Summer Thinking List ’15

Part 1: For Advisors: Planning conversations for the second half of the year

Part 2: Fixed Income Asset Manager Edition (added July 24)

Del Mar, California. Photo by the author. Copyright reserved.

Photo by the author. Copyright reserved.

With the proliferation of summer reading lists, everyone in the industry seems to be telling each other what we should all be reading.

Rather than just add another list, I thought it would be more interesting to offer a list of things to think about to help advisors be prepared for the back-end of the year.

This is just a starting point. If you have questions, comments, additions or would like coaching or insight on a particular point, please let me know.

How to use this list

This is not a test! There are a lot of questions in this list–too many to be able to give serious thought to. But, the list is intended to be thought-provoking. As you work on the list, be sure to grab a pen (or pencil) to be able to capture your thoughts and reactions. As you go through, highlight the no more than 3 or 4 questions that seem most relevant to you and your own business AND that you want to work on this year. Do any of these questions trigger other ideas that are not on the list? Write those down too.

Why use this list?

Business only happens in conversation–not because of white papers, articles, research reports or webcasts. Those are all important, but it is in conversation that needs can be discovered and understood and addressed. (Read this to learn more of my thoughts about the importance of true conversation.) Having a methodical approach to planning your conversations will help you be more efficient and effective–helping you and your clients.

Practice Management & Personal Development

  1. What do I need to know about my competition? Has my competition changed?
  2. How does my LinkedIn / Twitter presence compare to my competition? Are my clients / prospects / product partners on LinkedIn / Twitter? What are they looking at? Are there Twitter feeds that I should be reading? Are there feeds I should stop following?
  3. How much more time do I need each week to be more effective? What can I do differently to reclaim 30 minutes a week? An hour? (On this point, consider brainstorming a list for yourself of at least 10 ways, and then try your top 3.)
  4. How can I improve my skills as a practitioner? What do I want to learn more about?
  5. Am I on track for my required CE hours? Do I want to work on an additional professional certification?

Client Engagement

  1. What’s not working out this year that we thought should have? What’s working better than we expected?
  2. Are there new or recently added ETF or SMA strategies that I should consider for my toolkit? Are there strategies that I should consider de-emphasizing or removing?
  3. Do I know what my clients’ children/grandchildren are all doing? Who’s in high school, and who’s in college? Who’s graduating from high school or college next spring?
  4. Can I put my network to work helping my key clients’ graduating children find jobs? Can I help the college graduates create a plan to pay off student loan debt and plan for their own wealth accumulation?
  5. Do I know the health status of all of my clients? For older clients, do I know the warning signs of dementia? Are those clients prepared with a POA, etc.? Am I fully engaged with their children or other future potential decision-makers?
  6. For my married clients, am I fully engaged with are both partners? Are both partners as well educated and informed as they should be?
  7. Do I know how my clients’ parents are doing? (Can I help them? Are there legacy implications?)

Investment Products & Tactics         

  1. Do my clients still remember and understand the risks of strategies they’ve been in for more than a year? (Don’t assume. If you are not certain, consider reviewing investment rationales as appropriate.)
  2. Do all of my clients understand what will happen to bond / bond fund prices as rates rise?
  3. Are my fixed income SMA clients in the most appropriate strategies?
  4. Do my muni mutual fund clients have exposure to Puerto Rico? Is action needed?
  5. If rates move sideways (but not higher), what are some risk-smart ways to seek incremental income?
  6. If rates do move, but move quickly, will some of my clients be frightened into uninvesting or delinking SMA strategies?
  7. Do I have clients under-allocated to fixed income? Do I know what their desired entry point is? Is that reasonable? How can I help them get to where I think they should be?
  8. Should my clients adjust their exposure to less-liquid sectors? Do they understand the implications of the changes in bond market liquidity? (Do I?)

