Showing posts from 2017

The 13-year Itch

Morgan Stanley finally left us.We all feared this would happen and we even thought about leaving too.How did we get here and what do we do now?We will take the role of a marriage counselor in this post and remind us why we married in the first place and what we can learn from our mistakes.
History of Protocol
When the Protocol began in 2004 there were three firms that believed the agreement would save them money and reduce lengthy legal battles.It did both but it also encouraged two established law firms to support advisors who wanted to use The Protocol and breakaway from Wall Street.One of the two firms published a good summary of The Protocol that is worth reading.
RIA Growth
Over the years more firms began to join The Protocol and as of today over 1,700 firms are Protocol members.Most are RIAs that are growing by winning new clients and advisors from the original three firms.We seem to have reached a tipping point that has demanded the attention of Mr. Gorman.My bet is it is more t…

Hot Dot

Cryptocurrencies are the new rage.  The sales vernacular for this is they are "The Hot Dot”.  Most of the time Hot Dots should be ignored and their glow will fade.  How can we tell if cryptocurrencies are here to stay or are they another Hot Dot?  There are a few experts on this subject, I am not one of them, but I have read some thoughtful and well-researched pieces on the subject and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
It would be nice if there were just a few cryptocurrencies to choose from but there aren’t.  There are 1,182 and rising.  We have all heard of Bitcoin and my instinct is if I’m going to stick my toe in the crypto water Bitcoin is a good place to start.  My reasons start with liquidity and end with price transparency.  The downside to liquidity and price transparency is they promote volatility, but let’s be honest with ourselves; isn’t that why we are buying Bitcoin NOT IBM.
Big Wigs
Two big wigs in the financial services industry have shar…

Old Guard

When I started managing the PCS group at Montgomery Securities in 1999 John Straus and Greg Fleming were established leaders at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.John joined the independent ranks in 2015 and the news this week that another icon of the Old Guard, Greg Fleming, was joining Rockefeller caught my attention.  The news made me want to reach out and offer my advice on how his new world was similar but also very different.
Good management skills are like riding a bike.Once you learn and perfect them you can take them anywhere.John and Greg were known as great managers because they understood the unique needs of the ultra high net worth client and they embraced the advisors that could meet these needs.This combination worked as the advisors established robust businesses and John and Greg were known as people who could guide them to this Promised Land.  Unfortunately Morgan Stanley and Merrill believed that their brands and products were a huge contributor too.

Robber B…

Different Script

Private equity has dabbled in the Independent Wealth Management (RIA) space over the last few years.Some of their initial investments are reaching their seven to ten year maturity and private equity investors are following a familiar script.Their script calls for a sale, but a few investors are doubling down. New investors have arrived with an optimistic outlook for the wealth management business model.I hope they have learned from the mistakes of their peers and they adjust their script.
Recent largePrivate Equity investments in RIAsgot our attention and caused us to ask why do Private Equity firms think that wealth management is such a great investment?In our opinion Wealth Management firms might not have the obvious inefficiencies that can be solved and drive Private Equity value. The comparison that helps me is how I buy a suit.When it’s time to buy a new suit for work, I have two clear choices.One option is to buy a custom suit from a master tailor near my office in downtown San …


My friend Carey Perloff, the long-standing artistic director of ACT, begins the MFA program every year with a question.What do you give an audience that doesn’t cost you anything – it is free!A provocative question to start your masters program and a question that every service providers should ask themselves too.If we don’t ask technology disruptors will.  Let's learn alongside ACT’s MFA students.
MFA Class
Carey Perloff is a legend in her field.Even if you don’t love live theater I would recommend reading or listening to Carey’s book Beautiful Chaos.It reads like an entrepreneurial journey with experiences and guidance that can benefit us all.In addition to the business similarities discussed in her book the training ACT provides actors can benefit anyone who needs help making presentations that will mesmerize and impact their audience.Several companies agree with me and have hired ACT’s trainers to help their professionals with presentation skills and improv.Don’t these firms …


This is my 100th blog post!While I don’t believe in milestone birthdays this milestone seems worth celebrating (no gifts please)Celebrating is important so I can recognize the many contributors to this blog and I hope it will be helpful to others who are considering joining the blogosphere as a positive contributor instead of a snarky anonymous commenter.

