Showing posts from 2017

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…

The Fiduciary Fallacy

The standard news release that advisors make when going independent is beginning to sound rote.“I have left Wall Street to start my own firm where I will be a fiduciary.This will allow me to show you unlimited investment options without any institutional constraints.  I’m a fiduciary now and have the obligation to always act in your best interest.” This positioning is a fallacy because there is much more to the fiduciary standard.The other items aren’t as compelling but they are essential for new fiduciaries.

Most independent wealth advisory firms service mass affluent clients a fact confirmed by the recent FA survey.We are in the early innings of a Gold Rush in asset flows to independent advisors, but do they all need the same picks and shovels to find the gold?The clients and the fiduciary police don’t think the answer is yes.
The products and services can be broken down to three major categories.
Investment solutions Consolidated Reporting Alternative investment needs*
* Ultra a…

The Mooch

You can call Anthony Scaramucci a lot of things but one thing you can’t deny him is that he is persistent.He was fired twice from Goldman and the offer to join the Trump team didn’t come as quickly as he told his friends, the press and the Ethics Office.  Since we published this blog Mr. Scaramucci has been fired again.  His persistence will be tested again.  Persistence might be a good thing for an entrepreneur or a retail stockbroker but is it what we need in public service?Often times what makes a businessperson successful can grate on you and have unintended consequences.Watching Mooch reminds me of how hard it can be to transition from one environment to a radically different environment.Does the Wall Street or business skill set travel?I have watched it create more problems that it solves in my field of independent wealth management.Hopefully Mooch can learn from others successes and failures.
Don’t Accept Failure
Successful business professionals differentiate themselves by con…

Size Matters

My Twitter feed and email recently blew-up when the new Schwab RIA benchmarking survey data was released.This response caught my attention because in my experience these reactions were usually caused by a survey release from Cerulli, Tiburon Strategic Advisors or Aite Group.What was so unique about this year’s Schwab survey?Is it the urban myth that size matters?Let’s take a look.
Schwab survey
Schwab has a unique and dominant market share that facilitates and legitimizes their survey.They talk to clients and get their real-world experiences.This survey is not their first rodeo, it is their 11th Annual benchmarking survey.Schwab knows the questions to ask and the lengthy survey proves it to clients.My only problem with the survey is that it is self reported.That works for dating websites but I wonder if that holds true for RIAs.

I complement the Schwab survey with data from two top practitioners.My first stop is Michael Kitces and his podcast.He is one of the tenured independent RIAs …

New and Improved

Recent news about the “spin off” from AMG of Wealth Partners Capital Group, made me proud to be an American!The resiliency of capitalism’s desire to improve was front and center.AMG is not the only wealth advisory firm that has embraced a new and improved approach. Silicon Valley does this constantly and terms it a pivot.When firms realize that their products or services are not attracting new clients or are not generating enough profit to satisfy investors they pivot. What are the components of a pivot or a new and improved product or service?Let’s take a look.
What’s Working?
An effective pivot does NOT blow-up all items of the original business.The firm must identify what is working and stick with that at a minimum.In wealth management what is working is independent and unconflicted advice.

What Isn’t Working?
We can move now to what isn’t working.In the case of AMG what wasn’t working was the target market of firms with greater than $4 billion in AUA was not large enough to support…

What's Next?

The financial services industry is going through a significant transition.This is especially noticeable in the wealth management segment, which is feeling the triple impact of breakaway advisors, management restructuring and the DOL.The needed changes will affect clients, advisors and management professionals.Hopefully it can be an improvement for them all.It has taken me over six months since my January blog to realize that embracing these changes could be beneficial for us all.  We all should be asking ourselves “What’s Next?”
The robo advisors and ETFs have staked their claim that active money managers and human advisors are flawed and best managed by computer algorithms.Human advisors and managers need to kick the computer’s butt (assuming they have a butt).  As professional management transitions from conflicted business models that need managers to drive sales goals of proprietary products managers must retool and understand how to help independent advisors.  To date ma…


I was pleasantly surprised by the response to my “It’s Over” blog.  As of this writing over 4,600 people have read the post.  My initial thought was that these readers must love NASCAR too.  I was wrong.  People read and commented on the blog because of its unique vulnerability not because of my firm’s failure.  I was also pleasantly surprised by several industry titans that reached out and wanted to understand more about what lessons could be learned.  One Titan had already given me advice when I started Sanctuary.  His advice then was to avoid stockbrokers.  I told him I wish I would have listened to him and he wryly shared that he had another item I should also be aware of - “Pro Wrestling is fake”. 
I grew up in The South and my mother instilled the importance of writing thank you notes.  Hopefully Mom will understand that writing 4,600 thank you notes is unrealistic.  I do want to thank everyone who read and commented.  Your support means the world to me. 

Mom, hope that works…

It's Over

Recently I made the decision to close my firm.  It was more emotional than I expected so I wrote this blog to address the demons in my head.

As we grow older death enters our circle of family and friends.  Death is a traumatic experience however some people use their remaining time on earth to share honest and enduring advice.  Professor Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture resonated with millions.  The honest reflection of a person who knows they have a defined amount of time left on this earth cuts through the typical cocktail party or social media banter and addresses the elephant in all of our rooms.  We are scared of dying and when a dying person has the courage to share what the process is like we should listen.   A very distant second is our fear of losing our job.  Most of the time this is sudden and at best we have two weeks to clean up our desk and complete our exit interview. Your coworkers exchange pleasantries but they avoid you like the plague because they don’t want the bo…