ethical standards and have spent countless hours creating investment products and strategies to make individuals and institutions successful. Like all industries—housing, autos, defense, etc.—we all have seen examples of greed and corruption replacing values and mission.

The founders of Brinker saw it as well at some of the institutions we had worked in previous organizations and have strived since inception to keep investor and advisor success as our principal focus. We are proudest of the fact that when advisors are asked why they do business with us, the say it is because they trust us to do the right thing and not just for investment performance.

We are proud capitalists, don’t get me wrong, but we believe that the key to building a profitable investment management company, or any company for that matter, is to stay focused on the consumer in product, price and service. We also believe that when leadership, which couldn’t be more different in style between Chuck, Noreen and myself, is founded on shared values, it will create an atmosphere that is absorbed by the whole company. That’s our culture and we’re sticking to it.

Your Next Client is Closer than You Think

You’ve probably heard of the Six Degrees of Separation theory.  You may have even tested it by picking a random celebrity and tracing how many degrees of separation he or she was from Kevin Bacon.

For those unfamiliar, the Six Degrees of Separation theory suggests that everyone is, on average, six steps away by introduction from any other person.

The Six Degrees of Separation theory may be a fun parlor game, but it hasn’t been all too helpful in business.  After all, a client acquisition strategy built on introductions from friends-of-friends five times over will fail miserably.

But, what if the chain between you and your ideal prospect included only three or four people?

That’s our new reality.

According to Facebook’s analytics, we are much more closely connected than contemplated when the Six Degrees of Separation theory came about in 1929.

In November of 2011, when the Facebook universe was a mere 721 million members strong, the social networking behemoth calculated the average degree of separation between “friends” at 3.74.

The path to the prospect you’ve been after might be closer than you think, particularly if you adopt social media as your client acquisition partner.

While the debate over what advisors can and can’t say on social media networks rages on, know this:  you don’t have to say a word.  You can unleash the power of social networks without a single post, like, blog or tweet.  Tools like Facebook and LinkedIn can help you build your network.  They can also give you insights into prospects’ backgrounds.  Most importantly, they can serve as referral feeders.

4 Content Marketing Lessons from the Kony 2012 Campaign

The following was written by Seth Ressler of Marketo
and published to their blog on March 14, 2012.

On March 5th, the non-profit organization Invisible Children posted a video online called “Kony 2012.” The 30-minute, slickly produced video narrated by Jason Russell explains the atrocities of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa, who many consider to be the most brutal criminal in the entire world. The stated goal of the film is to raise awareness of Kony in order to put pressure on American politicians to bring Kony to justice.

Within five days, it had more than 70 million views on YouTube and 16 million on Vimeo. The number of Google searches, Facebook posts and tweets about Kony has gone through the roof. Mainstream media outlets have spent the last week debating the merits of the video and the aims of Invisible Children as a whole.

In terms of a vehicle designed to get the word out, it’s hard to imagine this film could have been any more successful. So what content marketing tips can we learn from the Kony 2012 campaign?

1. Story telling matters.
Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers are Liars, is about the importance of storytelling. While some believe that Mr. Russell’s video has been vague and misleading at points (a few have used the word “liar’), it’s clearly great storytelling. Russell uses his young son and a young Ugandan boy named Jacob as a narrative device to great effect. The film sets up a parallel between the two boys, illustrating why Americans should be concerned about children halfway around the globe and invoking an emotional response. The inescapable message is, “this could be happening to our children.” So while you don’t need to lie to get your point across, framing a well-crafted story sure helps.

2. Production values matter.
Invisible Children spends a large portion of the donations made to the organization for film making. It has received some criticism for this, but it’s not hard to see that the excellent quality of the film is a big part of what caused it to go viral. From the screen that fades to black as Jacob breaks down in tears when talking about his younger brother, to the carefully flashed images of mutilated children, it’s not hard to see that this is the thoughtful work of an experienced filmmaker. The use of music, on-screen text and narration all add to the heightened emotional response the film provokes. At Marketo, we constantly stress the importance of content in marketing. As you can see, a high quality piece of content can go a long way.

3. Debate spreads the word.
Although there is widespread agreement that Joseph Kony is a terrible man who should be stopped, there has been much debate about how Invisible Children is going about it. That has only helped further awareness of Joseph Kony. While not all controversy is good (see: Rush Limbaugh’s tough week), debate can cause discussion about an issue to spread. So don’t worry about the fact that your company can’t please all the people all of the time — that just might help you.

4. A strong call to action is key.
The Kony film ends with very clear directions: Sign the petition, order the bracelet and share the video. On their website, they also made it very easy to contact important political figures and celebrities about Kony through social media channels. With a push of a button, visitors can tweet or email people like Jay-Z, Nancy Pelosi or Bill O’Reilly. The film also clearly spells out how taking these action will help the victims of Joseph Kony. The combination of a clear and easy call to action with explicitly defined benefits has made the campaign very successful.

One More Thing to Learn From Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia Britannica’s presses have grinded to a halt.

The handsome, gold bound tomes that line library shelves and were sold to many of our families by door-to-door salespeople, are now officially a thing of the past. The 2010 editions were the last to be printed.

The news is not all bad for the 244-year-old iconic institution; the physical reference books account for only 1% of the company’s revenue. Encyclopedia Britannica has an online membership community and remains an authority on all facts that matter.

The extinction of the encyclopedia’s print version marks the end of an era. It is a moment in history that gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far the digital age has taken us.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s decision to discontinue print is no surprise because it reinforces a fact that we all know–research now happens on keyboards and touchscreens, not in the library.

The implications of this new reality are fairly profound for advisors.

Clients look to the Internet for answers, making the web as much of a competitive threat as the advisory firm down the street.

