Does Balance Truly Exist in the Lives of Professional Women? It’s Up to You

Noreen D. BeamanNoreen D. Beaman, Chief Executive Officer, Brinker Capital

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Financial Advisor magazine’s inaugural Invest in Women conference in Las Vegas. It was well attended by prominent and respected women of the financial services industry and it was a two-day agenda full of valuable discussions and presentations about all aspects of women in the financial industry.

Throughout the day-one discussions, the debate emerged about whether balance can truly exist in the lives of professional women. A few contended that a meaningful balance can be achieved but the majority concluded that, for most women, balance between career and family is an ever-shifting goal. At best, it’s a moving target that we may occasionally hit; most of the arrows we fire blindly sail past the target, leaving us struggling to find a way to “do it all.”

The story isn’t a new one—professional women have been trying to balance the needs of family and career (and self? – often that’s not even on the list) for many years with varying degrees of success. Most of the women at the conference agreed that it was a perpetual juggling act, often lasting for years, sometimes decades. Many have spent some time forsaking career for family and raising children. Others have spent time away from home, focused on growing a career and meeting the demands of their professional lives. And now as individuals are living longer, many are struggling with the task of supporting both aging parents and children while maintaining a successful and demanding career. Many have done all of it at one time or another.

shutterstock_99376793As we moved into day two, the discussions evolved as it became clearer that the answer to find what works best at any given time lies within each of us. There’s no consolation for those looking for the magic plan or formula, but the truth is that it’s upon each of us – male or female – to drive our own life choices and embrace the decisions we make. Balance is an elusive target, and the journey is personal and unique to each of us.

In my 20+ years of being part of the financial services industry, no employer has ever offered to take a back seat so that I could be more present for my children. My family has never declared, “We can handle everything from here, why don’t you spend more time focused on your career?” It’s on each of us to determine when and where to make sacrifices and to decide when to step back and when to dive in.

It’s not up to our family or our employer to make our choices for us. Every individual must assess their life situation with every change, evaluate their priorities, weigh the sacrifices and be willing to carry out the ones we choose. It’s sometimes easier to put the onus on others—whether work or family—to determine our level of engagement and then complain if we are being pulled too far in one direction. But if we truly own our decisions and acknowledge that we will make mistakes now and then, we empower ourselves to be more successful in both our careers and our lives.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Chasing Markets

Jeff RauppJeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Back when I was in the U.S. Army, one thing I dreaded was the two-mile run as part of the Physical Fitness (PT) Test. I am not a runner. While most people would scoff at the notion of a two-mile run being intimidating, I looked at it as 13-14 minutes of pain. It was timed, and the better finishing times naturally resulted in a better score. Seemingly anything above 15 minutes resulted in a fail and, of course, more running.

One of the things I had the most trouble with was finding the right pace. I’d have instances where I’d try to run a balanced race only to end up having to sprint the last few hundred yards to reach my desired time. Then there were the times where I’d go out too hard and find myself stumbling into the finish line. The hills on the courses would complicate things – I’d kill myself trying to keep a constant pace uphill and downhill.

shutterstock_175699433After struggling with this for months, I came up with a better solution. We always ran as a group, and I found that I could usually find a few people that would consistently run around the same time I was looking for. Then my objective would be to keep up with them knowing that as long as I finished somewhere in their vicinity, I’d hit my goal.

The other day someone asked me whether investors’ financial goals should be to try to outperform the market, and with my response I thought there were a lot of similarities to my past running strategy.

An investor starts with an objective they’d like to get to, how much money they have, expected cash flows and their time horizon. From there it’s a matter of finding the right mix of asset classes that historically has shown a high probability of achieving the returns necessary to reach the objective(s). That mix can be thought of as your strategic plan.

Along the way, the market is a useful reference point. Investing isn’t a smooth journey, so when your strategy has drawdowns or grows faster than you expected, knowing how markets performed helps you determine if that’s just market volatility or if something may be wrong with your plan. Changing your strategic plan along the way can be dangerous, particularly at market extremes. If you’re always chasing the runner that looks the strongest at the moment, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out before the finish.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Happy Holidays from Brinker Capital

Noreen D. BeamanNoreen D. Beaman, Chief Executive Officer, Brinker Capital

I wanted to take a moment to wish all of our advisors, the clients they serve, our strategic partners, and all friends of Brinker Capital, a wonderful holiday season.

