Posts filed under “Finance”

Lefsetz’s Business Rules

1. You’ve got to get along. If you don’t have good people skills, you’ll never succeed, even if you run your own business.

2. Money talks. He who has cash has leverage, and someone always has more than you do. There’s rarely a deal between equals.

3. Leverage is not always about money. I.e. if you’re an unsigned band that can sell out arenas, you’ll get an incredible deal from the label.

4. If a deal is too good, it probably is. In other words, if the other person can’t make any money, there’s going to be a problem.

5. The best deals are win-wins.

6. If you’re not willing to risk, if you’re not willing to give something up, you’re going to sit on the sidelines. Sure, the label might not offer you your dream deal, but the alternative is to go it alone, which is an option, but probably not the one you want since you entered negotiations in the first place.

7. You don’t know everything, you just think you do. If you’re not learning every day, you’re hanging with the wrong people and not applying yourself.

8. The more powerful the person, the less the chance you’ll see them at the conference. The conference is for never have and wannabes and for the purveyor to make coin. In other words, have a good time at SXSW, but the real winners are the people who put on the conference.

9. A contract does not guarantee behavior. At most it’s a guideline. If you think suing to get what you want is a solution, that the contract entitles you to win, you’re naive.

10. Some people use litigation as both a business strategy and a profit center. If someone has deeper pockets than you, you’re not on an equal footing.

11. The real world is very different from books. In other words, there are very few professors who can succeed in the real world. Theory is one thing, practice is another.

12. Lawyers are worth every dollar you pay them. So choose wisely and don’t expect a deal. You need an outside voice. Someone who knows the pitfalls.

13. News often isn’t. It may be on the Business page, but frequently the corporation has a relationship with the journalist and wants a certain story told.

14. If you haven’t been screwed, you haven’t been in business. There’s more than one way to fail, you learn lessons from your defeats, which is why so many want to hire those who’ve failed, because they’ve gained so much experience!

15. Nitpicking is for losers. If you can’t let something go by, if you want the other party to live up to every letter of a contract, you’re going to find yourself an outcast by the sidelines.

16. Winners see tomorrow as well as today. If you don’t have the exit strategy in place when you’re negotiating a deal, you’re going to find yourself in an uncomfortable position down the line.

17. Those who give the best advice are the hardest to get to know, and the hardest to get to speak at length. The powerful don’t want to know the powerless, there has to be an advantage in it for them, or else the response will be very brief.

18. Time is irreplaceable. Never waste someone else’s. Make your pitch short and to the point and thank the other person for listening. You think you’re explaining your point, ensuring success by going on at length, but the truth is the other person is rolling their eyes and looking at their watch, wondering how they can get out of this meeting and never ever speak with you again.

19. Most conference calls are a waste of time. Do your best to avoid them. If you’re on one, talk only business and make it brief.

