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Jan 22, 2009 11:56 pm

As both an advisor and an investor, I am sickened by the events of the last year and half. When I started in the brokerage industry, George Bush 41 was the President and I started at the training program at PaineWebber in NYC. Working in NYC, I learned about many things, quickly. I learned about goat cheese, sushi, triple tax frees, sector rotation, french cuffs, how to smile and dial and how to ask for the order. I fell in love with capitalism and the capital markets. I remember when one of my prospects, a self-made type, listened to my pitch and then asked me how much of my own money I had in that investment. I fumbled the answer and didn't get the account. That day, I vowed never to let that happen again, and I started to invest myself. The biggest fear brokers had was Schwab taking business away from full service brokers.



Having my own money on the line kept me on top of the game. I grew increasingly interested in the technicals of the market. I befriended the oldest dude in the office who kept his own point and figure charts by hand. I remember him telling me throughout 1999, that it looked like a major top was forming. I started placing trailing stop losses on all of my and my client's positions weekly. The market eventually topped on March 10th of 2000. By the 15th of March, my stops were getting hit and soon after I was out of the market completely. I survived the dotcom crash but I never thought the NASDAQ would still be at less than half the peak-eight years later. Then, the biggest fear brokers had was online brokers and decimalization.



Along the way, we encountered Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and Long Term Capital. I sold my UBS when I rolled over my 401k in 2004. As the yield curve flattened, I passed on investing in financials. I am sorry for those of you who still have shares and worthless options. Today, I'd say that our biggest fear is that investor confidence has been shattered. Will it return? How? Will boomers give up on the market after treading water for almost a decade? Will younger investors get interested? Personally, I've gone from being a Republican to feeling like a Democrat. My portfolio's value is down, my home's value is down and my income is down.



How could regulator after regulator have failed so miserably? How could rating agencies have issued AAA ratings on securities that they knew were time bombs? How could quants have developed valuation models where housing prices only went up? Is there an auditor in the Big 4 that can actually read a balance sheet? How could Citibank's board of directors have been so reckless with their shareholders? How can AIG take a bailout check and then throw a lavish corporate retreat? How can Madoff have duped regulators for so long? How can John Thain head a troubled company and then spend over a $1 million to decorate his office using a company check? Can we bring back the uptick rule? Can analysts start analyzing instead of being spoon fed guidance by companies? Is printing $1 trillion more dollars our best option? Will increased regulation from Washington result in bringing back confidence or will it bring more unintended consequences?



Jan 23, 2009 1:15 am


Jan 23, 2009 1:21 am

"I survived the dotcom crash but I never thought the NASDAQ would still be at less than half the peak-eight years later."

 
Nasdaq 100 will NEVER hit 5000 again.  I see a day in a few years they get rid of that index and create a new one with maybe 25-50 names.  Stocks like Dell, Ebay, Intel, Msft, Yhoo etc etc all going to single digits.  See them going private in the next year or two.
Jan 23, 2009 7:57 am

Great post.

Jan 23, 2009 8:14 am
fritz:

"I survived the dotcom crash but I never thought the NASDAQ would still be at less than half the peak-eight years later."

 
Nasdaq 100 will NEVER hit 5000 again.  I see a day in a few years they get rid of that index and create a new one with maybe 25-50 names.  Stocks like Dell, Ebay, Intel, Msft, Yhoo etc etc all going to single digits.  See them going private in the next year or two.



I heard about an index that has 25-50 names. It's called the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Check it out, some time.

Jan 23, 2009 9:47 am

Indexes are becoming so useless..

 
The Dow is not suppose to hold stock under $10... oops
The S&P 500 has small cap in it...oops.
 
There is so much garbage in bonds now that I wouldn't go near an index(of course there are some great deal in individual bonds) where is the protection in a bond fund..oops
 
Jan 23, 2009 10:57 am

As an advisor in the "semi" rural midwest (read uber-conservative) I am seeing what skeedaddy2 foretold.  The extreme lack of investor confidence in people age 55 on up.  They are moving money out of the market and into fixed income, primarily CD's.  We may be witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth in history but if they follow lessons like their parents did coming out of the depression, that money will not go back in to the markets. 