We are thankful for the many partnerships we have with you and the continued support you show us. We are looking forward to another year of commitment to taking great ideas and applying a strong discipline to provide better outcomes.

On behalf of Brinker Capital, Happy Holidays!

“During this holiday season, please pause and take a moment to remember and thank, in some fashion, our men and women in uniform both past and present.”
~Chuck Widger, Founder & Executive Chairman

Introducing the New BrinkerCapital.com Website

Sean ForcineSean Forcine, Interactive Media Manager

As the interactive media manager at Brinker Capital, I’ve witnessed the evolution of our business, brand and culture for the better part of a decade. The industry and the world around us has of course evolved as well. Smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, social networks and so many other advancements have dramatically changed the way we access and share ideas and information. That’s why Brinker Capital is continuously looking at how we can best reach our community of financial advisors and investors. With this philosophy in mind, I am pleased to announce our latest enhancement—the NEW BrinkerCapital.com website.

Our new website has been completely redesigned, giving it a more user-friendly layout and interface. Less text, more white space, and more images and videos are just a few of the features that make the website more aesthetically pleasing and easier to digest the content we share.

Some of the other enhancements to BrinkerCapital.com include:

  • Greater access to content on our products and services
  • A centralized Resource Center housing all of our marketing materials
  • More investor-facing materials for advisors to share with their clients
  • Mobile access from any smartphone or tablet
  • Seamless access to the Brinker Blog and social media networks
  • Deeper insight into the Brinker Capital culture

BrinkerCapital.com was a labor of love for the past two years—and we did it with the direct help of our advisors. We wanted to know what content advisors across the industry wanted to see and how they wanted to access it, so all of these changes were designed with the advisor and investor in mind.

I could certainly go on, but I invite you to visit the new BrinkerCapital.com and experience the improvements for yourself. We would love to hear your feedback, so in keeping with the spirit of why we designed the website, please let us know what you think, positive or negative, or offer suggested enhancements by emailing me at sforcine@brinkercapital.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Announcing our New Book, Personal Benchmark: Integrating Behavioral Finance and Investment Management

Chuck WidgerCharles Widger, Executive Chairman

Today is a very exciting day. I am pleased to announce the completion of my book, Personal Benchmark: Integrating Behavioral Finance and Investment Management co-authored by Dr. Daniel Crosby (@incblot) and published by John A. Wiley & Sons, Inc. This book is dedicated to America’s advisors, as it is these professionals who help investors achieve their goals.

We chose to write this book for three reasons:

  • The current investment advice delivery system is broken
  • In order to fix the system, it’s time to change the conversation toward goals-based investing
  • Behavioral finance needs to be automatic in order to be effective in improving investor behavior

The current investment advice delivery system is broken. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 was the wake-up call for investors and, in turn, advisors and the architects of the wealth management advice delivery system. No investor ever wants to experience a more than 20 to 30% decline in their investment portfolio. And yet, over the decades, this has not been an infrequent occurrence. Too often, encouraged by advisors, asset managers and the media, investors have sought to mimic returns generated by indexes. They tend to discover, albeit too late, that they really didn’t understand the risk involved with index-oriented or relative return investing. Then when the risk hits the fan, investors proceed to sell at market bottoms, having piled in at market tops. The existing system is not sufficiently helping investors.

bookIt’s time to change the conversation toward goals-based investing. We believe the solution to improving the investment advice delivery system begins with a focus toward goals-based investing. We believe it’s time to help advisors improve the investment experience for their clients. It’s time to turn emotion away from being an investor’s worst enemy to its best friend, time to get personal and help investors become more focused on their goals, time to change the conversation.

Behavioral finance needs to be automatic in order to effective. We also believe that in order to improve investor behavior, the elements of behavioral finance must be embedded within the investment management framework. This will help advisors and investors discuss, recognize, and manage behavioral biases. As a result, investors may avoid the typical pitfalls of wanting risk in bull markets, safety in bear markets, and failing to achieve expected returns because they do not properly manage risk.

