Insights: Fixed Income Scenario Analysis with Tom Wilson and Andy Rosenberger of Brinker Capital

Tom Wilson, Senior Investment Manager and Andy Rosenberger, Senior Investment Manager, discuss fixed income investments and the potential impact that interest rates would have on these investments.

My Name is Not Jeffrey: Never Was

Technology makes it easier to target prospects and personalize marketing materials.  As you’ve probably learned with your financial planning software, and CRM systems nothing is perfect.  You can’t let the technology do the work for you, until you’ve double and triple checked the inputs.

The risk of offending a prospect is greater with personalized marketing than it is with generic marketing.

The reader’s eyes skip right over “Dear Valued Customer,” but if you say “Dear Jeffrey” in a letter or e-mail that goes to Sue … well, she just won’t forget it.

 

Five Baby Steps Lay Foundation for Digital Marketing

A social media presence is rapidly becoming a must-have for advisors.  While you may not have the time, resources, or regulatory support to fully embrace a social media strategy, don’t squander the time you have today.

Take these five baby steps to lay the foundation for a more comprehensive and strategic digital marketing effort in the future:

1.        Take notice.  Think about your personal experiences with digital marketing. What do you click on and what goes straight to trash?  Which links get opened?  Why did you open it over the other 50 messages?  Was it the allure of a clever headline?  Did the topic involve a personal or professional connection, or an issue that impacts your community or family?  When you learn to detect hooks, it is easier to devise them.

2.        Check out the competition.  Many advisors have found ways to engage in social marketing and, in doing so, build their practices.  See first hand what they are talking about.  Note the frequency and depth of their messages.  Figure out what works for them and why.

3.        Pay attention to profiles. Make sure your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles are consistent and detailed enough to make a positive impression on readers.  Post your picture, upload your logo, and make sure your website link works.  LinkedIn company statistics indicate that people are seven times more likely to click on a profile if it includes a picture.

4.        Interact.  Post comments on others blogs.  Respond in writing to articles.  Present your perspective. “Like,” or retweet articles that reflect your views on financial or economic issues.

5.        Shore up your website.  All social media marketing roads lead back to your website.  If your future blogs, tweets, and FaceBook posts do their jobs, readers will be drawn to your website to validate your credentials and get to know you better.  Make sure it is current and represents you well.

Beverly D. Flaxington On Marketing Success

Financial advisors know they need marketing in order to successfully sustain and grow their businesses. But why is marketing so often looked at as a “necessary evil” instead of being fundamental to the business like portfolio management, compliance or client services? In too many cases, advisors shy away from marketing or if they do it, sometimes they do it grudgingly! Marketing should be a line item, and should have a plan associated with it, just like any other aspect of the business. In fact, marketing is foundational in many ways to business growth.

What are some keys to success in marketing for all advisors, no matter how small or how large the firm may be?

(1)    Write a marketing plan. If a client asked you about a specific investment product, you wouldn’t say if it was right for their portfolio or not until you knew more about their situation, their plan and their objectives. It’s the same with marketing. You won’t know where to spend marketing dollars unless you have a written plan and know what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing activities.

(2)    Think strategic first, tactical second. Don’t worry about whether you should do social media or hold a client event before you have established your overall strategic objective. What do you want marketing to do for you? Simply grow your business? Increase market awareness of your firm? Solidify your position as a provider of services to a certain target market? Increase client referrals? First establish your overall goals for marketing, then consider the tactics that are right for you.

(3)    Ensure your story is solid. Your marketing “story” – the value proposition or positioning for your firm – underlies all marketing activities. Be sure you have a clear message, clearly differentiated from your competition. Think in terms of platform points – those three or four things that most clearly define what you do well and why they make you different.

(4)    Define the target market or markets. Know who your best clients are and why. If you can create a scenario of the type of person, company or family that you serve best, write this down. What needs or problems do you solve? How do you solve them? Why are you a particular fit for this target market? Having a target market makes marketing much easier because you can “talk to” the market using their jargon and terminology.

(5)    Before you choose one tactic, look at the overall menu of choices. There are many things an advisor can do – hold client events, update their website, create new marketing materials, write a blog, circulate a newsletter, send handwritten notes, network on LinkedIn, etc. Before you start implementing any one of these, look at the overall spectrum of what you can do. Review the menu of options and determine which ones best support your overall objectives.

In a future blog, we’ll talk about specific marketing tactics. Before you can choose your tactics, be sure you have the written plan, the strategic objectives identified, the story refined, and your target market or markets identified.

