It's hard to imagine there are many folks who were sad to see 2008 come to an end. It was a year that is likely to leave some scars in client psyches and spawn some cold, hard reappraisals among advisors. They are hardly alone.
In 2006, I was shocked upon hearing the former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan call hedge funds and private equity the investment vehicles of the 21st century. In recent months, many hedge funds have morphed into roach motels, while some private equity firms are playing a two-way game of chicken with both their bankers and backers. There's something to be said for plain, boring mutual funds, starting with their transparency.
The underlying lack of liquidity suffered by the more complicated instruments calls into question the whole endowment investment model some advisors have been trying to replicate. My guess here is that the folks at Harvard University's endowment fund, forced to sell $8 billion worth of bonds because their assets are trapped, are rethinking that model as well.
There's another troubling aspect to alternative investing. After overhearing the conversations of well-heeled people in recent years about hedge fund managers, I'm taken all the way back to fifth grade, when I listened to eighth graders talk about who was with the "in crowd" and who wasn't. Then as now, I knew where I stood. But affluent investors, behaving like self-conscious teenagers, are discovering the downside of investing with the In Crowd.
For advisors, this is an opportunity on many fronts. A recent survey by TD Ameritrade and Opinion Research Corp. finds that 92% of Americans want independent advice. They are also saving more and spending less, as the stream of economic statistics reveals every month.
The bear market of 2008 was savage, but it has also caused clients to become more realistic about their investments. It's also a chance for advisors to reassess their business models and their approach to clients. Several smart advisors I know are rethinking their habit of acting as benevolent dictators who use tough love to help clients achieve their goals and instead starting to listen a little more closely to the clients' fears.
Here at Financial Advisor, we're happy to walk you through some of these subjects with an issue we hope stimulates your thinking. I think it's one of the best we've ever produced.
Read Ray Fazzi's cover story on Page 70, and find out what some of your sharpest colleagues are saying about the aforementioned issues. On Page 28, Andy Gluck interviews Vanguard's Fran Kinniry about putting the equity market's dismal decade in perspective for your clients. Now more than ever, both you and your clients need a road map to reach your goals, and Bill Bachrach expertly details how to design such a map on Page 39. Rebecca Pomering tells you how to turn turbulence into opportunity on Page 35, while Eric Rasmussen dispels a few myths about breakaway brokers on Page 50-more wirehouse reps are choosing to take upfront money and jump firms rather than start independent businesses in this environment-and Jeff Schlegel examines the changing face of value investing on Page 74.
Space prevents me from mentioning many other excellent articles, but Dick Wagner's Parting Shot column on Page 104 about reconsidering the fundamental role of an advisor in the wake of the recent unpleasantness is a must-read.
Finally, look for some exciting changes in 2009 at our Web site, skillfully re-engineered by managing editor Dorothy Hinchcliff, Web designer Keith Huryk, online sales director Karen Burke and creative director Laura Zavetz. Please visit www.fa-mag.com to see our expanded site and offer your input.