Building the team for the business owner: Picking your first partner

Coyne_HeadshotJohn Coyne, Vice Chairman

Last week, we hosted a terrific webinar with Andrew Haas, a senior estate planning partner at Blank Rome, a major Philadelphia-based national law firm. Over 100 financial advisors throughout the country signed on to participate.

It dawned on me as I listened to Andrew that when building a team for a business owner client, financial advisors should align first with an estate planning attorney. Why? Because together, not only can you help business owners understand how their life will be after the sale of the business, advisors can help business owners recognize their own mortality.

My friend, Dan Prisciotta of Lincoln Financial, has a line in his excellent book, One Way Out, which is about helping business owners exit their business for the highest possible value. In the book, Dan says, “Your exit is 100% guaranteed whether you go out vertically or horizontally.”

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The role of the partnership is to help business owners maximize the value of their business so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor and secure their legacy after they are gone. The estate planning lawyer is the bucket of ice water that can wake the business owner up to the reality that poor preparation of the exit plan will have a direct impact on how their family and heirs will live their lives after they are gone.

An estate plan coupled with a financial plan prepared by you reflects an exciting and reasonably predictable future after exit. You have helped them take the first step in letting you build their team. The key to a great partnership is transparency. By having both the financial plan and estate plan fully understood by all parties, as these are both living documents and will evolve over time, you can keep everyone’s eyes on the target of a successful exit.

We want to help advisors help their business owner clients live the life they’ve worked for. The way to begin the process may lie with helping them understand life after they’re gone.

To help decide which estate planning attorney is appropriate, you may consider engaging in some of the services that are offered through investment management firms such as Brinker Capital that have relationships with a wide array of organizations. Brinker Capital Wealth Advisory works with business owners, individual investors and institutions with assets of at least $2 million and has partnerships with firms that can assist with the estate needs of business owners.

To learn more about Brinker Capital, a 30-year old firm following a disciplined, multi-asset class approach to building portfolios, and an overview of the services available through Wealth Advisory, click here.

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day weekend!

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: Amazon announcement sending shockwaves across a few industries

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Andrew Goins
, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 26, 2017), Andrew discusses the impact of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.

 

Quick hits:

  • The announcement of Amazon’s $13.7B acquisition of Whole Foods last Friday resulted in significant declines across most of the grocery retailers, as investors grapple with how this merger will impact the grocery industry.
  • Although the money managers we work with don’t make investments based on a thesis that the company will likely be acquired, Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods has resulted in speculation around who their next target will be.
  • While Amazon is just one company and won’t take over the entire world, it is clearly a disruptor and shouldn’t be ignored.

For Andrew’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

This is not a recommendation for Amazon or Whole Foods, these securities are shown for illustrative purposes only.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

A battle of wits with the market

Williams 150 X 150Dan Williams, CFA, CFP, Investment Analyst

One of the greatest temptations of investing is trying to increase investment performance by continuously buying stocks right before they go up and selling stocks right before they go down. As a theoretical matter “timing the market” seems simple as in retrospect the overreactions or ignorance of the markets are clear. Yet, in practice, the task is regarded mostly as a fool’s errand as the timing always seems to be off.

The extremes of market movements relative to economic reality is not a new observation. In his 1949 book, “The Intelligent Investor,” Benjamin Graham asked readers to imagine themselves as a partner in a business with a fellow named “Mr. Market.” On a daily basis, Graham’s Mr. Market becomes wildly optimistic or pessimistic about the business’ value, therefore, is always trying to sell out or buy you out. Graham notes that an investor finds himself in that very position when he owns a listed common stock. The problem is that we are not separate from Mr. Market. Rather, we all contribute a little of ourselves to create this Mr. Market and what he feels, we collectively feel. When he is panicking and wants to sell, so do we. When he is euphoric about market prospects and wants to buy, so do we.

Additionally, Mr. Market is smart most of the time as he knows just about everything we collectively know, and given available information is approximately right about most stocks most the time. This is the oversimplified basis for the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) that states that the market incorporates all relevant information efficiently and accurately into market prices. So what is to be done?

Timing the market

 
As always, I find a movie to reference. This time I am drawn to a scene in “The Princess Bride” where our protagonist, Westley, sits down to play a game of wits with the mastermind bandit, Vizzini. In the scene, two glass of wine are poured, Westley poisons one glass of wine, but mixes up which is which and places both glasses on a table. Vizzini then gets to pick which glass to drink from and Westley is compelled to drink the other. Vizzini, after thinking and overthinking all of the factors to consider and even switching the placement of the glasses on the table while Westley is distracted, takes a drink from one of the glasses and drops dead. We then find that Westley had actually poisoned both glasses and had previously made himself immune to the poison used. Therefore, the whole game of wits was moot.

