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Find out what advisors really want: “Straight from the horse’s mouth”

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Read the transcript and Q&A below:

RIA firms have traditionally had droves of wholesalers knocking at their doors, but not last year. How has that changed where and how they get their information? And what is it that will really influence them to add your fund to their portfolios? We’ll find out in our interview with two practicing financial advisors.

Alan F. Delcorse, Founder, CEO, CIO, Equilibrium Wealth Management
Rob Barker, Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor at Wells Fargo Private Bank
Marilyn Dale, SunStar Strategic  | moderator

Transcript and Q&A

I’d like to welcome everybody who’s listening to our panel on what advisers really want from fund companies. We know that you all spend a significant amount of time and money marketing your ETFs and your mutual funds, but it can be really hard to break through to an RAA who’s already got a stable of funds that they are happy with or even to a larger company that might have a research department, due diligence and so on, where they’re putting out lists and making recommendations. And you want to know how can you break through and really talk to those advisers as well, and have them turn around and ask research to look – take a better look at you.

So, today, we’re really going to focus on those points. What can you do as a fund company? What can you do that’s effective to ensure that advisers figure out who you are, get to know your funds, get to know what you think, and what your products are. So I’m Marilyn Dale. I’m the director of creative services for Sunstar Strategic for about ten years, and a long career in financial services before that. And I have two gentlemen joining me, Al Decorse and Rob Barker.

 

Marilyn Dale:
Thanks guys so much guys joining us today. I’d like both of you to introduce yourself. So Al, we’re gonna start with you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Al Decorse: 
All right. I will do that. As it turns out, I’ve been in the investment industry now for over 38 years having started with Merrill Lynch back in 1982. So a long time in the industry at Merrill Lynch. I was a financial consultant. I was also the head of the senior manager of their business financial services unit in Chicago. I think my most dedicated position of representing a firm over the years was my experience with Calamos Investments.

I spent ten years with Calamos Investments, where, Marilyn, you and I worked at one time. And I had the opportunity of calling on the major firms. At that time was Merrill Lynch, and Smith Barney, Prudential, and UBS. And at one point in time, I was a national sales manager at Calamos Investments. And when I left, I was the director of institutional sales. A little bit more on the wholesaling side of the coin is that after Calamos, I went to Man Investments out of London. Man Investments, at that point in time, was the world’s largest provider of alternative investments specializing in managed futures and hedged funds and structured products.

And then in 2013, I started my firm Equilibrium Wealth Management. And it’s been exciting because it’s given me an opportunity to take all those years of experience and put it together so that I can provide institutional-like portfolios for our client base. My son Jeff just recently joined the firm after having 15 years of experience in the industry. So he’s an integral part of my succession plan.

Marilyn Dale:
Very good. Thank you, Al. Rob, tell us about yourself and your practice.

Rob Barker:
Thanks, Marilyn. I didn’t think I’d feel like a rookie, but the listening to Al, I think I’m a rookie. I’ve been at it 25 years, almost 25 years this fall. I started all in the financial advising world. I started with the Delhi investments. Went through that for a handful or years. Went to grad school. Got an MBA. Came out. Worked for Goldman Sachs for another handful of years.

And I’ve been a wealth adviser with Wells Fargo now for almost 15 years. So there’s the – that’s the private side of it. My book is about 850 million. I’ve got about 51 clients/families that we serve. That’s where I’ve been. Not near as robust, Al, as you. But I’ll give it my best.

Marilyn Dale:
Thanks, Rob. I’m sure you’ll do – you’re doing just terrific. Just a reminder to the audience, we do have to Q&A available after. We’ll after the session, but if you can enter questions at any time, that’d be great. Also I think there were a few advisers that signed up. If you have some comments as we ask the questions that you’d like to share, I’d be happy to share those with the group as well, so put those in. Okay. So let’s start with each of you telling us what’s your biggest challenge day-to-day, and is there anything that fund managers can do to help? Al, you want to jump in?

Al Decorse:
Yeah. I would say the biggest thing on the top of my mind is asset allocation. I’m always thoughtful about do I have the right asset allocation for each level of risk that I have for my client portfolios. I’ve always thought that asset allocation is the biggest part of the biggest part of the pie. And we spend a lot of time looking at asset allocation. And with my background, you know, we go beyond stocks, bonds, and cash. So we include a category that I created called defensive growth, and also the area of alternatives.