I encourage you to visit http://www.personalbenchmarkbook.com for more information about Personal Benchmark: Integrating Behavioral Finance and Investment Management and hope that you find the book both educational and valuable.

The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Brinker Capital, Inc. and its employees. The primary purpose of this blog is to educate and inform. This blog does not constitute financial advice. Brinker Capital, Inc. is a registered investment advisor.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Noreen BeamanNoreen D. Beaman, Chief Executive Officer, Brinker Capital

Today is a day of remembrance and reflection; a day where the gamut of emotions will be beyond words. We will grieve, empathize, reminisce, feel proud, and so much more as we take stock of the events that happened 13 years ago. Memories of the September 11, 2001 attacks are as vivid as ever today.

But despite the pain and anger spawned out of immense and unspeakable tragedy came a sense of community and resiliency. We have seen our economy hit historic lows and have had to weather the storm of plummeting markets. We have faced, and continue to face, terrorist threats and acts against our nation and fellow Americans. But we have shown great resolve rooted in the shared experience of September 11th. We are closer now, as individuals, families, and communities and are prepared to face whatever comes our way.

So on behalf of our family here at Brinker Capital, our thoughts are with all of those who lost their lives, their families, first responders, policemen and women, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and the everyday heroes who have helped make our nation stronger today.

Teaching Moments: Help Clients Shake the Emotional Hangovers

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

While the I-make-a-decision-and-forget-about-it approach might have worked for Harry S. Truman, it does not describe the vast majority of today’s investors.

According to our recent Brinker Barometer advisor survey[1], only 22% of advisors clients embrace Truman’s philosophy. The vast majority of clients suffer from emotional hangovers after periods of poor performance. They let the poor investment performance impact future decisions. Sometimes, it is for the better. In fact, 31% of clients made wiser decisions after learning from poor investment performance. Nearly half of the respondents, however, claimed that emotions cloud the investment decision following poor performance.

Bergin_LiveWithDecisions_7.30.14Another recent study, led by a London Business School, sheds light on how advisors can increase satisfaction by helping clients make peace with their decisions. According to the research, acts of closure can help prevent clients from ruminating over missed opportunities. To illustrate the point, researchers simply asked participants to choose a chocolate from a large selection. After the choice had been made, researchers put a transparent lid over the display for some participants but left the display open for others. Participants with the covered tray were more satisfied with their choices (6.30 vs. 4.78 on a 7 point scale) than people who did not have the selection covered after selecting their treat.

While the study was done with chocolate and not portfolio allocations, behavioral finance expert Dr. Daniel Crosby says that it can still provide useful insights on helping clients avoid what Vegas calls, “throwing good money after bad,” and psychology pundits refer to as the “sunk-cost fallacy.”

“Many clients are so averse to loss that they will follow a bad financial decision that resulted in a loss with one or more risky decisions aimed at recouping the money. If you detect that a client is letting emotional residue taint future decisions you should counsel them to consider the poor performance as a lesson learned. This will allow the client to grow from the experience rather than doubling the damage in a fit of excessive emotionality,” Crosby explains.

[1] Brinker Barometer survey, 1Q14. 275 respondents

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Reach Out in Good Times and Bad

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

It’s no secret that clients like to hear from their advisors. In fact, failure to communicate is one of the top five reasons why clients become dissatisfied with their advisor. According to a Spectrum study, 40% of clients said they consider leaving when the advisor makes them do all the work (make all the calls).[1]

A recent study by Pershing, however, shows that advisors do make the calls—when they have bad news. Here are some of the key findings when it came to communication choices.

  • 58% of the advisors contacted clients during market downturns, yet only 39% reached out to discuss market gains.
  • 68% of advisors reached out to clients when personal investments declined, while only 53% initiated contact with the client in instances when personal investments increased in value.[2]

Bergin_Reach Out in Good Times and Bad_6.19.14How News is Delivered
The telephone is the most frequently used communication vehicle for both good and bad investment performance news. A quarter of the advisors surveyed used email and face-to-face meetings to communicate market losses, while 58% of the advisors picked up the phone. The only type of communication that happened more frequently in person than any other message was in the area of education. 52% of advisors said that they scheduled face-to-face meetings to educate clients while 48% did so over the telephone.