20. Respect your adversary/opponent. Treat people with dignity, dividends will follow.

21. Don’t take you or your business too seriously. Make jokes.

22. Have fun. Work takes up too much of your time not to.

23. Break the rules. All the winners do. School is all about rules, which is why those who’ve done well in school rarely do well in business.

~~~


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Category: Finance, Rules

Libor: The Spider Network

From the Wall Street Journal: The Libor manipulation scandal has ensnared at least 17 financial institutions and 28 individuals in a wide-ranging investigation spanning 11 countries and four continents. So far, it has netted at least $5 billion in penalties, with more on the way. Below, we’ve taken the most complete list of allegedly involved…Read More

Category: Finance, Legal, Regulation

Your Best Investment Idea for the Next Decade

Yesterday, Business Insider posted a huge piece, wherein they ask various folks for their best idea for a decade. With the low key headlne, Wall Street’s Brightest Minds Reveal Their Best Investment Ideas For The Next Decade, here is how I responded: Financial planning: “As it turns out, that is an easy question: Our own…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Asset Allocation, Finance, Media

10 Thursday AM Reads

Here are my morning reads: • World Led by U.S. Poised for Fastest Growth Since 2010 (Bloomberg) see also David Rosenberg: U.S. economy in 2014 has more upside than many think (Financial Post) • A Noble Lie on Market Timing (Morningstar) • Bullish Sentiment is Now Officially Embarrassing (Reformed Broker) but see Risk from bubble…Read More

Category: Finance

10 Friday AM Reads

Here are my Friday reads to wrap up your workweek! • SURVEY: What Financial TV Network Do You Watch? (Business Insider) • An Optimistic View of the United States (Economix) but see The Most Wonderful Time of the Year May Not Be All That Wonderful for Retailers (WSJ) • Americans Recover Home Equity at Record…Read More

Category: Finance, Financial Press

10 Trends to Watch in Finance for 2013

10 trends to watch in finance for 2013
Barry Ritholtz

 

 

It’s a winter ritual: Seers, prognosticators and other gurus tell us which stocks to buy for the year ahead, where they think the Dow will close in December and which momentous events will take place.

History teaches us that the majority of these charlatans will be wrong, and the ones who get it right are mostly lucky. If you have been reading my column for any length of time, you know to ignore them. (See 2011’s Forecaster Folly.)

When it comes to predictions, I do the following: Note down the forecasts made this month and look back at them in a year. Repeat every year. I use my desktop calendar and an e-mail Web service called Followupthen.com to keep me on track. I started doing this almost a decade ago, and I found it terribly liberating. It will be always be instructive, and, as with the class of 2008 forecasters, occasionally hilarious.

Doing this taught me to ignore the forecasts I see or read, as well as to keep the piehole in the middle of my face closed whenever anyone asks me for a forecast. I defer, saying, “I have no idea. No one does.” It is fun to watch the TV anchors’ heads spin like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist.”

A better use of your time? Discern what’s happening here and now. It’s been my experience that investors spend so much time worrying about what might come next that they miss what just happened.

To that end, let’s look at what’s driving the world of finance. Major shifts have already taken place, and if you understand what they are, it will help your financial planning. From my perspective, these are the more significant trends that will probably continue into 2013:

1. ETFs are eating everything.

The revenge of John Bogle continues apace. As investors figure out that they are not good at stock-picking or managing trades, they have also learned that most professionals are not much better. Paying high mutual fund expenses to a manager who underperforms a benchmark makes little sense. This realization has led to the rise of inexpensive exchange-traded funds and indices.

This “ETFication” has obvious advantages: low costs, transparency, one-click decision-making. ETFs are accessible through the stock market for easier execution, with no minimum investment required. Even bond giant Pimco recognized this trend and created an ETF version of Bill Gross’s flagship vehicle, the Total Return Fund. Pimco actually charged more for the ETF than its mutual fund to prevent an exodus of investors from the world’s largest bond fund. This will eventually shift.

Note that Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance and Morningstar all have robust ETF sites that are free (Morningstar charges for some data).

2. The financial sector continues to shrink; advisers continue to leave large firms for independents.

Since the financial crisis, Wall Street has shrunk considerably. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 7.76 million people employed in finance and insurance as of November. That’s down almost 10 percent from the pre-crisis 2007 peak of about 8.4 million workers.

Its more than the crisis: Technology and productivity gains make it easier to operate with fewer workers. My office is a perfect example: Twenty years ago, it would have taken a huge staff to manage the assets we run, handle all the administrative functions, take care of the monthly reporting and manage compliance. What would have taken two dozen people in the 1980s is easily managed by five people today. Oh, and everyone in the office is required to do research or publish commentary. That would have been impossible 30 years ago.

Over the past 40 years, the financial sector over-expanded. Much of what is happening on Wall Street now reflects the process of reversing that excess capacity.

3. Increased pressure on fees and commissions.This trend predates ETFs and Wall Street shrinkage; highly paid people are being replaced with cheap software and online services. This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

This is a very good thing for investors: Academic studies have shown that fees are a drag on returns, and lowering these costs is a risk-free way to improve your returns.

