1. Sunday, January 31st, 2016
    ripped from normalcy

    Long-time readers know that I rarely stray from a regular pattern in these essays, in which I hope to identify a persistent issue in the investment ecosystem and offer creative ways to think about it.  Almost never do I get personal about anything.  This one’s an exception, so proceed accordingly.

    In October, I wrote two pieces that I intended to be part of a longer series designed to “look at ways in which organizations and individuals can step out of the comfortable cocoons that they call home.”

    Soon thereafter, that became something other than an academic exercise for me.

    I was diagnosed with cancer on the base of my tongue.  It was too advanced to remove surgically, so I began a series of treatments designed to eradicate the tumor.

    Most notably, I’m participating in an immunotherapy drug trial, which will continue for a few more months.  Part of a revolution in cancer care, this drug’s role is to break down the defenses of the tumor to allow my ... continues

  2. Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
    open networks

    In my last posting, regarding home bias and the difficulty of seeing past familiar territory to other possibilities,the research puzzle | Believe it or not, the second season of Fargo is based in my hometown, which is what spawned that posting. I promised to provide some thoughts on how to get more information from the outside.

    A piece by Michael Simmons, “The No. 1 Predictor of Career Success According to Network Science,”Observer | Simmons is the co-founder of Empact; its goal is to “alleviate mental & financial poverty.” included a graphic that looks roughly like this:open networks_edited-1

    Simmons wrote:  “Most people spend their careers in closed networks; networks of people who already know each other.  People often stay in the same industry, the same religion, and the same political party.  In a closed network, it’s easier to get things done because you’ve built up trust, and you know all the shorthand terms and unspoken rules.  It’s comfortable because ... continues

  3. Monday, October 12th, 2015
    no place like home

    The second season of FargoAtlantic | The show, an homage to rather than a retelling of the classic Coen brothers movie, appears on FX. is set in 1979, in Luverne, Minnesota.  My hometown.  That year, I was living there with my young family.

    Oddly enough, the town of less than five thousand was also featured a few years ago in Ken Burns’ television series The War.  Burns told the story of WWII through the lives of people from four communities in the United States, including Luverne.

    In the series, Tom Hanks narrated the words of Al McIntosh, the editor of the Rock County Star-Herald.  Burns said, “We read his columns and thought, ‘Oh my God, here’s our Greek chorus.’  His writing is the single greatest archival discovery we’ve made in thirty years of doing this kind of work.”American Profile | McIntosh continued to own the paper for more than twenty years after the war.  The quote is from this summary of The War.

    At this point, I want to ... continues

  4. Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
    business model advice

    In seeing the title above, you might think that you will be getting advice on how an investment organization can create a better business model.  Given that the conditions are ripe for industry disruption, firms certainly should be considering how they can stay ahead of the coming changes.Wiley | If you are looking for an easy framework for a multi-disciplinary group to use when considering the issues, you might start with a book called Business Model Generation.

    But this posting is about something else, namely, the tendency for the investment advice that is given to a client (or, if discretion has been granted, the action that is taken on behalf of a client) to be a function of the business model of the investment provider.

    At one level, that’s obvious.  If a provider does not have access to a particular product, a client who relies solely on that provider for investment assistance will not invest in it.

    More generally, it’s easy to lose sight of how investment advice ... continues

  5. Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
    process under pressure

    The headlines are back.  The volatility is back.  What do you suppose your asset managers are doing right now?

    It’s worth remembering that all organizations are messy and no process works like it’s diagrammed in the pitchbook.  When the pressure is on, stresses and strains can manifest themselves in new ways (or distressingly similar old ways).

    Some things to consider:

    ~ If “a business is only as good as its conversations,”the research puzzle | The phrase, which I use a lot, came from Hugh MacLeod. then the quality of those interactions is especially important during times of flux, when they can change in tone, in content, and in the amount of time spent going in circles.  Communication problems can be exacerbated.

    ~ Personality traits that have been hidden during good times might reappear when the pressure does.  Leaders can get controlling, shut down debate, and marginalize those with differential information, just at the time that their observations and ... continues