“No News is Good News” Applies Better to Weather than Client Relationships
Communication work is fundamentally about two things: trust and relationships. Good communication can strengthen relationships and deepen trust while poor communication can have the opposite effect. The “no news is good news” approach many advisors seem to take is problematic for a few reasons. It robs the advisor of the opportunity to score relationship-building points. It also increases the risk of clients feeling neglected. Finally, it makes it more difficult for the advisor to identify opportunities proactively because they become somewhat out-of-touch with what is happening in their clients’ lives.

[1] http://www.onwallstreet.com/gallery/ows/client-switching-advisor-top-five-reasons-2681390-1.html

[2] The Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations, Pershing.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Implementing Technology

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

You don’t necessarily need the most cutting-edge technology to get to the top of your game. According to a recent study, you can start by leveraging the technology you already have.

Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ 2013 RIA Benchmarking Study reveals that high-performing firms—those in the top quartile for growth, profitability and productivity—focused on smart technology and adoption, not getting the latest and greatest. These high-performing firms focus on optimizing their technology in three areas: portfolio management, service, and client reporting.

Here are ten steps you can take to make sure you get the most from your technology.

  1. Make adoption a priority. Commit putting in the time and effort to learn how best to maximize all of the system’s features. If you can’t do it yourself, make someone else in your office accountable.
  2. Plan. Learning a new software program is like learning a new language. It’s hard to know where to start. Your technology provider should be able to give you an implementation guide to show you the steps to follow, and milestones to hit.
  3. Set aside time. If you don’t carve out time on your schedule, it isn’t going to happen.
  4. Network. There are relatively few programs out there that haven’t already been tried and tested by others in similar positions as yours. Talk to everyone you know who has gone through the implementation process and find out what they did and what they wished they had done better.
  5. Gather resources. Request an inventory of the training your technology provider makes available. Once you know what they have for support materials, you can choose the format that best matches your learning style.
  6. Optimize Your TechnologyGet names and numbers. You need to have key information handy in a few different areas. Know the software name, version number, and license holder so that when you call or go online for help you can be sure you are asking about the right program. Also know the names and numbers of customer support persons at your technology provider.
  7. Troll the internet. Use social media find online user groups or other social media sites that could provide helpful implementation hints. For example, there may be a LinkedIn User Group already established for the purposes of optimizing your software.
  8. Monitor progress. Perform periodic self-checks to monitor your progress towards the goals set in your implementation plan.
  9. Celebrate incremental success. Even if you haven’t learned everything there is to know, make note of how the technology improves your efficiency. Success is a powerful motivator and will prompt you to plow through your learning curve.
  10. Provide feedback. Software engineers constantly strive to innovate. If there is something you don’t like about your program or would like to see handled differently, let them know. You may just have a function named after you in the next version!

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Why Some Fizzle, While Others Go Viral

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

Have you ever wondered why a silly email gets passed around the office, yet you can’t get a client to forward an interesting article you wrote to a colleague? Does it frustrate you that sports fails get millions of views, yet you’ve only had two people view your LinkedIn profile in the last 20 days? Ever wonder why your tweets don’t get favored, shared or retweeted?

The New Yorker’s recent article, “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate You,” takes a stab at solving these mysteries.

The article, which cites studies conducted by two Wharton professors, reveals the common characteristics of widely shared stories. These stories or messages typically evoke an emotion from the reader, with happy pieces faring better than sad. They also create a social currency and make the viewer feel “in the know.”

Shareable stories also typically have memory-inducing triggers. They are easy to pass along because they can be found and retrieved.

Gone ViralThe final predictor of whether a story will go viral is the quality of the content itself. The Holderness family rivaled Santa himself in spreading holiday greetings because their “Christmas Jammies” YouTube video was so well done. Otherwise, over 13 million people would not have invested the 218 seconds to watch.

So before you make your next LinkedIn post or tweet something on Twitter, make sure the content you are providing is relatable to your followers and will elicit a response. Then you can begin the journey of becoming a social media influencer and setting yourself a part from the crowd.