In our defensive growth category, we manage convertible securities, and we buy right funds. So asset allocation is important, and we make it a little bit more complicated than most advisors do. So I would say that if they fund manager has a way of helping an adviser with asset allocation, creating the efficient frontier of their portfolio, telling the value added of investments, it would be helpful. And it’s always helpful to get a portfolio review by fund managers. It’s just kind of an outside review of what we’re doing internally.

The other thing is that when we look at our portfolios, and again, as part of asset allocation, we look at tilting towards different sectors. So today we’re looking at technology and innovation in healthcare and commodities where firms have an expertise in the sector allocation, and they bring to the table good information about the pros and cons of each sector, especially relatively speaking. I think that can be helpful to a firm.

Marilyn Dale:
Terrific. Let me ask you one question on the asset allocation. When you say you’d like a fund manager to help you review, are you talking client-by-client? Are you talking about a model portfolio? How deep are you going?

Al Decorse:
That’s a great question. So we have built models. And every so often, there are firms that have, you know, the zephyr capability, etcetera. We have our own internal review and analysis. We have our own internal program. But I like every so often for a firm to take my model and show me what they think it’s about.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Great.

Al Decorse:
But it is helpful.

Marilyn Dale:
Excellent. Thanks, Al. Bob, how about you, what’s challenging for you?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, lately, we seem like we’ve had our fair share of challenges, right, as a world. But I think the things that challenge me most in advisers I work with most; time management. Making sure that the time is being used efficiently both with client contact and research study, creating portfolios as Al has mentioned. I think other thing that makes – that keeps us up and keeps us on our toes is being relevant. Right now, there’s information overload. You can get as much information as you want.

Some of it filtered through news channels, some of it unfiltered through just individual research. And making sure that between those two things, that we are talking specifically to clients’ needs, wants, goals, aspirations in a way that resonates with them. That’s our biggest challenge every day is making sure that we deliver on those aspects of being relevant and doing in a way that doesn’t take us, you know, 12 hours a day.

Marilyn Dale:
So Rob, when you say being relevant, are you saying having information at your fingertips that is useful to me, personally, versus Al personally. Is that what you mean by that, or –?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, so in practice with my clients, everyone’s a little bit different. Everyone has a little bit different objective. Everyone has a little bit different way to go about achieving their goals. And as the adviser, what we’re trying to do is make sure that all the information we can gather, we can filter for you, and give you something that’s meaningful to you rather than a broad base, “Hey, by the way, here’s what the markets did.” That might be meaningful to everybody, but what’s most meaningful to you as one of our clients and as an individual, as your family, and as it relates to the goal we’re trying to achieve together.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Does that kind of take us down the path of are you looking for educational materials for these clients or market economy, you know, what’s happening out there today?

Rob Barker:
Absolutely. Nailed it. That’s exactly what it is, is we look for ideas. You know, I think more and more, we’re paid for advice and ideas are what helps us stay relevant. And so we look to these clients, is there something new out there? Have we missed something? Research coming out, we just had a segment before us about kind of new and different products coming to the market. And how do we incorporate them? Can we incorporate them? I think there’s a whole gap there that is filled by the mutual fund industry, wholesalers to come meet with us to say, well, I have an idea. And that’s the problem we try to solve by staying relevant. Did that idea resonate with me first, and which clients are in my mind that we’ll use that idea?

Rob Barker:
Okay.

Al Decorse:
And Marilyn, can I add to this one please?

Marilyn Dale:
Sure.

Al Decorse:
It’s interesting. I had a client about four or years ago that was doing some reading, and he was looking at how terrible the world is in terms of clean water. So we had a nice conversation about it. And he said, “Is there any way that I can monetize this? Is there any kind of fund that you have that will address this topic?” So I looked around and I looked around, and I did find one of the family’s, fund families that I work with that had a water fund.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay.

Al Decorse:
And so it was really interesting to Rob’s point about the client bringing ideas to us if we follow-up on it. And, today, I think I have every one of my clients in that fund.