Jan 24, 2009 6:40 pm

How could regulator after regulator have failed so miserably? How could rating agencies have issued AAA ratings on securities that they knew were time bombs? How could quants have developed valuation models where housing prices only went up? Is there an auditor in the Big 4 that can actually read a balance sheet? How could Citibank's board of directors have been so reckless with their shareholders? How can AIG take a bailout check and then throw a lavish corporate retreat? How can Madoff have duped regulators for so long? How can John Thain head a troubled company and then spend over a $1 million to decorate his office using a company check? Can we bring back the uptick rule? Can analysts start analyzing instead of being spoon fed guidance by companies? Is printing $1 trillion more dollars our best option? Will increased regulation from Washington result in bringing back confidence or will it bring more unintended consequences?

 
LOVED UR POST!!!
 
lET ME OFFER an explanation. When real investment banks decided to become public corporations.
 
How's that U ask? When the partners of a hundred firms all suddenly became 'managers' for the shareholders, and not caretakers of their own wealth, and since quarterly compounded increasing returns are the sin qu non of the public, the concept of risk was divorced from the concept of returns.   Everything else you write of is a consequence. A mere bagatelle if you will.
Jan 24, 2009 7:23 pm
MinimumVariance:

How could regulator after regulator have failed so miserably? How could rating agencies have issued AAA ratings on securities that they knew were time bombs? How could quants have developed valuation models where housing prices only went up? Is there an auditor in the Big 4 that can actually read a balance sheet? How could Citibank's board of directors have been so reckless with their shareholders? How can AIG take a bailout check and then throw a lavish corporate retreat? How can Madoff have duped regulators for so long? How can John Thain head a troubled company and then spend over a $1 million to decorate his office using a company check? Can we bring back the uptick rule? Can analysts start analyzing instead of being spoon fed guidance by companies? Is printing $1 trillion more dollars our best option? Will increased regulation from Washington result in bringing back confidence or will it bring more unintended consequences?

 
LOVED UR POST!!!
 
lET ME OFFER an explanation. When real investment banks decided to become public corporations.
 
How's that U ask? When the partners of a hundred firms all suddenly became 'managers' for the shareholders, and not caretakers of their own wealth, and since quarterly compounded increasing returns are the sin qu non of the public, the concept of risk was divorced from the concept of returns.   Everything else you write of is a consequence. A mere bagatelle if you will.
 
You nailed it.  Think about it.  Why did partnerships exist?  CPA firms, brokerages, law firms, etc.....to make the partners wealthy, not have to answer to anyone other than fellow partners, and be able to protect your wealth.  So what happened?  Partners became "managers", the partners sold out eons ago, and no longer exist.  The people (i.e. Executives) that still want to be "partners" need to resort to free-agency type employment deals of 10 of millions (hundreds sometimes) of dollars to do this.  And to garner these deals, they must rely on ever-increasing stock prices.  In order to hit these nearly-impossible, ever-increasing stock values, they must resort to tactics they would NEVER dream of doing if it were their own capital at risk.  And in most cases, they get fired for not performing, but the golden parachute they negotiated more than compensates for the "capital" they put at risk by taking a million stock options.  To make a long story short, they are gambling with other people's capital in order to enrich themselves.  As true "partners" in a private company, there are too many checks and balances, as everyone's personal wealth hangs in the balance.
 
IPO's were the death knell to this industry, even if it took 10-20 years for it to come to fruition.  Actually, I can't even remember when all the major firms started going public.  Wasn't Merrill the first back in the 80's?  And I think Goldman was the last?
 
Can you imagine what would happen if law firms all started going public?  Jesus, there would be even more shitty lawsuits than there are now!
Jan 24, 2009 8:44 pm
jkl1v1n6:

As an advisor in the "semi" rural midwest (read uber-conservative) I am seeing what skeedaddy2 foretold.  The extreme lack of investor confidence in people age 55 on up.  They are moving money out of the market and into fixed income, primarily CD's.  We may be witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth in history but if they follow lessons like their parents did coming out of the depression, that money will not go back in to the markets. 



I've seen some of that as well....earlier today I was pondering how many folks have gotten to the point where they have no faith or interest in the financial markets.

Jan 25, 2009 5:21 pm

When the retail investor is no longer interested in the market, isn't that usually an indicator that it's probably time to be wading back in?

Jan 26, 2009 9:49 am

The retail investor hasn't been interested in the market since October! 

