OBSERVATIONS

Observations

A behind the scenes look at financial services

We’ll drink to that

22-Mar-2017

In an invitation to a media briefing in Sydney on the future of active investing, a United States-based asset manager chose an interesting term to describe its investing approach, which left us rather puzzled, but intrigued.

The opening line of the media invitation read as follows: “For several years now, bottoms up fundamental research, the cornerstone of active investing, has been facing growing threats on multiple fronts.”

We were willing to dismiss this as an unfortunate typo, except the term came up again in the chief investment officer’s discussion on price distortion during the course of the briefing, seemingly appropriately held at Sydney’s swish Bentley Bar on a Friday afternoon.

“Markets don’t care about whether you’re top down or bottoms up, they care about efficient price discovery,” she said.

Maybe it’s a reflection of the manager’s success, the regular toasting of which has allowed the expression to creep into its vernacular.

Whatever the case may be, we sure hope the firm managed to get to the bottom of it before the next media briefing.

A bit of healthy rivalry

22-Mar-2017

With social media playing such a big part in all walks of life these days, it can be of no surprise Twitter trending has become a commodity sought after at financial services conferences as a gauge of relevance.

And the SMSF Association has fed this phenomenon actively for two years running.

Last year, the self-managed super fund body proudly found itself atop the Twitter trending ladder, albeit with a little help from the fact one of its thought-leader breakfast panellists was the chief executive of Twitter.

But this year, the industry body had to stand on its own two feet and was the number three Twitter trending item behind the Champions League soccer and a YouTube item about Valentine’s Day.

Now a top three ranking is nothing to be sneezed at, but it was another result that was perhaps more satisfying for the event hosts.

It just so happened MYOB was putting on a conference at the same time as the association and at the same venue.

So it was important for the organisation to achieve any advantage and bragging rights it could over the accounting software provider, and it managed to do so in the Twittersphere with a superior trending result.

“In your face MYOB,” was the conference master of ceremonies Andrew Klein’s reaction to the result.

They said it

22-Mar-2017

“When I was asked to speak today, I half considered having a rant about the treatment some of my colleagues have been getting before a certain judge in the Supreme Court here when they go up for their hard-earned remuneration only to have it drastically reduced. Lucky for you I talked myself out of that because, first of all, it was probably of little interest and certainly I wouldn’t get any sympathy.”

HLB Mann Judd Sydney business recovery partner recognises the less-than-favourable sentiment the general public has toward lawyers.

Slightly off the mark

06-Mar-2017

Throughout summer we’ve noticed a lot of financial services companies using sporting themes in their television commercials.

We’ve also noticed the desired outcome or message may have been slightly off the mark.

First there was ANZ using tennis ace Novak Djokovic humming and singing away to “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, the Bobby McFerrin hit from the ‘80s. It was supposed to prove how relaxed Djokovic was in the lead-up to and during the Australian Open.

Alas it would appear he was a bit too relaxed, given he crashed out of the tournament during his round two clash with Denis Istomin.

Then there was Sunsuper comparing superannuation to finding the right wave and how its members seem to have achieved that elusive goal.

However, the image shows a number of board riders all catching the same wave.

We’re pretty sure in real life, rather than feeling they’ve reached surfing nirvana, they’d all be complaining about everyone else ‘dropping in’ on them.

An interesting adaptation nonetheless.

Then finally there was Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) story of Emily, a really keen young cricketer who was yet to score a run.

She received some coaching from Australian Test captain Steve Smith and was able to get off the mark the next time she was in the middle, with CBA equating the little girl’s experience with the benefit of getting financial advice.

But being the completely cynical lot we are, we could not help but notice Emily didn’t actually seem to heed Smith’s advice. The reason behind her lack of success with the bat was her technique of gripping the bat with her hands apart.

The commercial shows Emily practising after Smith’s tutelage with her hands together and making good contact with the ball, but when she returns to the middle, while she manages to score her first run, she has returned to having her hands apart on the bat again.

We hope this doesn’t mean CBA customers are achieving the desired results by ignoring some of the financial advice they’ve received.

Maybe we’re reading too much into it.