Marilyn Dale:
Oh, interesting. Yeah. That’s probably good. You feel heard as the investor.

Al Decorse:
Right. Right.

Marilyn Dale:
And that trust grow even larger. Well, you guys gave me a great segue here even though we didn’t rehearse. And the segue is how often do you look for a new product to add, a new fund? What’s the trigger? What makes – obviously, you just shared one trigger with us. A client walks in and says, “I want this area or whatever.” What else? What are the triggers?

Rob Barker:
Sorry, Al. I think in my practice, we’re always looking for a new idea. We’re always looking to improve what we’ve done. I don’t think there’s a way for us to say, “Hey, this our spot. We’ve got it.” Here’s our allocation to small cap. It’s the best one ever in the whole world that has been and ever will be. So we’re not even taking interest on that segment of our allocation. For us, it’s about continual improvement work for me and my team, and having resources come to us, mutual funds, ETFs, people coming to us and saying, “Hey, you’re missing something here,” or, “Have you thought about X, Y, Z?”

Whatever that piece is, it keeps us, as advisors, on our toes. It make sure that what we’re presenting to clients is the latest and greatest. It helps us forward look of what might be coming down the road in that segment, and it helps us prepare. So I don’t think there’s a specific trigger per se. Now and again, a market might cause us to rethink, you know, what we’re doing, or a trend even worse. You know, if it’s not just an event, but it’s a trend. That’ll heighten the awareness. But I think for most advisers, we’re all very interested in being up-to-date and informed on what the next best ideas are.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Al, would you add anything to that?

Al Decorse:
Yeah, I would say that when we think about the fund company, I think it’s really one of their biggest challenges is to break into the roster of advisors that have, you know, their favorite families of funds. I like to work with larger families of funds because I like the fact that they have maybe two or three solutions within that family that I can select from. They don’t always have the best ideas everywhere, but there’s probably two or three within the large family of funds. And I like working with a selected group of their representatives. So I’d like to I’d like to just kind of keep it simple.

But then with that being said, you know, with my background in alternative investments, I do have unique needs that many of the boutique firms fill. So I’ve had to go and look for companies that can do managed futures in a good fashion, hedge funds, the commodity asset class, etcetera. So I think it’s that combination of working with larger families and having them in our meetings, bring ideas, as Rob mentioned, but then trying to focus on those unique ideas and going elsewhere.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Great. So as you’re looking for these ideas, these new funds that you might consider, what is it that attracts to them? What would be the important features that you’re gonna kind of hang your hat on as a starting point and then as you dig deeper?

Al Decorse:
You know, I would say in looking at a fund, I think we look at consistent performance, manager tenure, and most importantly a fund that’s been true to their investment philosophy.

Marilyn Dale:
Hmm. Mm-hmm.

Al Decorse:
So, you know, if I think about convertible securities as an example, you can manage convertible securities like bonds. You can manage convertible securities like equity, our preference is to find that fund that manages in that total return area. So, you know, I look to make sure that these funds are consistent with their investments philosophy because I want them to perform the way I expect them to perform.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Right. Right. And Rob, would you agree? I heard management tenure. I heard philosophy.

Rob Barker:
Absolutely. We look for expense ratios. I’m sure Al does the same. And turnover. How often does that fund turn over from a taxable standpoint? We kind of want to have an idea of what’s happening with that fund. I think there’s some other things, maybe some less quantitative things we look for. ESG is real popular right now. Environment social governance. That’s something that we’ve been really look into. The summit group that I work with, very big on ESG. And that’s become more and more in the spotlight, and I think more and more funds are in that space. I think that’s a good thing.

The other thing that comes down to, a lot of times, because you’ll get several funds or fund families that are pretty close. Right? They’re very similar is far as numbers go, and performance goes, and tenure goes. And some of these great things that Al was mentioning. And then the question for me is, well, how do you decide between two, you know, really good options. And usually what pushes it over for us is our personal relationship with the wholesaler, with the fund company, or access to information and people in that company.

You know, if it’s a big client and we want to get the fund manager on the line, well, if the companies too big, that might be kind of hard. But sometimes some of these smaller boutique firms Al mentioned, you can actually have that person talk with the client or present, and I found that to be very powerful. So it’s more of the qualitative side combined with that quantitative piece that helps us make that close decision.

