"When you prepare and address for possible outcomes, advisors are more comfortable having those conversations," Altfest says.

Altfest's firm implemented its referral program in May 2009. So far, he says, they've seen an incremental uptick in their referral rate and they expect better results going forward. "I think a big success has been getting advisors to actually ask the question and getting more involved in client acquisition," he notes Altfest says maintaining a regular schedule of client events is another good way to generate referrals. "Clients bring friends to these events, and our advisors are making sure they spend time with those friends," Altfest says.

Some advisors say they've gotten push-back from clients when they're asked for referrals because they fear dilution of service. "That's a legitimate concern," Hart says. He suggests advisors address the issue upfront. "For clients to get on board, firms must show they're staying ahead of the curve by making sure they have the staff and systems in place to maintain the same level of client service. Otherwise, it will demotivate clients to refer."

Piqued By Peak Oil
The concept of "Peak Oil" (i.e. the world has depleted more than half of its oil reserves, and production will dwindle going forward) has its supporters and detractors, but speakers at last month's Inside Commodities conference at the New York Stock Exchange firmly came down on the "peak" side.

Charles Maxwell, senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co., said a dozen leading non-OPEC producers have passed their peak, and they represent almost 60% of non-OPEC production. The list includes Russia, the U.S., Mexico, the U.K. and Norway.

The picture doesn't look too promising among OPEC nations, either. "The Saudis believe OPEC overstates the amount of its reserves," said Candice Beaumont, managing director at Lifschultz Investments, a family office with large energy positions in both public and private companies. She says Saudi Arabia's largest oil field, Ghawar, along with six giant fields in Iran, two super giant fields in Iraq, and general production in Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and Oman, are all in decline.

So, what are an oil-thirsty world-and energy investors, for that matter--to do? The time of "easy oil" is past even as global demand increases, Beaumont said. That's why nations such as Saudi Arabia are already looking to develop their heavy oil reserves, which is why she believes that country's light-oil fields are in decline.

And investors looking to cash in on this trend should turn to Canada, the Saudi Arabia of heavy oil thanks to its Athabasca tar sands reserves. "There are many companies operating there with 20 to 30 years of incremental growth ahead of them," Maxwell said. "Those will be the stars of the new energy era we're coming into."

Among his top choices are Suncor Energy and Cenovus Energy because of their hefty exposure to the tar sands region. Others that he named as tar sands plays--such as Shell Canada, Marathon and Conoco Phillips--have less exposure.

Morningstar Names Top 529 Plans
529 college-savings plans have come a long way, baby, but they're still a work in progress, according to research from Morningstar Inc. In a report issued this fall by Laura Pavlenko Lutton, an editorial director in the company's fund research group, Morningstar said 30 of the nation's 82 plans have cut fees. Additionally, some states have scotched unsuccessful plan options. That said, Lutton wrote, fees at many plans remain high and some of the investment choices aren't best of class.

First « 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 » Next