Similar to trying to beat the market through market timing, the battle of wits Vizzini was engaging in was with himself. Westley instead played the game right by avoiding the game of wits by doing work beforehand. This is exactly what Graham prescribed for investing.

Graham felt through the deep fundamental analysis of individual securities an investor could know with a reasonable degree of confidence what the price/value of a security should be. This value is adjusted to new information that fundamentally changes the business prospects, but most often the investor just patiently waits for Mr. Market to make a mistake. Like Westley, the intelligent investor just waits for Vizzini to drink.

The moral of the story is that to outperform the market you must either do your homework (independent analysis to make yourself immune to the poison of market noise) or do not play the game at all (buy and hold a proper asset allocation and ignore the market noise). In neither case, do you try to use your own emotional intuitions to outthink and time the market.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

The road to interest rate normalization in 2017

Holland 150 x 150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

Since 1965, the Fed has implemented policy tightening 15 times and the impact on the bond market has not always translated into longer rates rising. For example, in 2004 the Fed began raising rates in response to concerns of a housing bubble. As a result, the bond market did well as the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell.

More recently, during the current market cycle, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2015. The 10-year Treasury yield fell and the bond market generated a positive return while equities plummeted in the first quarter of 2016. A year later, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2016. The impact on markets was minimal with both equities and fixed income generating strong positive returns in the two months that followed. Year to date, equities and bonds have rallied in the face of two rate increases by the Fed; first in March and then in June. We expect one more rate increase in 2017.

shutterstock_124163875 resizedCatalysts for higher interest rates

Many positive factors are currently present in the U.S. economy that justify and support a move toward interest rate normalization:

  • Stable U.S. economic growth. U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. The new administration and an all-Republican government will try to stimulate the economy through reflationary policies including tax cuts, infrastructure spending and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Supportive credit environment. High yield credit spreads have meaningfully contracted and are back to the tight levels we saw in 2014.
  • Inflation expectations. Historically, there has been a strong positive correlation between interest rates and inflation. Many of the anticipated policies of the Trump administration are inflationary. In addition, the Brinker Capital investment team believes the economy is in the second half of the business cycle, which is typically characterized by wage growth and increased capital expenditures—both of which eventually translate into higher prices. We expect inflation expectations to move higher.
  • Unemployment levels. The labor market has become stronger and is nearing full employment. Unemployment has dropped to a level last seen in 2001.

A rising rate environment should prove challenging for some areas of fixed income.  However, fixed income can serve as the ballast for a broadly diversified portfolio and a good counter to equity market volatility.  Our fixed income exposure is focused on strategies with below average duration and a yield cushion.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: Does Brexit still mean Brexit? The UK election result and what it means for the markets.

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 16, 2017), Tim addresses the political dynamic in the UK and the impact the recent election – and its rather surprising outcome – might have on Brexit and global markets.

Quick hits:

  • On June 8, U.K. voters went to the polls and confounded the experts and the pollsters by moving away from the ruling Conservative Party and embracing the Labour Party.
  • Despite all of the political drama, we still see Brexit moving forward and the U.K. exiting the European Union.
  • Near term, we also see the unexpected and unsettling U.K. election results potentially aiding pro EU, pro establishment political parties across Europe.
  • In the U.S., we don’t envision any meaningful economic or market impact from the political upheaval in the U.K.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Machine Learning’s Growing Pains

Solomon_B 150x150Brad Solomon, Junior Investment Analyst

“Machine learning,” on its surface, sounds nothing short of miraculous.  For anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed when working with a large amount of intractable data, it evokes a certain fantasy: press a button, and let the machine learn. Poof, without any further instruction, your computer spits out relationships in the data seemingly untraceable to the human eye.

Yet paradoxically, there is also a competing perception that only a certain breed of mathematics PhDs and programming prodigies are worthy of using machine learning (ML) techniques.  The field of computer science has never been short on patronization; this post recommends first making sure that you have several advanced degrees and then learning the C or C++ languages, both of which are seen as some of the least user-friendly computer languages and neither of which are the language into which most machine learning is actually incorporated.

Now that machine learning has made its way to the top of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for emerging technologies, and has also become pervasively marketed as part of the tool set of quantitative investment strategies, it’s probably a good time to debunk some misconceptions about what machine learning is, and what it isn’t.

Let’s start with a positive.  ML encompasses a wide range of statistical modeling techniques that can be applied toward facial recognition, predicting credit card fraud, and classifying tumors as malignant or benign, to name just a few implementations.  At the heart of machine learning are a number of different models that all serve as means to the same ends: predicting a value or classifying something categorically.  The list of models themselves is an intimidating mouthful: to name a few, there are neural networks, decision trees, Bayesian ridge regression, and support vector machines.