Marilyn Dale:
So real quick on this one. On the last two funds or so that you added, can you tell me about how long that was ago, you know, was it two years ago, 20 years ago, two months ago? How did it come to your attention? Were you out looking? Was it research? Third party rankings? See them in the news? Al?

Al Decorse:
Yeah, I would say it was the good old-fashioned way where the funds representative was sitting in my office and we started talking.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Al Decorse:
He was asking me, you know, what changes I was making in the portfolio. And the last one that I have to think about, I was saying that I’m looking for a SMID. Half mid cap, part small cap. And he says, “Oh, by the way, we’ve got a great SMID manager within our family.” I took a look at it, and it was actually a very good fund. It performed well. Compared well. And to Rob’s point, you know, you appreciate the fact that somebody brought you that idea or brought you that solution in the conversation.

The only other – the other fund I have in mind is one that we had a conversation in my office with fund representative. We were talking about technology and innovation. And he said, “Oh, by the way, we’ve got a fund and it’s been around for 20 years. I never knew about it. But it was exactly the fund that I wanted and it helped me diversify my large cap growth allocation.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Al Decorse:
So old-fashioned way, I’d say.

Marilyn Dale:
Right. Right. Although you’re talking about larger companies that have the wherewithal to be sending representatives to your office. What’s a smaller fund going to do? How would you uncover any of those or does that just not [crosstalk]?

Al Decorse:
No, I think that’s the challenge. I get e-mails all the time, you know, and that’s the challenge of small companies trying to break into the roster. And it’s tough. But, again, if there’s a unique need that I have, maybe there is a smaller company that fills that void for me so that would be the opportunity. Okay. How about you, Rob?

Rob Barker:
I would agree with Al. A lot of times, it’s the person that sits in front of you. The one thing is relating to the small piece that Al was just referring to is you can be relevant without being in person. Right? So the boutique piece that Al is talking about, if he’s getting a ton of e-mails, and the e-mails are uncreative, and unoriginal, and they immediately get the delete box, then they’re not going to do anything. But if they’re able to generate an idea or thought with Al, then it may not immediate. It may not be an immediate need, but it will stick. And if you can find something that sticks with an adviser, they’ll come back to it.

So I remember when I got this from Rob Barker, and let me call them on this. And so I think there’s something about being consistent even if you’re not in the office, and being consistent providing an idea to the actual adviser. Right? If it gets to Al’s secretary, that’s great. And she may pass something along. But most of that probably isn’t gonna get passed along. It has to go to the person making the decision to have the most impact on.

And I think that gives the small companies, technology has really helped the small company that’s managing expenses get more exposure. They’re a lot of – we heard earlier about the online delivery channels. Right? Social media that you can go through, that you can talk about that helps get you present. But really I think it’s that connection that closes the sale.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. I’ve got some social media questions coming up, but let me ask you this first. Rob, you just kind of referred to you want to see some creativity. You want to see an idea that you’re going to remember a couple weeks down the line. Can you give us any examples of things that caught your attention?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, we had that we had a group here deliver us cupcakes via a drone.

Rob Barker:
Who would have thought. Right? I mean, and at first I thought, wow, I mean that was kind of interesting. Very creative. Very original. I mean it was when we were in the office so that that dates a little. But it stuck. It actually stuck with us. And I think the other thing, and tag team on your previous presenters, is some of the merch. Some of the swag that companies have. I don’t know how many golf towels, I have, right, or have received. Probably – I mean, they’re okay, but I don’t know that they’re that meaningful. But there are other things that companies. I think one gave us a charger, a portable charger for your phone.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay.

Rob Barker:
One year, like we had a guy give us a hammock. And it was random, but it was unique.

Marilyn Dale:
Right. Right. So you’re saying traditional marketing really is what I’m kind of hearing. So something you’re going to be remember and put on your desk.

Rob Barker:
Thoughtful and unique, and a little message that goes with it. “Thinking about you. Hope you get some time to string this up between two trees and relax this weekend.”

Marilyn Dale:
Al, anything beyond _____ that has been a good hook that you’ve seen in an e-mail or –?

