Long-term investing pays off

What does it mean, in today’s world, to invest long-term, that is to buy and hold funds or managers for years? The question is a serious one in that investment performance is measured over very short periods and then comparisons are made. Such analysis fails to account for whether a strategy has had time to realize its goals, let alone whether competing strategies have had a chance as well.

The short-term rating of investments has two serious problems: it forces many managers to push for short-term results, often leading them to drift from their announced strategy (or turn over their portfolios each year, which increases transaction costs and taxes due), and it leaves investors looking for results too soon, so that they may end up selling what may be a great long-term investment because a competitor looks better in the short run.

How do you guard against this? First, understand that the volatility you see in the short term dampens down over time. That is, swings in the stock market could be plus or minus 30% in a year but come down to plus or minus say 5% for a 5 year annualized return. Second, realize that you are giving your strategy a fair chance by waiting, rather than panicking or responding on impulse. Third, realize that the real way to ultimately achieve good returns from the market is by waiting. The uncertainty built into the market means that it rewards those who can wait, and they are the ones with lower trading costs and less taxes due.

How do you find managers to help you invest this way? Look for those with low turnover of key people, who invest in their own funds, and who have the conviction to stick to their strategy even when it is out of favor. They often buy a stock that continues to go down in price before it ultimately turns up, over time.

So be a contrarian, invest for the long term!

Let us know if you have questions or comments. Thanks,

Steven

Shaken Investor Confidence – restoring faith in investment managers

The article below on client satisfaction intrigues me. (And you can comment below or ask us for input Did you get the best investment advice before the crash?)

Typically, my clients are very candid about their views regarding investment selection. However, the article suggests that many investors may just be waiting to get back to even before switching…

What really makes me wonder is: (1) what more could advisors and investment managers have done to prove that there was no more that they could have known in time to act any differently, and (2) how do we rebuild confidence when so many people were rattled so much financially and emotionally?

Simply repeating the platitudes that investment allocation works over time is not enough to cure the shaken confidence.

What are your insights? What ideas do you have on the issue? Let me know.

Thanks,

Steven

02-19-10 | 12:51pm
Client Satisfaction

Since the beginning of the market downturn in August 2008 through June 2009, investor satisfaction with their advisors has fallen from 67% of households being satisfied to 55% of households, according to a Cerulli survey. In addition, investors’ trust in financial firms is at abysmal levels, with only 26% of households believing that financial firms are looking out for their best interests.

Based on these numbers, many industry experts predicted a deluge of client movement as clients left their advisors to find better service and performance. Cerulli, however, has detected only a slight uptick in the number of investors switching financial providers. In fact, most of the movement of clients between firms has been tied to advisors moving between firms and taking their book of business along.

In Cerulli’s view, this data should not necessarily re-assure advisors that their client relationships are safe. While most investors have not left their current advisors, many have been waiting until market conditions settle before making a move. In addition, investors indicated that they are less likely to turn to their existing advisor for a new financial product or service. In August 2008, 70% of investors surveyed indicated that they would seek new products and services from their primary advisor, but by June 2009, that number had fallen to 59% of investors.

Finally, among high-net-worth clients, Cerulli has found a notable trend of investors maintaining more advisory relationships than in the past. It appears that high-net-worth investors have generalized the idea of diversification beyond investments to apply to their advisory relationships. In light of the failure of some well-respected firms during the financial crisis, high-net-worth investors are less willing to rely on a single advisor or a single firm. This indicates that going forward advisors serving high-net-worth clients will maintain a lower share-of-wallet of their clients’ assets and may have a reduced role in influencing their client’s financial decisions.

While inertia will likely keep most investors in their current advisory relationships, advisors would be wise to assess their clients’ level of satisfaction as well as the role the advisor plays in clients’ financial decision-making. Advisors should work to re-assert their value proposition with their clients to show their clients the relationship is worth the cost.

Likelihood to Seek New Products or Services from Primary Advisor by Channel (graph not shown)

Source: Cerulli Associates, Phoenix Marketing International

Here is a related article:

What Are You Scared Of?

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear and the impact it has on our industry–specifically, the communication strategies we use as financial advisors; the nature of our advice and the ability to do our job; and investors and the public in general.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems our industry is scared of having strong opinions. I understand that making public statements about market forecasts, performance predictions, and guarantees of any sort would be a legitimate cause for concern. But if you put all of those legitimate concerns in a bucket, it seems to me that it’s a rather small bucket. So why are we scared of strong opinions?

Is it possible that this small set of legitimate fears is having a greater impact than it should on the rest of our business? We seem to no longer know what we can have strong opinions about. For example, at what point is it OK for us to respond to criticism or to defend ourselves publicly? There have certainly been a lot of negative things written about us, so at what point is it OK for us to share all the positive things we’ve been doing? Certainly, it’s OK to share our opinions about how we charge for advice and wisdom, how we make decisions, and how we communicate with clients.

This fear isn’t isolated to how we run our businesses. Fear has always played a major role in how we make decisions about money, but the in the last two years, it seems to have become part of our national conversation. I can’t remember a time where there was more fear of the future, fear of the unknown, and fear of the “economy”–whatever that is–and all these issues are out of our control. So what can we do to help clients deal with them?

One of our primary goals (and one of the reasons why I think long-term relationships are so important in financial planning) is to give clients an opportunity to download their fears. But in helping them understand the difference between rational and irrational fear, how do we avoid the same problem ourselves?