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Reporter’s Notebook: Three-Letter Acronyms and Questions for Peter Gammons

Reporter’s Notebook: Three-Letter Acronyms and Questions for Peter Gammons

Ostensibly, Peter Gammons, longtime sportswriter and current co-host on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” was at the Money Management Institute’s conference in Boston to “share his insights on gaining the winning edge.”

Apparently, that meant Gammons was going to talk baseball. The city of Boston was already getting over an early-season hangover, having watched the Red Sox defeat the Yankees in three of four games in the first series of the year. Of course, the local taverns were filled with the fatalistic ruminations of the Boston Bruins losing in a seven-game series in the National Hockey League playoffs to the Montreal Canadians.

Back in the main conference room, Gammons covered most aspects of the game in about an hour’s time. This room was full at the beginning of the conference a day before, Tuesday morning, but attendance by this time was sparse. But it was a devoted contingent.

Among Gammons’ predictions: Pete Rose getting to the Hall of Fame will continue to be a dead issue and San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds could very well hit .400 this season. Gammons boldest prediction was for a Red Sox-Cubs World Series, which drew a round of applause from the remaining attendees.

The amassed audience peppered Gammons with a dozen or so questions, which seemed to irk conference co-chair Peter Cieszko of Citigroup Asset Management, who noted that other panelists did well to get one or two queries from their audiences.

The collegial-cum-vaudevillian atmosphere for the conference was set early by Chip Roame of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, who delivered a speech somewhere between a digression on hard data and a stream-of-consciousness rambling on whatever seemed to pop into his head.

Roame had a lot of points—including the fact that he’s really not a fan of marketing hedge funds to mass investors—but he hit his high moment when bringing up the famed intergenerational wealth transfer that’s supposed to occur, sometime in the near future.

“There’s this mythical wealth transfer,” he said. “That’s the thing I keep running out to my mailbox every morning for—that envelope from Granny that says ‘Wealth Transfer’ on it.”

The Money Management Institute’s conference on separately managed accounts was supposed to be about the further development of these products and how they fit into client portfolios. But the various terms—UMA, SMA, MSP—that are accepted jargon in the industry can’t help but sound like a Dick Vitale chalkboard gone berserk.

That disease spread to the firms as well. During the second day of presentations, Mark Staples, managing director of Wachovia Securities’ consulting services group, displayed a graphic laying out the different channels in which registered reps can operate at the firm (possibly the first public explanation of all of Wachovia’s myriad advisor segments in the firm’s history), which included several three-letter acronyms to refer to the Investment Services Group (ISG), the private client group (PCG) and the other divisions.

“I attempted to chair the committee to eliminate three-letter acronyms from the firm, but gave up when it became known as the TLA committee,” Staples said.

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