4. Hedge fund troubles.This was not a stellar year for the hedge fund industry. First, there was the issue of underperformance, with the hedgies getting stomped — they underperformed markets by 15 percent. Although being beaten by the market is part of the business, it must be tough explaining to clients why an $8 ETF outperformed a service for which they were being charged 2 percent plus 20 percent of the profit. Then there were the legal troubles and insider-trading indictments. A few high-profile closings also hurt the industry’s reputation.

What the industry has going for it is human nature (also known as “greed”). At the first sign of outperformance, the formerly skittish client base will come stampeding back.

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Category: Finance, Investing

10 Significant Trends in Finance

> My Sunday Washington Post Business Section column is out, and its a doozy: Rather than do the usual forecasts for the new year silliness, I thought it might be interesting to look instead at the major trends driving the world of finance. Its called 10 trends to watch in finance for 2013, and the…Read More

Category: Finance, Investing

Now Hiring: Administrative Assistant

We are looking for a personable administrative assistant to replace current job holder (who has to return to Switzerland). The position covers all aspects of assisting executives, from correspondence to calendar to phones, including the occasional Starbucks run. Skills required: Word Press, Excel, Word are all must haves. Understanding back office transactions for wealth management…Read More

Category: Finance

Banks vs Credit Unions

Click to see full graphic:

 

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Category: Credit, Data Analysis, Digital Media, Finance

Seen This Movie Before

Among the exercises I occasionally undertake is to dig into the history books and see, in retrospect, how things have played out relative to what the punditocracy had proclaimed (works with punditry on politics, markets, economics, sports, etc.) . With Barron’s releasing its semi-annual “big money” survey, there’s really no better opportunity to page back through history. As we went through the worst economic near-collapse in generations, I always find it most instructive to start my analysis in the summer/fall of 2007 and take it from there. (I will never, ever forget attending a very small dinner on the evening of October 2, 2007 (at Casa Lever, then Lever House), at which David Rosenberg was the speaker. He laid out his assessment of what was happening – and what was going to happen – in the economy, and the group of 12 or so (most unfamiliar with his work or world view) looked at him as if he were a Klingon. Total disbelief. The S&P500 peaked one week later to the day – October 9, 2007.)

The current big money poll (Reason To Cheer), brings us this (S&P500 = ~1380):

America’s portfolio managers see more gains for stocks in our latest Big Money poll. They are wary of bonds, hopeful about the economy and predict that President Obama will be re-elected.

On that note, let’s have a look at where the Barron’s big money participants stood in early November 2007 (S&P500 = ~1520):

Although U.S. money managers are less optimistic than in the spring, bulls still outnumber bears by more than 2-to-1. Some even say the Dow will top 16,000 by mid-2008. Insights into bonds, politics, the Fed and more.

Can you see where this is going? We were on the cusp of the worst recession in 70+ years and a market that would lose 50+ percent peak-to-trough. The writing was on the wall in a huge, bold font.

That article contained this graphic:

Suffice to say that following the Barron’s big money poll in November 2007 was a money-loser.

Fast forward to April 2008 (S&P500 = ~1400)

The professional investors surveyed in our latest Big Money Poll are getting set to jump back into stocks. What they like, and why.

That poll contained this graphic:

Moving on to November 2008, the Barron’s big money poll was titled A Sunnier Season, and teased with this (S&P500 = ~970):

Barron’s latest Big Money poll reveals unrelenting bullishness among many money managers, despite their pronostications [sic] for a “contagious” recession and punk profits through 2009.

The article contained this gem: “The managers also cast their votes for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM), whose shares have been decimated this year…” RIMM was mid-50s at the time.

In April 2009, when it was, literally, time to margin your account to the hilt and throw it all into equities, the Barron’s big money participants were cautious (S&P500 = ~855):

The pros in our latest Big Money poll say they’re bullish or very bullish about the stock market. But they have good reason not to jump in with both feet yet.

They were, of course, wary at exactly the wrong time:

For one, just 56% of today’s poll participants think the stock market is undervalued, down from 62% last fall. Thirteen percent say stocks are overvalued, up from a prior 7%. And an alarming 58% say the market hasn’t bottomed yet, even though the Dow Jones industrials hit a low of 6469 in March, before recovering to a recent 8100.

The bear market had clearly taken its toll on the psyche of the managers who participated:

In November 2009, Barron’s titled its big money poll Treading Carefully, and teased with this (S&P500 = ~1050):

The bull is still in charge, say America’s money managers in our latest Big Money Poll. But it pays to be cautious, as bargains are getting harder to find. The case for Microsoft.

April 2010 brought Be Very Careful (S&P500 = ~1190):

The bulls in our Big Money poll pulled in their horns a bit and see only tepid gains for stocks between now and year’s end. Stay away from bonds.

The S&P500 closed the year at 1257, up an admittedly “tepid” 5.6% on a price-only basis. The 10-year US Treasury went from about 3.80 to end the year at about 3.31 after hitting about 2.40 in October and then selling off – there was no reason to “stay away” from them.

November 201o brought us Bears, Beware! (S&P500 = ~1190)

America’s money managers say stocks are cheap and the economy will keep growing. Why they’re bullish on tech, bearish on Congress.

The November 2010 poll showed continued caution regarding the bond market, and offered up another majority opinion about a “bond bubble” which has yet to materialize (count me among those who’s not been in the bubble camp):

On we go to April 2011, in which the big money poll was titled Watch Your Step (S&P500 = ~1340):

America’s money managers are bullish in Barron’s latest Big Money poll, but picking their spots with care. The crowd is seeking safety in big, defensive stocks.

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Category: Contrary Indicators, Economy, Finance, Financial Press, Investing, Markets