If your head is spinning, you’re not alone.  However, you might be surprised to learn that you likely covered some elements of machine learning in any introductory statistics course: for instance, ordinary least squares regression (linear regression) also falls under the hood of machine learning. Machine learning practitioners also like to throw around a number of fancy terms that go by other names elsewhere in the realm of broader statistics discipline.  For example, training and test data are analogous to the more familiar terms in-sample and out-of-sample; supervised learning simply means that you are starting with an independent and dependent variable and want to establish a relationship between the two and then apply that relationship to a “fresh” (test) variable.

Now, to debunk one of several myths: ML is not new; the term was coined in 1959 and has been used pervasively in the tech industry for decades.  However, growth in the popularity of the Python programming language, which is open-source, free, and offers a number of user-friendly machine learning packages, has fueled interest in the concept.

One result has been the proliferation of machine learning techniques and their (purported) use in quantitative investment applications.  At Brinker, we’ve come across more than a handful of managers using machine learning: the use of random forest classification to identify the likelihood that a company will cut its dividend, or forecasting of market volatility regimes through Markov chain Monte Carlo methods.  However, we would be remiss to mention that for every manager that usefully employs machine learning, there are a half-dozen others that simply like being able to include it in a slide in their strategy’s pitch-book.  Bloomberg bluntly articulated this recently: “Hedge Funds Beware: Most Machine Learning Talk Is Really ‘Hokum’.”  A healthy dose of skepticism is warranted.

That engenders a second key point: when interacting with managers who profess to use ML in their everyday process, ask as many “dumb” questions as possible.  In layman’s terms, can you describe what’s going on “under the hood”?  Why did you select this model in particular?  While the mathematics behind certain models can be quite hairy, the high-level intuition should not be.  And lastly, while machine learning hasn’t yet been fully commoditized, that doesn’t mean you should be paying a 2 & 20 fee to access its capabilities.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: A quick review of May markets

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Leigh Lowman, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 9, 2017), Leigh provides a quick review of May markets.

Quick hits:

  • Risk assets continued with their upward momentum, generally finishing positive for the month.
  • Politics dominated headlines with the spotlight on the Trump administration.
  • Overseas, international markets reacted positively to the French election win of Macron, known for his moderate political stance.
  • Expectations have strengthened for an additional Fed rate hike in June.
  • We currently find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets.

For Leigh’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

 

June 2017 market and economic review and outlook

Lowman_150x150pxLeigh Lowman, Investment Manager

Risk assets continued with their upward momentum, generally finishing positive for the month. Politics dominated headlines with the spotlight on the Trump administration. Speculation on whether the president interfered with a FBI investigation caused equities to drop mid-month only to quickly rebound based on the strength of positive fundamentals. Overseas, international markets reacted positively to the French election win of Macron, known for his moderate political stance. Expectations have strengthened for an additional Fed rate hike in June as domestic data leans positive with inflation remaining under control and the economy close to full employment.

The S&P 500 Index was up 1.4%. Sector performance was mixed with technology (+4.4%) and utilities (+4.2%) posting the largest gains for the month. On the negative side, energy (-3.4%), financials (-1.2%) and telecom (-1.0%) continued to lag and are all negative year to date. Small caps, which have shown to be more dependent on the “Trump Trade”, finished the month negative and significantly lag large and mid cap stocks year to date. Growth outperformed value and leads year to date.

Developed international equity was up 3.8%, outperforming domestic equities for the third month in a row. The positive outcome of French election boosted markets but much uncertainty currently surrounds the Italian general election with the populist and mainstream parties currently neck-and-neck in the polls. Consumer confidence in the UK also rose but still remains in negative territory as Brexit proceedings continue to move forward. Data from Japan came in positive with a rebound in industrial production and uptrend in housing starts. Emerging markets remained resilient, posting a 3% return, despite the political chaos erupting out of Brazil during the month.

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The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was up 0.8%, with all sectors posting positive returns. Despite rising 15 basis points mid-month, the 10 Year Treasury yield ended the month slightly below where it began, at 2.2%. High yield spreads remained relatively unchanged, contracting 8 basis points. TIPS were flat due in part to inflation data coming in below expectations. Municipals were up 1.6%.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term, although we acknowledge we are in the later innings of the bull market and the second half of the business cycle. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and recession is not our base case, especially considering the potential of reflationary policies from the new administration, the risks must not be ignored.