Business Development

General guidelines for business development efforts: How many times does someone have to hear your name before they will remember you? The same point applies to ideas as well. Just as one introduction will not be enough for people to remember you, you may find that you will have to present the same ideas multiple times in different ways before some people will appreciate or understand it.

Maintain two or three different modes of communication. For example, mail/e-mail, client workshops/seminars, one-on-one meetings. Methodically maintaining different channels of communication at all times will increase your potential for identifying those investors in your practice who can benefit from a particular strategy or idea.

Each communication mode should be restricted to only one theme at a time. This will make it easier for you to be organized, as well as to make it easier to judge the effectiveness of the ideas that you are offering to your clients. For example, in each of your one-on-one meetings for the balance of the year, you can decide to explore a particular topic with every client.

  1. Am I doing an effective job of asking for referrals? How am I asking for referrals? How can I do better job?
  2. What are the two or three topics I would most like to educate some of my clients about?
  3. Are there one or two topics that I would like to educate all of my clients about?
  4. What are my marketing / communication plans for Labor Day through Thanksgiving? How about Thanksgiving through year-end?
  5. Who are my smartest internal and external product partners? How can I enlist them to help me engage with clients and prospects in the balance of the year?


Part 2: Fixed Income Asset Manager Edition

The Summer Thinking List for Advisors has attracted a lot of hits, so I am following up with some additional questions for the asset management side of the business. Depending on your role, you may find each individual question to be more or less relevant to you, but hopefully you will find at least two or three that will help get you thinking about how to attack the back part of the year.

The Market and my Offerings

  1. What do I think the market is going to do in the next 6 months?
  2. What is my firm saying? Do I agree or disagree (in whole or in part)?
  3. What is the consensus? Are we an outlier?
  4. What are the key indicators I need to be paying attention to?
  5. How will I know if our call is right? How will I know if it is wrong?
  6. If we are right, what are my top 3-5 best ways to implement that call? How about if we are wrong?
  7. Can I articulate the rationale for each of them?
  8. Do I have some go-to reports or articles that I can use to support our position?
  9. If we are right, what are the 5-10 products or strategies that will underperform and investors should consider selling/reducing? Can I articulate the rationale for each of them?
  10. If we are right, will some of our products be out of favor? Where are our biggest exposures? How can I be sure to proactively engage with those advisers and clients?
  11. If we are wrong, what are the product implications? Am I prepared to discuss?
  12. If rates remain low, what higher-income solutions can I suggest?
  13. If rates move higher quickly, which of my advisers/clients will react by freezing or withdrawing? Which will see it as an opportunity and take action?
  14. Have my products been affected by the changes in secondary market liquidity? Are there specific liquidity-related risks or opportunities that I need to be able to articulate?
  15. If there is rotation out of one of my products, is there an in-family alternative product available?


  1. How well is my firm (and my clients) positioned competitively?
  2. What are my strongest, most competitive products or resources? How can I increase my use of them?
  3. What firm(s) or product(s) am I most concerned about?
  4. Against which competitor (product or firm) am I most confident? (And can I explain why?)
  5. Am I aware of new products / strategies / competitors coming into my space this year?


  1. Do we have self-serve clients who could benefit from additional engagement?
  2. What can I do to help clients be prepared for year-end portfolio reviews?


If you are doing your thinking at the beach or by the water, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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Summer Thinking List

Income Investor Perspectives

Originally posted July 7, 2015. Updated with Part 2 on July 24, 2015.

The opinions expressed and the information contained herein is based on sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy or appropriateness is not guaranteed. Past performance is interesting but is not a guarantee of future results. The author does not provide investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Nothing in here should be construed as an investment recommendation. Investors should consult with their own advisor and fully understand their own situation when considering changes to their strategy, tactics or individual investments. Investments in bonds are subject to gains/losses based on the level of interest rates, market conditions and credit quality of the issuer. Additional information available upon request.

©2015 Patrick F. Luby

All Rights Reserved.