Rarely has the old Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times, been more relevant than it is today. The confluence of events that has roiled the global financial markets and the advisory profession in the last few months has been downright serendipitous. Maybe not quite like the perfect storm of 2000 and 2001, but close indeed.
It is more than a little ironic that our most popular writer, Nick Murray, a confirmed skeptic about the value of market timing, came very close to making a market call in last month‚s issue about the commodities bubble that proved uncommonly propitious. At about the same time as our June issue started arriving in mailboxes in late May with Nick‚s article featured, commodity prices around the world began crumbling like bamboo skyscrapers.
When the tide goes out to sea, some boats adapt better than others. The downturn in U.S. stock prices, for example, was relatively minor when contrasted against markets like Japan, Russia, Brazil and India.
Despite all the hand-wringing about U.S. debt, much of it justified, the U.S. dollar suddenly seemed like a safe port in the storm. What seems to be a mutual decision by the world‚s central banks to take excess liquidity out of the system was long overdue, but it‚s not clear all the ramifications can be contained.
If they can, then the Fed can achieve its goal of a soft landing a la 1994. The rest of the world, particularly emerging markets, is not likely to be so lucky. Then again, the U.S. markets haven‚t exhibited the same kind of sizzling appreciation as many others, so they are a lot less vulnerable.
Turning to the advisory business, another near-perfect storm seems to be gathering as the CFP Board of Governors prepares to issue practice standards. As always when it comes to this issue, the debate is likely to boil down to one over standards versus numbers of CFP licensees. If past debates are any indication, this one could get acrimonious.
Further enlivening CFP Board issues was the recent appearance of its executive director, Sarah Teslik, on Nightline (see page 26). Teslik raised eyebrows in the profession by suggesting that one way to encourage savings might be to create some form of national savings accounts that set aside a tiny fraction of savers‚ accounts for a Lotto-like pool with a winner or winners every year.
Even more provocative was her suggestion that there was a possibility that medicines could be developed to encourage people to avoid excessive debt and save more. At first, it sounded outlandish, but apparently there are serious scientists in academia exploring the potential of such behavior modification drugs.
Many are wondering whatever happened to old-fashioned personal responsibility. But who knows, maybe someone will invent a pill to end spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos.
Finally, in this issue, we present our first annual ranking of leading RIA firms. This was a massive undertaking, but it‚s also something I‚ve wanted to do for years. We wouldn‚t have been able to do it without Managing Editor Dorothy Hinchcliff; Bob Casey, former Bloomberg Wealth Manager editor; and the folks at Discovery, particularly Nick Stuller, J.D. Martino and Ryan Larkin.
This year we chose to rank firms in different size ranges by their growth rates. The survey is meant to provide you with competitive intelligence, not to provide consumers with recommendations on who provides quality advice. If you have any suggestions on topics you would like to see in future surveys, please e-mail me at [email protected].

Evan Simonoff