In the early 1990s, Morgan Stanley started mailing me two booklets each month with performance statistics for developing and emerging markets.
The pamphlets carried reams of information including price-to-earnings ratios, market capitalization and YTD performance stats for every country.
The data was invaluable. At the time, I was running emerging market news coverage for Bloomberg News and you couldn’t find such a wide array of information anywhere else.
When I left Bloomberg thirty years later I was still receiving the same booklets.
It’s not fair to say that Wall Street research hasn’t evolved.
But it hasn’t changed as much as many other things in life.
It’s still mostly too long and too arcane. Often the original printed reports have been adapted for mobile, but not re-imagined.
A number of smaller firms are challenging that model.
Instead of assuming you will hire them to access research, they are publishing content free on the internet to attract customers.
These portfolio managers write, podcast and broadcast. They are the message and the messenger.
One good example is Ritholtz Wealth Management, a New York firm where a large number of the employees are content creators.
Barry Ritholtz (@Ritholtz), co-founder, chairman, and chief investment officer of the firm, writes a blog called the Big Picture. He also does a podcast for Bloomberg called Masters in Business.
The firm also has a YouTube channel called The Compound hosted by CEO Joshua Brown and his colleague Michael Batnick, CFA. Brown, who has 1.1 million Twitter followers, writes a blog called The Reformed Broker. Batnick writes one called The Irrelevant Investor.
Portfolio manager Ben Carlson, CFA writes a blog, A Wealth of Common Sense blog; financial advisor Anthony Isola. CFP® writes A Teachable Moment and Chief Operating Officer Nick Maggiulli writes Of Dollars and Data and just published a book, Just Keep Buying.
Content is central to the firm’s strategy of communicating with clients and attracting new ones. That’s one reason they invest so much time writing, tweeting and podcasting.
Unlike a big firm, each writer owns their own content and has their own brand. They do not have a standardized format.
That’s part of the plan to incentivize the employees, according to Brown, who I met a few months ago at an event at a comedy club.
Brown and company expanded their reach this year with an in-person conference for thousands of investment advisors called Future Proof. It was billed as the world’s biggest Wealth Festival and held in September in Huntington Beach, California
The vibe was closer to Coachella than a traditional financial conference.
Most of it was held outside. “No cramped conference rooms or giant indoor facilities for this event,” is how Brown described it ahead of time.
That’s not how Wall Street events have been done in the past.
But I bet we’d see more like that in the future.