Al Decorse:
Something that we used to do at Calamos, and I still appreciate it now, is sending out postcards with an quick idea on the front and the back. You know, we want to open up envelopes. We don’t want to look at through things. But if you see a postcard that comes in. It has a very clear message on the front, some detail on the back, I think that’s a great way of getting in front of people and creating maybe that unique aspect that Rob was mentioning.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. All right. So does that segue to my – did you have something, Rob?

Rob Barker:
I was going to say there’s a great book right now called Blue Fishing. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. But it’s a book about these creative ways to get in front of people. And when Al mention postcards, that’s exactly what the author talked about. He was on vacation. Send a postcard: “Just thinking of ya.” Dropped it in the mail. “Let’s talk when you get back.”  And it just keeps you present in the mind of the adviser.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Blue Fishing, like B-L-U-E?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, like one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Marilyn Dale:
I know that one. [Laughter]

Rob Barker:
Blue Fishing.

Marilyn Dale:
All right. Well, that again rolls right into our next question is when companies do communicate with you, and let’s go beyond, that’s kind of branding, I think, what we’ve been talking about and a couple of ideas. But there’s so much more that they put out. I’d kind of your brain of which are the “gotta do its” and which are the I wish we wouldn’t bother. And things like websites, education, stories about fund holdings, commentaries, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I’ve got a list that goes all the way from A to R. So what comes to mind is the most valuable kind of content a company can provide for you. Al?

Al Decorse:
You know, in that regard, I would say I really like to get on the Zoom calls that companies provide when they talk about the economy and the markets. You know, I’m with LPL, and they do a great job with that, but I always like to hear from other firms because there are some fantastic communicators out there that talk about the economy, that talk about the markets. And I’ve got one in mind. Every time he’s on, I’m listening. And, you know, it’s from a larger firm, and they also have the resources to provide statistics on the markets and the economy, and all of that. And they keep it updated all the time. So I like that a lot when a first provides me with that kind of service.

Marilyn Dale:
So that one that you always listen to, what is it that you – that really attracts you to them, makes you [crosstalk]?

Al Decorse:
I think it’s the experience of the economist, the way he communicates. And there’s not a lot of selling that goes into that. I mean they may mention one of their funds here or there, but the whole idea is on a consistent basis, hearing about the economy, about the markets from somebody that I respect.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. And Rob, how about you?

Rob Barker:
Yeah. I always like to get more information. And when Al was talking, I thought one of the characteristics that I always look for and hope to have in myself is curiosity, where we’re always curious. We always want to be learning and growing and advancing. And so what the company can do, like Al said, is give you those opportunities to learn, become better, get a new idea. Like I mentioned it several times. It’s kind of a theme for me. But that Zoom call is a great one.

One thing I like, I was with the company the other day, in fact, I’ve got their – it was a Pack Life guy that came to visit me. There was a Pack Life meeting. But he gave me a really good one-pager. It was it something I could put in front of clients. It was already client improved. It about dividends, you know. And with inflation and things going on, it’s becoming more of a conversation. And so what I really like is for whatever fund or multiple funds, like most companies, they have, you know, a lineup of funds, but there’s an easy to read, very well-designed one pager. Not just a one pager that’s designed for an engineer.

You know, it’s so technical and small that you get out your glasses and a white board and you try to read it, but the one that has is well-designed for a client. And I found what a great time that’s been when I had a need and I had one of those with me that I could slide across the table to the client and say what we’re talking about, I think this fits. And the client, again, doesn’t need to have the CFA. He doesn’t need to be securities licensed with decades of experience to get it. And those are meaningful and they’re simple, and I think most companies have them.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Al Decorse:
And, Marilyn, in that same regard, I’d like to reiterate something that Rob said before because we’re talking about communications from the fund families. I always like when I have the opportunity of talking to either the portfolio manager or at least the portfolio specialist. You know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the portfolio manager. But if the outside representative can schedule a call where I can talk to either a portfolio manager, portfolio specialist, you just get those insights ideas from them about how they’re managing the portfolio, what’s going on with the marketplace, etcetera, that’s also a very big help.