As clients grow accustomed to discovering everything they need to know on the Internet, quickly and easily, they become more impatient. They want immediate answers. Many have decided, whether consciously or not, that a 140-character tweet gives as much valuable information as an 80-page prospectus. Getting a second, third and fourth opinion is easier than ever – and it’s free!

As an advisor, you should be asking yourself where your clients are going for answers. How are they validating the advice you give them? Can they find the information they need on your website? If not on your website, are you providing direction in terms of the best online resources that may support your recommendations? Do you provide ongoing education on issues that matter to your clients?

The Internet’s influence over clients cannot be ignored or underestimated. Rather than view the web as a competitive threat, consider it a strategic partner in an effort to educate and advise clients. Include web resources, whether “owned” by you or not, in your sales and marketing efforts.

Moving to Marketing Action!

by, Beverly Flanxington, The Collaborative

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.
–Tom Landry, Coach of the Dallas Cowboys

Each year, along with their business planning process, advisors may set a goal of increasing revenue and profit. Marketing efforts are needed to support this goal, but often advisors don’t have a clear strategic and tactical plan to ensure their marketing efforts are successful.

Consider these six steps to creating your marketing plan:

  1. Know where you are going. Do you desire additional referrals from existing clients? Are you hoping to increase leads from Centers of Influence and other strategic partners? Do you want to do more PR and awareness building? Be clear about the focus of your efforts.
  2. Know your target client. What problems do they have? How do you help them? What is their age, profession, marital status and educational level? Look at your existing client base and try to construct a profile of the type of clients you work best with to weave into your marketing efforts.
  3. Have a clear and concise message. In order to stand out in a crowded market, you need to let people know who you are and what you do differently. Check your message and make sure you have clear platform points about what makes you different.
  4. Pick the right tools and tactics for your audience. There are so many different opportunities on the marketing menu – everything from video sales letters to seminars and workshops. Don’t start doing anything until you look at everything you could do and then decide what’s best for your needs.
  5. Construct a budget. How much is right? The answer is “it depends” – on what’s in place, on your particular market, and on how aggressive you want to be. Know what you can spend and pay attention to each individual cost.
  6. Find the right resources. Create a clear enough plan so you can assign pieces to different individuals. Seek outside resources where necessary. Make a clear and concise plan so that each person knows their piece. Keep everyone engaged so that marketing efforts are at the forefront.

Marketing takes time and effort but the payoff, when it’s done well, can be enormous. Commit this year to not only setting a new revenue goal, but also creating the plan to support it.

Brinker Capital Crystal Strategy I: March Press Release

Brinker Capital’s Crystal Strategy Starts Fourth Year With 10% In Annualized Performance; Nears $500 Million In Assets
Eyes Financial Advisors and Pension Consultants Searching for Alternative Investment Vehicles Without Constraints of Limited Partnership Single-Strategy Hedge Funds

Berwyn, PA – March 7, 2012 – Brinker Capital, a leading investment management firm, today announced that Crystal Strategy, its global macro portfolio embedded in a separately managed account (SMA) format, started its fourth year with annualized returns of +10.46%, as of January 31, 2012, handily beating the HFRI Global Macro Index, which returned +2.94%* for the same period.

Crystal Strategy has accumulated nearly $500 million in assets since it first became available to financial advisors in September 2010. Now, with a three-year GIPS compliant and independently verified track record, Brinker Capital is turning its attention to institutions in the $10 million-$100 million asset range where a strategy like Crystal is likely to be appealing.

“Foundations, endowments, and pension plans, and the consultants who represent them have come to the realization that no longer are limited partnerships single strategy hedge funds, or even limited partnership hedge fund-of-funds, the only, or even the best, option for their alternative investment allocations,” said John E. Coyne, III, President of Brinker Capital. “Crystal, which behaves like a single-strategy hedge fund without the lockup, liquidity, transparency, or high investment minimum constraints, is designed to help institutional investors preserve capital in down markets, while capturing appreciation in up markets. Our three-year performance is proof positive that investors don’t need a limited partnership structure to get the same non-correlated exposure, and similar or better returns than traditional hedge fund products.”

Using tactical and strategic process, Brinker Capital broadly allocates across six major asset classes, including domestic and foreign equity, fixed income, absolute return, real assets, and private equity. Within these asset classes, Brinker Capital employs a diverse array of investment vehicles, including individual stocks, exchange-traded funds, closed-end funds, open-end funds, and master limited partnerships, among others. In addition, highly focused stock selection is used, seeking to further increase the portfolio’s risk-adjusted rate of return

By focusing the individual stock holdings on a limited number of stocks that represent its smartest ideas, Brinker Capital believes clients have the potential to receive enhanced returns with controlled portfolio risk.

The Brinker Capital Crystal Strategy performs much like other absolute return strategies, but has lower fees compared to many vehicles, and daily liquidity. Furthermore, institutional investors will have daily transparency into account holdings. The strategy is constructed by merging top-down macroeconomic trends with a bottom-up strategy and stock selection.

In determining the portfolio’s major asset allocation, Brinker Capital starts with a “null hypothesis,” meaning that no individual major asset class deserves a higher weight than any other. From there, based on factors such as valuation, technical trends, sentiment and risks, Brinker Capital strategically overweights the areas they believe will generate the best risk-adjusted return.

A point of major significance is that the investment requirements of institutional investors — active risk containment to preserve capital in down markets, while capturing appreciation in up markets — closely parallels those of financial advisors who have found this strategy to be so beneficial.

About Brinker Capital
Brinker Capital, Inc. is a leading independent investment management firm which provides managed account investment programs to individual and institutional investors through financial advisors.

Brinker was founded in 1987 by Charles Widger and is located in suburban Philadelphia. Visit Brinker’s website at

*The HFRX Global Fund Index returned +3.31% for the same period.