Clever

06-Mar-2017

Very often at media briefings speakers are told to keep their presentations short in the interests of time.

Being the respectful people journalists are, they also often ask for a brief interview so as not to take up too much of the subject’s time.

All this emphasis on time efficiency opens the door for quick-witted individuals to use appropriately timed clever remarks.

Relating to his own need to keep it brief at a media function, HLB Mann Judd Sydney business recovery partner Barry Taylor relayed an anecdote on the topic from the soccer world.

It involved Gordon Strachan, one-time coach of Celtic in the Scottish premiership, after a particularly embarrassing loss.

Naturally the less said about situations like this the better, so the respectful journalist asked him for a quick word as he made his way up the players’ race with the suitable amount of steam coming out of his ears.

The reporter got his wish as Strachan responded with one word only – “velocity”.

We’ll certainly pay that one.

They said it:

06-Mar-2017

“It’s January, so we’re all relaxed and we’re happy to take questions, but our speakers will be on their guard – they’re not drinking.”

HLB Mann Judd managing partner Tony Fittler shows no matter how much financial services people like to ease into the new year, presenters are never afforded that luxury.

The Midas touch

24-Feb-2017

The Christmas and New Year period was certainly a good one if your name was Geoff or Jeff Lloyd.

For Perpetual chief executive Geoff Lloyd the period meant being able to enjoy line honours in the 2016 Sydney to Hobart yacht race as the vessel to which the financial services giant has naming rights was first home to Constitution Dock.

And Geoff is likely to enjoy the bragging rights accompanying the achievement for a long time as maxi-yacht Perpetual Loyal smashed the race record by four hours, 51 minutes and 52 seconds – a feat most experts are predicting will stand for a long time.

And before the champagne corks stopped popping for this Geoff Lloyd, another Jeff Lloyd, this time the Queensland jockey, rode Houtzen to victory in the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast.

And just as the Perpetual boss had an additional achievement to sweeten the victory, so too did the jockey.

At 55 years of age, we believe Jeff became the oldest hoop to win this prestigious race for two year olds.

We offer our congratulations to both of them.

A pretty good number

24-Feb-2017

We all know accountants are supposed to be good with numbers, but the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is always determined to take this character trait to a new level.

Of course, we’re not talking about calculators and strip lists now, but instead about musical numbers.

At its 2017 National Congress, master of ceremonies Andrew Colrain was again only too keen to grab the mic and belt out a tune. Last year it was “I’m Billing Time”, an adaptation of Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”.

This year it was a more classical number in a straight rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

But the real surprise was when IPA chief executive Andrew Conway accepted an invitation to take the stage and perform a number from High Society with Colrain.

And we must say Conway did a very good job. So good in fact he was asked to sing one more song, but alas the soundtrack was not at the ready for him to do so.

Perhaps it gives delegates something to look forward to at the 2017 event.

They said it:

24-Feb-2017

“I’ve got to say I’ve never made more revisions to a set of slides than this presentation here today because things have been changing pretty much on a daily basis.”

SuperConcepts technical services and education general manager Peter Burgess relates how difficult it was preparing superannuation presentations during the back half of last year before the final legislation was passed.

Rise of the machines

05-Jan-2017

Midway through last year BT Financial Group hosted an adviser roadshow covering the latest technological developments and how some elements, such as big data, are being used within the financial services field.

During the session a short video was played demonstrating how artificial intelligence was being used in the robotic world.

It had never dawned on this reporter that a financial services presentation could show him the origin of the terminator concept and what sparked the rise of the machines, but that’s exactly what appeared to be happening.

The short video showed a robot walking along a factory floor minding its own business and then suddenly getting kicked over by a human being.

The robot resiliently, albeit very slowly, manages to get back on its feet, only to be knocked over rather violently by the human again.

This process happened three or four times and was shown to demonstrate how the robot could react to adversity, right itself, and continue performing its set task.

We couldn’t help but think if the robot had the ability to utilize artificial intelligence it would have gotten pretty sick of that human being and fought back.

The only thing missing was that the robot did not have human skin on its frame, nor did it look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps if a video is made to show further progress in a year or so that’s what we will see.

However, none of the BTFG presenters said “I’ll be back”.