Jan 26, 2009 4:42 pm
HymanRoth:
jkl1v1n6:

As an advisor in the "semi" rural midwest (read uber-conservative) I am seeing what skeedaddy2 foretold.  The extreme lack of investor confidence in people age 55 on up.  They are moving money out of the market and into fixed income, primarily CD's.  We may be witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth in history but if they follow lessons like their parents did coming out of the depression, that money will not go back in to the markets. 



I've seen some of that as well....earlier today I was pondering how many folks have gotten to the point where they have no faith or interest in the financial markets.

 
So, that begs the question: What now?  How do we, as the professionals, move forward from here?  Do we change our strategies?  Our product mix?  Do we use all VAs with all kinds of guarantees?  If indexes suck and are changing their composition, who do you use them as the benchmark?
 
How do you communicate to a guy who is 60 and wants to retire in 5 years that he can't afford to pull his money out of the market because the market is the only real shot he's got at making it back.  These people want to run for the hills, taking their money in gold double eagles in their pockets, and never look back. 
 
I've got a crusty old guy as a client who has convinced his kids that the market is a scam.  It's getting more and more difficult to tell him he's wrong. 
 
How do you market to a group of people that have been severely burned by the markets and just want to curl up into a ball.  That's pretty much how most baby boomers think.  I'd bet 50% of them haven't even looked at their statement since Sept.  The 70+ crowd may never want to invest in the market again.  CD rates suck along with MMKT rates.  Any decent corp bonds are trading at ridiculous premiums.  
 
Where do you go from here?     
Jan 26, 2009 5:04 pm
Spaceman Spiff:
So, that begs the question: What now?  How do we, as the professionals, move forward from here?  Do we change our strategies?  Our product mix?  Do we use all VAs with all kinds of guarantees?  If indexes suck and are changing their composition, who do you use them as the benchmark?
 
How do you communicate to a guy who is 60 and wants to retire in 5 years that he can't afford to pull his money out of the market because the market is the only real shot he's got at making it back.  These people want to run for the hills, taking their money in gold double eagles in their pockets, and never look back. 
 
I've got a crusty old guy as a client who has convinced his kids that the market is a scam.  It's getting more and more difficult to tell him he's wrong. 
 
How do you market to a group of people that have been severely burned by the markets and just want to curl up into a ball.  That's pretty much how most baby boomers think.  I'd bet 50% of them haven't even looked at their statement since Sept.  The 70+ crowd may never want to invest in the market again.  CD rates suck along with MMKT rates.  Any decent corp bonds are trading at ridiculous premiums.  
 
Where do you go from here?     
 
I know EXACTLY where I'm going from here.  As a matter of fact, I had cold called a very qualified guy in 2007 who said he had his IRA's at Edward D. Jones, and that the advisor is a really good buddy of his, so he wouldn't move that account.
 
So today, I was cold calling to show our newly hired cold caller how to do it and I call the guy.  Here's the gist of the conversation:
 
"Hey, I spoke with you back in May of 2007, and I wanted to call to touch base.  First, I want to apologize to you for not touching base sooner.  I know the market has crashed since we last spoke and it's tough.  I know your buddy manages your accounts at EDJ and I don't know what's going on there, but I wanted to tell you what's working for our clients, and the thing is, it's not available at EDJ, would that be ok with you?"
 
He says, "Yes".
 
"Well it's a type of account that participates when the market goes up, does not lose anything when the market goes down, and has no fees.  Now I don't know if this is right for you, but I'd like to get together to meet and see if it could be a good fit, would that be ok with you?"
 
He says, "Yes, let's get together in 2 weeks".
 
That was lead #1.  Called another guy that was a pure cold call and described the same thing.  We are set to get together at the end of the week.
 
I esentially set two appointments in 10 minutes and 4 contacts.
 
I actually feel legitimately sorry for you guys that can't offer some of this stuff.  It's like sending out a soldier to war without a gun.
Jan 26, 2009 5:12 pm

no fees?

Jan 26, 2009 5:23 pm
newnew:

no fees?

 
None.
Jan 26, 2009 8:44 pm

I'll bite. What product is it?

Jan 27, 2009 7:08 am
"So, that begs the question: What now?  How do we, as the professionals, move forward from here?  Do we change our strategies?  Our product mix?  Do we use all VAs with all kinds of guarantees?  If indexes suck and are changing their composition, who do you use them as the benchmark?"
 
