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Attractive Advice at IMCA Conference

Tough times call for creative approaches

This was the message delivered by Merrie Martinson, a vice president with Scudder Investments, in kicking off a two-day conference sponsored by the Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA).

Martinson’s speech specifically addressed an issue near to the hearts of many advisors: attracting and retaining clients. She said that traditional client-recruitment techniques, such as in-office seminars, are not working in the current economic environment. She recommends advisors start partnering with the sorts of businesses that interest potential clients—art galleries, high-end specialty shops and luxury car dealerships, for instance. "Think outside the office," she says.

Martinson’s speech was the first of the conference, but she was hardly the only person with such an opinion.

In an open discussion on Thursday, advisors echoed her sentiments, saying they were embracing less traditional means for attracting clients. Some examples include hosting large breakfast meetings and taking a client and his friends out for a birthday celebration. The conference also addressed how to confront more concrete issues, such as investor concerns about the state of the market. Several presentations centered on how investors’ attitudes have changed in light of the down market, the fear of terrorism and the threat of war.

In his presentation on behavioral economics Dan Carper, a partner with Lord, Abbett, focused on understanding the emotional and instinctual decisions investors make. According to Carper when clients are losing money, the innate human reaction to that form of pain is to withdraw. "What we’re genetically equipped to do is dangerous in the investment business," says Carper.

The IMCA is a non-profit educational organization that offers the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation. The conference, which was held in New York, drew about 300 attendees.

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