In retrospect everything looks obvious.When we started our new blog in 2008 blogs were not as mainstream as they are today.Getting an article published in the Wall Street Journal or your local newspaper was still the primary PR goal.With that in mind my blog partner, Randy Baum, and I created a team with publishing experience. Our first partner was Lori Marshall who is a professional ghostwriter with several best selling books.We also partnered with an ex-journalist turned PR and Marketing professional, Greg Berardi, from Blue Marlin.Randy also had some writing chops as an English major in college.I was the weakest link and po…

Major Decisions

I’m constantly searching for answers to the big questions in my life.While I haven’t found the answers yet I continue to search in ancient religious texts, academic papers and recently I find that blogs and podcasts are a good place to look. One of my favorite Podcasts is Invest Like the Best.A recent episode talked about how we don’t have enough data to make the three major decisions in our life.Let’s check out how we can improve each major decision.

Part of the American dream is to own a home.We don’t question the belief that when we reach a certain we age we should buy a house no questions asked.James Altucher has written extensively about why buying a house is a horrible idea.I wouln’t go that far but I do wish I had more information before I bought my first house.In retrospect I should have been concerned with the overwhelming consensus opinion of just do it because everyone else is.That is against everything I have learned as an investor and as a parent.There are new tools…

Concierge Wealth

My parents use a concierge doctor.They both love it!I asked why and after several minutes I had to stop them - OK I get it! It made me think, if this approach is so great why don’t wealth managers become concierges too?It is worth taking a look because we share a similar clientele.
The medical and financial services industries face similar problems.  Both have an acute shortage of professionals. TheAssociation of American Medical Colleges(AAMC) estimates, the United States will face a shortage of more than 91,500 physicians by 2020.The financial services industry has lost 40,000 financial advisors since 2008 while at the same time wealth creation has exploded.A survey asking why people aren’t applying for wealth advisor jobs produced a sobering list of reasons.Neither group has a credible plan to solve the problem.My belief is that a Concierge business model can help because it approaches the problem by addressing the patient and professional’s needs.Seems like a good place …

The Editorial Desk

The Internet has changed our information access in many ways.How do we assimilate the information overload?There is an APP for that but we need to create our own to insure our sanity and to identify opinions that meet our sensibilities.Newspapers, TV news and investment firms have an embedded process to fact check and synthesize the news and opinions that they believe deserve our attention.They are not perfect but we can learn from their procedures and mistakes to arrive at “All The News That’s Fit for ME”.

Page One
Feeling overwhelmed by my social media feeds and the network news I decided to revisit my favorite film of 2011 - Page One.The film chronicles the dramatic impact that the Internet is having on the newspaper industry but most importantly for me it emphasizes what makes The Times great – their editorial process.I need that and after re-watching the documentary it hit me that our president and our wealth advisory firms need it too.I’ll start with President Trump and be brie…


The consensus opinion has a loud and seductive voice.We must be aware of what the consensus views are, but we also need to be able to evaluate the longevity and veracity of the opinions.This week we will take a look at current and historic consensus opinions.
Stock Market
Whenever I get into a cab or go to a social event and tell people what I do they inevitably ask me what I think about The Market?My answer of I don’t know is a conversation killer.The stock market has dominated the consciousness of the public starting in the 1970’s and exploding today with the advent of CNBC and the Internet.In the seventies the investment consensus was set by institutional investors who created the Nifty Fifty of Avon, Eastman Kodak, Polaroid and Xerox.It was a boom/bust that ended with most of the stocks being down more than 70%. The current consensus is driven by hedge funds and mutual funds that are compensated by their ability to out perform the market and each other.The consensus has created a ne…