An Update on Greece

With the recent headlines coming out of Greece this week, Brinker Capital’s Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist, Stuart Quint, shares a few quick points.

  • Greek elections on June 18 raise the risk of Greek default sooner rather than later, leading to some uncertainty. However, risks of Greece have been known for a while by the markets. The question is whether we see bank deposit runs out of other weaker European economies (Spain, Italy) and into stronger ones.
  • European Central Bank liquidity measures and hopeful, but inconsistent, fiscal progress in Ireland, Portugal, and Italy could cushion the downside and show commitment to keeping the Euro around in the near term.
  • Economic growth and European equities, primarily, are likely to take the pain until we get further clarity on the issues listed above. U.S. equities and other risk assets will also be affected in the near term due to concerns on slower global growth, although the U.S. is less affected by global growth than other markets.

How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans

Recently, some startling facts have surfaced that hint at a looming widespread retirement crisis.

Consider these statistics:

  • According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), there are 50 million 401(k) participants in the U.S.
  • The average 401(k) balance of those is slightly over $60,000
  • The average 401(k) balance of those within 10 years of retirement is $78,000—a third of them actually have less than $25,000 saved.
  • 43% of workers ages 45-54 are not currently saving for retirement at all.
  • In 1980, 60% of private sector workers had access to a lifetime income in the form of a corporate pension. As of 2006, only 10% still have access to a pension.
  • It is estimated that a middle-class lifestyle will require a nest egg of $900,000 at retirement.
  • Social Security only pays $14,780 per year for individuals and $22,000 per year to couples.

To read the entire article on How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans, click here.

[1] “How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans. The Week. April 20, 2012. <http://theweek.com/article/index/226886/how-401ks-are-failing-millions-of-americans&gt;

Sex Ratio In Economics

If you want men to open their wallets, make them think there aren’t a lot of women around.

The University of Minnesota recently released a study showing that when potential mates are scarce men will behave more aggressively with their money.

Researchers had participants read articles that described the local population as male-dominated.  Then, participants decided how much money they would save, and how much they would borrow using credit cards for immediate spending.

The savings rate plummeted 42% for men who believed women to be scarce.  These same men indicated that they would borrow 84% more money each month than their counterparts who did not perceive gender inequities.

In a related study, participants examined photos with varying gender ratios.  Some assortments had more men than women, others had more women than men, and a third group had a balanced sex ratio.  Participants then choose between receiving $20 immediately or $30 in a month.

Pictures with just a few women prompted the men to opt for the fast cash rather than wait a month for a higher return.

Women’s financial decisions do not appear to be impacted by sex ratios.  Their expectations, however, change.  In a predominantly male environment, both men and women expected men would need to spend more on mating efforts.

Researchers also calculated the sex ratios and evaluated debt levels of more than 120 U.S. cities.  Predominantly male communities had more credit cards and higher debt levels than those with balanced sex ratios.

For example, in Columbus, Ga., there are 1.18 single men for every single woman.   Consumer debt averaged $3,479 higher in Columbus than in Macon, Ga., where there were 0.78 single men for every woman.  Macon is less than 100 miles from Columbus.

Could the reverse be true?

If men perceive potential mates to be plentiful, would they save more and take on less debt?  Could the fact that women live longer than men subconsciously suggest to men that spending levels can taper off in later years because they may live in predominantly female retirement communities?

Source: January 2012 University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management Study, “How do humans compete for access to mates? What you find across cultures is that men often do it through money, through status and through products.”

Questions From The Continent by Joe Preisser

Uncertainty swept over Europe this week as the electorates of both France and Greece took to the polls last Sunday and expressed their exasperation with the current rash of austerity measures, implemented in order to combat the Continent’s sovereign debt crisis, by removing the incumbent parties.  Investors around the world cast wary eyes on the collection of sovereign states which comprise the monetary union as the outcome of the recent elections has placed the stability of the euro zone in some semblance of doubt.  The current inability of Greece’s rival factions to form a government, combined with the questions surrounding the new regime in France, has led to sharp moves in global equity markets which in all likelihood will continue as long as a lack of clarity remains.