Marilyn Dale:
Mm-hmm. And Rob, I see you shaking your head in agreement. Is that –?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, I hundred percent agree, and it took me back to earlier in our segment here where a lot of times if a new company comes to me, and all it is business, business, business, business, I don’t know that they’re listening to me. Right? I don’t know that they’ve heard what we’re after. You know, I look for some of those companies to come in, e-mail, social media, or in-person on a Zoom, and say, “Hey, Rob, what is,” kind of like you led the call off, Marilyn, “what is your biggest struggle? What part is your biggest struggle?”

And let them help discover where they can be valuable. And I think in that process, you build a relationship that’s not here’s my numbers, use me, but it’s here’s three or four reasons why this fits to the problem you’re trying to solve.

Marilyn Dale:
Mm-hmm. So very custom approach.

Rob Barker:
Mm-hmm.

Marilyn Dale:
What do you generally think about podcasts and videos, how helpful are those?

Al Decorse:
Rob, maybe you should take this because I’m not the podcast guy. [Laughter]  

Rob Barker:
So, again, I like them, but I think to broadcast a podcast. There’s some inherent risks there because then if you do it too often, you become noise. You become what is –. And so I think you have to be consistent on your strategy if you’re going to do podcasting. If you’re doing it every day, or every other day, or every week. Now maybe they’re a little different. But I think Al and I would be like, “Well, we’ll get to you when we get to you,” or, “What topic are you talking about this week? I’m not gonna dial in every week.” 

And so I think if you’re doing some of those are more online newer forms of marketing, you still have to make sure that content is key. And don’t do it so often that you become part of the financial news noise because I’m sure when Al puts out the journal like I do, one day it’s, “Hey, all signs are pointing north, and the next day, we’re down 900 points by midday.” You know, so we want to avoid that. I think a lot of time with our clients and getting clients on podcasts as well, it is what can we do to minimize the noise and the drama.

It may not even be the best return that wins, but it’s the least dramatic fund. Right? It’s one that fits in there and it doesn’t cause me, as the advisor, any harm. I’m confident in what I’ve got there. It fits the space. And it’s not necessary just chasing that big return. But those type of things, the podcast, the information sharing, and back to where I started my biggest concern is being relevant.

Marilyn Dale:
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Okay. Okay. So in terms of these newer – continuing on that vein of that new ways of marketing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etcetera. Do you participate? Not participate? Now I’m wondering what your answer could be. [Laughter]  

Al Decorse:
Yeah, we have a Facebook page that I never bother with. And we’re on LinkedIn. And with my son joining, we’re going to be updating that in a better fashion. But and to my son, you know, at 36 years old, that’s a much more important way of communicating. And especially for his age group. So, you know, we’ll be doing more and more of that. And least we have the basics down.

Marilyn Dale:
So that was my next question, do you think that you will begin, maybe in your case, Al, you’ll begin to use that prospect for younger potential prospects, or –?

Al Decorse:
Yeah. I think so I think that’s one of the advantages. I leave it up to my son and how we want to do that. But I do think there’s advantages to doing that, and we’ll be using it more and more now.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Rob, do you pay attention to the social media.

Rob Barker:
Yeah, I think it’s a kind of a hurdle that we all have to clear. I don’t know that it closes a lot of business as far as prospecting goes, but where we use it is for research. If we know of a prospect, can we use the connection of Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter, and all the different social outlets to find out what they’re interested in, and where they go, and what circles they’re in, and you know, do they give charitably? And you can really create a prospect profile using those tools.

Marilyn Dale:
So from the perspective of our listeners today, though, the fund companies, if they are posting regular content, is that something that could be of interest to you if you’re going to be there anyway? I know, Al, you’re not really, you know, you [crosstalk]. Rob, maybe you want to take that.