Spaceman Spiff, nothing has really changed other than the fact that  people's attitudes have changed.  Yet, this change isn't a change.  Investors have always gotten into the market after it goes up.  They get out after it goes down.  Investors are going to continue to underperform the market just like they've always done.
 
There is a very important lesson in the intersection of investment returns and investor returns.   There are many people who simply should not be investing in the market.   If a sharp market downturn is going to cause someone to take their money out of the market, they need to be savers and not investors. 
 
We know that this is a better time to invest than 2 years ago.   We don't know if this is a good time to invest.  We'll never know.  Since we'll never know, does what happened yesterday, last week, last month, last year even matter?  I don't think so.
 
Nothing's changed in my practice.  Every client gets treated as an individual.  My first question, then and now, is "What is your greatest financial concern?"  I then shut up for as long as possible.  The answer will tell me product mix, etc.   The subject of benchmarks never comes up.  My clients aren't trying to beat the S&P or something similar.  They are trying to send their kid to school or retire at a certain age or never outlive their money, etc.
 
"How do you communicate to a guy who is 60 and wants to retire in 5 years that he can't afford to pull his money out of the market because the market is the only real shot he's got at making it back.  These people want to run for the hills, taking their money in gold double eagles in their pockets, and never look back. "
 
You do it openly and honestly. 
 
"John, we have a real problem here.  We don't know if the market is going to return 25% a year for the next 5 years or lose half of it's value.  We never know what the market will do.  Based upon your retirement goal of retiring in 5 years with the same standard of living, you are going to need close to a 10% average return. "
 
"We have a few choices.  1) We can pull your money out of the market.  You won't lose any more money.  You also won't be able to achieve your goal.   If we go this route, you are going to have to choose to keep working past 65 or retire with a lower standard of living. "
 
"2) We can keep your money in the market.  You may achieve your goal.  It is also possible that the market can go down.  If you lose money, you will most likely have to work into your 70's and depending on the size of the loss, retirement may never be an option."
 
"3) We can invest in the market with guarantees.  You may achieve your financial goals if the market does well, and if you don't, the guarantees will still allow you to retire in the future, but not at age 65 with the standard of living that you want"
 
Whatever the client wants to do is fine with me.  It's his money.  I just need to make sure that he understands the consequences of his actions and I want my practice to be positioned in such a way that I'll get paid regardless of the road that he wants to take.
 
"I've got a crusty old guy as a client who has convinced his kids that the market is a scam.  It's getting more and more difficult to tell him he's wrong."
 
He might be right.  You certainly don't want to convince him that he's wrong.  If you do, he'll invest his money.  When the market goes down, he'll get out, which means he shouldn't have been in.  Everyone doesn't belong in the market.   Being in the market has consequences.  Being out of the market has consequences.  The client needs to understand both sides. 
 
 
Jan 27, 2009 7:44 am

Great post Anon,
I think what Spiff is referring to is simply the fact that after what has happened, there are going to be a lot moe investors in the category of "doesnt belong in the market". Confidence has been shot, and a lot of people are going to leave the table and not come back for a long time. They will come back, but only years from now, when greed finally returns.
And therein lies the problem. A smaller pool of qualified prospects...which is why there will be thousands and thousands fewer of us doing what we do in a year or so. Which is ultimately good news, for those of us that survive this mess.
So my question to you Spiff, is , are you one of the guys that is going to survive? That question is put to you with constructive intent, so dont take it as a dis.
Think about it. There's your challenge!
If i'm you, i wouldnt worry about whats gonna happen, i wouldnt worry about the cards in your hand, i'd worry about how i'm gonna play them. I'd be tighteing up my A and B books, and working on a marketing plan, whatever yours is. Then i wuold just do nothing but focus on executing the plan. And survive.
We would all do well to spend our energy marketing, and building our practices, instead of worrying about retention and all the other bullsh*t that the firms are distracting us with.

Jan 27, 2009 9:20 am

"And therein lies the problem. A smaller pool of qualified prospects"



 
I don't see that at all.  I just see that my prospects want to buy different things.  
Ex. Client is 70 and thinks that equities are great investments for themselves.  They will buy equities.  I make money.  Client is 70 and scared of the market and needs income.  They will buy a SPIA.  I make money.