The weekend brought change with it to Paris, as Francoise Hollande was elected to serve as President of France, becoming the first socialist to hold the office in seventeen years, in a rebuke of the German led push for deep spending cuts advocated by his successor, which have become increasingly unpopular.  Mr. Hollande gained in popularity largely due to his pledge to shift the focus of the government toward promoting economic growth within the nation, which garnered broad appeal among an electorate exhausted by spending cuts.  The New York Times on Tuesday highlighted one of the key differences between the President-Elect and Mr. Sarkozy, “Mr. Hollande, in contrast ran on a promise of rebalancing Europe away from austerity and toward growth, and his narrow victory is seen in Washington as a public rejection of governments imposing strict cuts on battered economies.”  The election results from France had been largely anticipated by the world’s financial markets, and as such were not accompanied by the negativity of uncertainty, but have instead been viewed with a tinge of optimism stemming from Mr. Hollande’s purported focus on growth.

In stark contrast to the conclusion of the contest in France, Sunday’s election in Greece has thrown the nation into a state of relative chaos, as the country’s two main parties have been unable to garner enough votes to sustain a majority, thus creating a vacuum of uncertainty which has led to steep declines in world indices.  The Greek electorate voiced their opposition to the raft of austerity measures demanded by their international creditors, in exchange for the rescue funds the country so desperately needs, by removing the incumbent leaders.  The inability of the nation’s politicians to forma coalition capable of governing has culminated in the probability of an additional round of elections being called in early June, which will likely determine if Greece remains a member of the European Union.  James McDonald, the chief investment strategist for Northern Trust was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying, “The concern is about the potential that Greece does not carry through on their agreements and they default and leave the euro.”

The leaders of Europe’s monetary union find themselves in a precarious position, however if they are able to adroitly shift their policies to a more equally weighted mix of both austerity and growth they may in the end strengthen the ties which bind them together.

Let The Wild Rumpus Hit Your Conference Room

In today’s hyperactive culture, holding on to prospects’ attention long enough to pitch a successful idea can be challenging for many advisors.  You can solve this problem by taking a few cues from the recently departed Maurice Sendak.

The late Maurice Sendak is arguably the most important children’s book author and illustrator of the century.  If born after 1960, you probably grew up with his books—Where the Wild Things Are,  In the Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There are among his most popular.

In a 2002 interview with National Public Radio’s Jeffrey Brown, Sendak discusses the art of drawing an audience into a book. His audience was, and will continue to be, children who are often humming and moving and disconnected…until they have a reason to turn the page. 

Sendak’s tools to engage readers are words and pictures.  He creates a rhythm and syncopation using those tools.  It is a continuous thread of words, pictures, words, pictures, words, pictures, pictures, words.

Sendak explains that with just the right timing between those two tools, the readers’ attention is captured, and they get hungry to turn the page.  He was a master at it.  Who can forget the first time they turned the page after Max yelled “Let the wild rumpus start,” to find six glorious pages filled with just pictures of monsters having fun.

An advisor’s audience is obviously different from Sendak’s, but has some striking similarities. While not humming or visibly moving, your prospects have a lot going on.  They have things on their minds, technology buzzing in their pockets, and a whole host of reasons to remain detached from you.

You have to forge a connection using the tools at your disposal:  words, stories, pictures, charts, graphs, and technology.

Spend some time thinking about how those tools can work together to create a rhythm that moves the meeting forward.  Think about when it is time to stop talking and show a chart, or pull out your mobile device and do a quick calculation or show a picture using your favorite app.  When will a chart say more than any description you could give?  When is it time to stop talking about product features, and start telling stories about lives changed because of them?

Attention spans are shrinking.  The best way to get and keep clients focused is to switch up your communication tools.  Make them hungry for your next ideas.

It’s Not Just for Families

Mother’s Day is not just for families.  It is an opportunity to show all the mothers in our lives how much you appreciate and admire their strength, love and patience.

What better opportunity to reach out to your female clients who happen to be mothers, and let them know that you are thinking of them.

Over the past several years, financial advisors @AlexELevi and @JoanAnnNatola of Element Financial Group send a Mother and Father’s Day wish to all clients who are parents.  The responses have been phenomenal, especially from working women, who don’t often get publicly celebrated for their parenting role.  Only moments after sending the e-mails do JoanAnn’s and Alex’s calendars fill up with appointments.

It is essential to reach out to clients periodically without an agenda.  Call, e-mail, or text just to let them know you are thinking about them.  In fact, if there were a Relationship Building for Wealth Managers handbook, the concept would probably be covered in Chapter 1, under the subhead: “Client Appreciation: Good for Business.”

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13th.  There is still plenty of time to get a two-sentence e-mail reviewed by your compliance officer and sent to your female clients.  They’ll be glad you did.  So will you.