Rob Barker:
Yeah. We’re there anyway. But it’ll go back to I think you have to be there, but I don’t think you expect big things, big returns from your daily LinkedIn post. Right? You’re just being there to make sure that you’re being seen. It’s not the tool that gets you in the door initially. I think it’s, like I say, it’s a hurdle we all have to jump over. We all want to be there. But when it when it comes to the companies we’re talking to getting through to the adviser, LinkedIn may have a hit, but I don’t know that it’s the most effective use of like marketing dollars if you’re gonna put it there. I like the podcasting. You know, different pieces like that, for me personally, better than a LinkedIn. Some of that becomes what I just referred to as noise.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Rob Barker:
Because you have 15, or 20, or 30, or 100 people posting those. And by the time we’re through our day and trying to manage our time, it’s hard to even want to sift through them.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay. Well, I’m certainly picking up from both of you, and it makes complete sense that your relationship people both in working with your own clients and in being a client of these fund companies. So that all is very consistent. Let’s turn to our questions. We do have some from our listeners, and so why don’t we grab a couple of those for the last few minutes here, and let’s start with this one. How about you Al first. Okay?

Al Decorse:
Okay.

Marilyn Dale:
You did mention you like if you can get a wholesaler or a manager to review some of your portfolios and to offer ideas for individual clients. How about actually having meetings with individual clients, would you like a portfolio manager or a portfolio specialist, as you said, available to talk to your clients one-on-one or in groups?

Al Decorse:
You know, that’s a real good point because I do like having quality people in front of my clients. And, you know, we still do seminars. In the last eight years now, we’ve done some 34 seminars. So I do like when we can get either of the outside representative or portfolio manager that will come and present educational seminars to our clients. And from the fund manager’s viewpoint, and I remember this at Calamos. As national sales manager, I would say the best way – the best approach to take is to be in front of the end users, the end clients because you’re clearly telling the story.

And there’s two things that can happen is you can get that client so excited about your product that they’ll want to buy it. They’ll go to the adviser and say, “Hey, we need to do this.” And a second thing is every time you the story or present the story as a fund manager, you are reinforcing what that adviser knows about you as a firm and about your products. So it’s a twofold approach on the fund manager’s side, I think it’s a win-win.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. And on these meetings, just as a as an add-on there, it says, “Are you expecting the manager to foot the bill for dinner or something to that effect?”

Al Decorse:
Under the rules and regulations, they typically do. And we appreciate that. We’ll do a seminar. We might offer a lunch. We might do a breakfast on a Saturday morning. We always keep it reasonable. But, yes, we do look for that to happen.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Rob, how about you? Thoughts on that idea?

Rob Barker:
Yeah, I like listening to the fund managers and I like my team listening to the fund managers. And we kind of have to prescreen them before we put it in front of a client or a group of clients like Al was talking about. Because most of these people are super bright. Right? They’re really just genius in their field. And they really know not just the details of the forest from the tree, but the individual tree bark and the organisms living within the bark.

[Laughter]

They really know their stuff. And sometimes I call it, not to be offensive, I say, “You’re going nerd on my clients.” Right? “You’re talking about things that are so detailed that you’ll lose them.” And so I like to vet them before we put it in front of a seminar, kind of like Al was talking about. Because I don’t want to discount their expertise at all, and I want to create champions through that seminar process, where they go, “Oh my goodness. I just heard this guy or this lady tell me these three things. That’s impressive.”

And I think if you get too many of those things, the impressive details that they wash. So we like using – we like having that usually we like having that access. And maybe it’s you bring their – one of the wholesalers will talk to us, usually really good with people, really good at presenting, and then they have the fund manager to kind of back up for Q&A, or, you know, some technical questions that come up.

Marilyn Dale:
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Al Decorse:
Yeah. Good point.

Marilyn Dale:
Great. Is there anything a fund company could do that’ll turn you off? Too much information?

Rob Barker:
Yep.

Marilyn Dale:
Too many e-mails?

Rob Barker:
Oh, easy for me. I’ll jump in.

Al Decorse:
Yeah. No, go ahead.

Rob Barker:
Don’t respond to me.

Marilyn Dale:
Oh. Mm-hmm.

Rob Barker:
If you don’t respond, so it it’s a hard game because they’re e-mailing me 100 times, and I’m e-mailing them once. And 50 of the 100, or 75 of the 100, I didn’t respond. And so it’s a little disingenuous, but it is really how we feel is that hold on a second, you’re coming after – if I send a question out, and I don’t get a response, or whoever answers the phone doesn’t know what they’re talking about, that’s a nail in the coffin for me. If there’s just too many choices for us willing to answer the phone and be responsive and timely, that non-responsive, they’re out.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Al Decorse:
And I would agree with that. And I would say sometimes if you are the target of a fund family that wants to work with you, sometimes too much persistence can be overwhelming, and that’s a turnoff.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Okay.