We find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Reflationary fiscal policies: Despite a rocky start, we still expect fiscal policy expansion out of the Trump Administration, potentially including some combination of tax cuts, repatriation of foreign sourced profits, increased infrastructure and defense spending, and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Global growth improving: U.S. economic growth remains moderate and there are signs growth outside of the U.S., in both developed and emerging markets, is improving.
  • Business confidence has increased: Measures like CEO Confidence and NFIB Small Business Optimism have spiked since the election. This typically leads to additional project spending and hiring, which should boost growth.
  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: The Federal Reserve is taking a careful approach to monetary policy normalization. ECB and Bank of Japan balance sheets expanded in 2016 and central banks remain supportive of growth.

However, risks facing the economy and markets remain, including:

  • Administration unknowns: While the upcoming administration’s policies are currently being viewed favorably, uncertainties remain. The market may be too optimistic that all of the pro-growth policies anticipated will come to fruition. The Administration has quickly shifted from healthcare to tax reform legislation. We are unsure how Trump’s trade policies will develop, and there is the possibility for geopolitical missteps.
  • Risk of policy mistake: The Federal Reserve has begun to slowly normalize monetary policy, but the future path of rates is still unclear. Should inflation move significantly higher, there is also the risk that the Fed falls behind the curve. The ECB and the Bank of Japan could also disappoint market participants by tapering policy accommodation too early.

The technical backdrop of the market is favorable, credit conditions are supportive, and we have seen some acceleration in global economic growth. So far Trump’s policies are being seen as pro-growth, and investor and business confidence has improved. We expect higher volatility as we digest the onset of new policies under the Trump administration and the actions of central banks, but our view on risk assets remains positive over the intermediate term. Higher volatility can lead to attractive pockets of opportunity we can take advantage of as active managers.

Being Okay Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Dan WilliamsDan Williams, CFA, CFP, Investment Analyst

Simply being “okay” is often considered to be somewhat unsatisfying. Most companies aim for a consumer regard that’s higher than “okay” and the win-at-all-costs mindset is encouraged beginning at an early age. As Will Ferrell so aptly put it in Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

It goes without saying that the efforts of financial advisors should always be of the highest standards and putting the needs of investors first and foremost. The aggressive pursuit of playing to win at the cost of finishing the race can be highly detrimental in the world of investments. Blindly seeking out the highest returns for the assets of an investor saving for retirement can wreak havoc and have potentially disastrous consequences.

The value of a financial advisor is not getting his/her clients to their goals in an exciting manner; but rather to get them there through reliable methods. For example, more often than not, making sure clients have insurance proves to be an unnecessary task, but in rare cases it can prevent financial catastrophe. Similarly, having 3-6 months of living expenses in liquid cash equivalent assets is often a performance drag, but it can prevent figurative flat tires from causing havoc on a clients’ life journey. The practice of dollar-cost averaging typically lags the performance of putting all of one’s money into the market immediately, but it ensures that investors are buffered from bad timing impacting their lump-sum purchase.Being Okay

This idea of spreading out risk translates well into an investment portfolio that is diversified across multiple asset classes. A meaningfully diversified portfolio may rarely hit performance homeruns, but it has the potential to get investors to their savings goals with less market volatility. At Brinker Capital, all of our investment portfolios are built on this idea of diversification. While an investors’ hindsight bias may cause them to regret not being 100 percent in the “right” asset class and frustrate the financial advisor who’s kept their clients on track, the reward for the proper long-term asset allocation is a successful completion of the race. Much like the tortoise of The Tortoise and the Hare, the journey may not be as quick as some would like, but continuous progress is made overtime to compound wealth and achieve a savings goal. Meaningfully diversified multi-asset class portfolios will fare better than all-equity portfolios in bear markets and better than all-fixed income portfolios in bull markets. In years when domestic equity and fixed income lag global market and alternative asset classes, diversified multi-asset class portfolios will bolster performance.

While most of us strive to achieve wins in life, at Brinker Capital, we believe that our diversified multi-asset portfolios leave investors okay. And, this is something of which we are truly proud of.

Investment Insights Podcast: Will the drama in Washington, DC upend the economic recovery and market rally?

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 2, 2017), Tim addresses a question top of mind for many investors.

Quick hits:

  • When it comes to politics, Brinker Capital is agnostic. Our focus is on understanding the economic and political environment we are operating in, while best positioning our portfolios regardless of the party in power.
  • We see the Trump Administration’s agenda as largely supportive of an optimistic outlook on the U.S. economy and market.
  • If Republicans fail in advancing their legislative agenda, risk assets should still benefit from two significant political tail winds:
    1. A more benign regulatory environment
    2. Certainty around federal tax rates
  • While the economic recovery and bull market are both long lived, we continue to see the weight of the evidence as supporting further expansion and price gains.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.