Al Decorse:
Too many attempts at meetings, or too many meetings, or too many, you know, calls, or what have you. It can certainly be a turnoff.

Marilyn Dale:
Yeah. Don’t bug me. Got it.

Rob Barker:
You know, there’s some arc to the bug though, right? It’s just not just science. If all of a sudden you get, you say to Al, “Hey, I would really love to work with ya,” and then you disappear. Al will say, “Well, golly, he really didn’t want to work with me that bad.”

Al Decorse:
Right. Yeah.

Rob Barker:
And so you’ve gotta balance the I’m a bulldog, you know, and I’m a lab at the same time trying to chase ya and be your friend. And so you really have to balance the art of the chase for a new adviser and kind of take their temperature. And then I found just ask. “Hey Al, if I start bugging ya, let me know.”

Al Decorse:
When I was Calamos, I told our representatives, I said what you need is a professional sense of urgency. That’s the way to approach it.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay.

Rob Barker:
Yeah. I like that.

Marilyn Dale:
All right. We’re closing in on last couple minutes here. If there was just one thing, let’s say there was a brand-new fun that wanted to get your attention, if there was only one thing they could do, what would make you sit up and take notice?

Al Decorse:
I would just say being different. You know, there’s – when it comes equities and bonds, it all gets pretty straightforward, pretty convoluted in a lot of ways, too. I would say that if a fund has something very unique, for whatever reason, that would make me take a look. And I’m not quite sure what that would be, but…

Marilyn Dale:
You’re talking more about a strategy that’s a little bit off the beaten path. Right?

Al Decorse:
Yeah. Maybe it’s just a strategy that they have. Maybe it’s an approach that they have made. Maybe it’s a water fund that I never knew about. So I would say something unique is the best way to start up the conversation.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. Let me just twist that question a little bit. Okay. So let’s say they have that, how are they going to get your attention though? Are they going to e-mail you? Are they gonna be on TV? Are they going to talk to individual investors and hope that they come to you? What –?

Rob Barker:
I think there’s one that resonates with me, and that is in the sales world which is what we’re talking about, you know, for these companies. There’s a certain amount of lonely work that needs to be done, and behind-the-scenes research work is what I mean by that. When no one else is around and you’re just doing your research, when Al is putting together his portfolios, right, he’s trying to figure out these idea, it’s not in front of a client. It’s usually in his office, door is closed, and it’s the lonely work.                                

And if a fund company wanted to get in front of me, hopefully, they would have done some due diligence on who is he? What does he do? Where’s he been. And then through that due diligence or that lonely work, you find an area of connection, and you send me that. And then all of a sudden whatever that connection was, was it we went to the same school? You knew someone who went somewhere? Or, hey, I really also loved coaching little league baseball and football, or whatever that was.

Whatever you found out about me through your research, it wasn’t generic. Because that’s what gets through to me more quickly. So that was different. Like I was saying it’s unique from an idea perspective, but I’m saying is it’s unique from an approach perspective before you even get to the product.

Marilyn Dale:
Okay. So it could be an e-mail. It could be a letter. It could be a postcard. It could be a call, but it says, “Hey, I noticed that you went to,” and of course I forgot the school you went to, but I know it’s out there in Utah.

Rob Barker:
Oh, we were on the SunStar podcast the other [crosstalk]. The conference, we were doing that together. And you said something that resonated with me: “I’d love to talk to you.” You know, I think that’s a piece helps get through the firewalls.

Al Decorse:
And Marilyn, I would say, too, just quickly is the leveraging of relationships so that let’s say we’re in an office, and there’s other advisers in the big office that I respect, and they have a relationship with that fund company, I’ll take that referral, you know, to look at somebody because somebody that I respect has made that introduction.

Rob Barker:
That’s true.

Marilyn Dale:
Well, Al and Rob, we are at our time, and I really appreciate the time and the effort you put into this overview. I think this has been a terrific session,