A Good App is Hard to Find

After a few months with my new smartphone, I’ve come to the conclusion that these phones are much smarter than I … or is it me? Let me see if there’s an App for that.
 
There probably is, but I focused on personal finance Apps the second I picked up the phone because money takes priority over grammar.  I focused on the Android market because, well, I have an Android phone.  You iPhone fans will have to check back later to see if a colleague will blog about your tool.
 
I wasn’t interested in downloading every single financial App. Fortunately, a writer at AppConsumer.com already did the work for me, highlighting the five best Android Apps for personal finance.
 
My personal favorite in the Big 5? Goggle Finance. User friendly, easy to read, smooth interface and streamed stock quotes that automatically refresh.  Now I can watch my personal stocks tank from anywhere in the world in real-time.

 

Ron Neal, rneal@pondel.com
 
 

Some Words Never Change

Photo Credit: Flickr, jessamyn

Remember those enticing print advertisements from stock brokerages (today called financial advisory firms) and mutual funds (still called mutual funds) in the mid-2000s, when the market was recovering from the dot-com bust and the world seemed better?
 
In case you haven’t noticed, the ads are back.
 
Who woulda thunk they’d return so soon in the Great Recession’s early wake?  And why on earth do the advertisers think their words of wisdom and comfort will entice new customers?  Hey, the world isn’t quite better yet, anyway.
 
Last weekend, as I caught up on some old-fashioned newspaper reading, I couldn’t help notice some of those ads.  Don’t laugh too hard, but without mentioning any names, see if you get comfort from, or believe the words in any of these beauts:
 

…we employ a thoroughness that inserts discipline into a potentially emotional situation.Discipline is a great idea.
 

…everything we do is unflinchingly client focused.Unflinchingly? Is that even a word?
 

…it’s time a financial advisor took into account your complete financial situation.I’ll say it’s time!
 

…getting you to your dreams requires a more personal approach.”  Whatever happened to sleeping pills?
 

…building a relationship makes the difference.What a notion!
 

…we offer vision.Ophthalmologists R Us.
 

…we offer our mutual funds at cost.” What cost is that?
 

…it’s no secret that accumulating wealth today is more difficult than ever.”  And I thought that was a secret!
 

…the ultimate goal of new money is to become old money.”  Better than lost money.
 

…the trick is to learn from the past without getting stuck in it.”  Sounds like an oil spill in the Gulf.
 

…when you pay less, you can keep more.”  And tell me, what does this have to do with investment returns?
 

…past performance cannot guarantee future results.” Let’s hope not!
 

…everything shapes the future of your investments.”  Everything?
 

…the truth is that the financial world has fundamentally changed.”  Good this firm is telling the truth.
 

…in these changing economic times, some things never change.” Amen.

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com
 
 

Crowdsourcing IR

There’s been a lot of media chatter of late about crowdsourcing, the act of outsourcing a particular task to a group of individuals, community, or crowd.   For example, in Beth Novek’s book, Wiki Government, she discusses her experience creating “Peer-to-Patent,” a crowdsourcing project that attempts to streamline the patent review process by outsourcing it to a crowd of experts.  This whole notion of crowdsourcing got me thinking whether investor relations could have some sort of crowdsourcing component.
 
The crowds, in this case, are shareholders.  The task:  to write a financial news release based on a company’s quarterly results.  Assuming shareholders have ideas about what they’d like to hear when a company reports its earnings or lack thereof, I’m curious what would happen if a company simply released a balance sheet and income statement to shareholders and then asked the group to assemble a financial news release.
 
Think of it the same way people create Wikipedia entries.  All of these supposed experts or shareholders would distill a document that (hopefully) reflects the most relevant information about a company’s financial condition.  But why stop at shareholders? How about getting a bunch of analysts to crowdsource a research note?
 
Perception studies are perhaps the closest IROs get to crowdsourcing.  Maybe instead of relying on our own ability to gauge what questions to ask and what information would be valuable to a management team, we should also come up with a method to crowdsource. Ultimately, it could foster more transparency and collaboration among public companies and their constituents.

 

– Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

The Buzz with Proxy-Access

The buzz within the investor relations world hit an all-time high this week following the “delay” of the highly anticipated proxy-access provision, a regulation that was set to become effective on November 15.
 
The provision, which allows shareholders owning at least three percent of a publicly traded company for three consecutive years to nominate board members on corporate ballots, is one of roughly 100 or so rules to be implemented under the Dodd-Frank Act, discussed earlier on this blog.
 
The delay in implementation was the result of a suit brought by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, an association of U.S. CEOs, calling the provision a “giant step backwards for average investors.”
 
Others are still pushing for proxy-access reform. The American Stock Transfer & Trust Co. and other transfer agents recently launched a Web site called www.reformtheproxysystem.com to rally support.
 
Regardless of whether new proxy-access rules are enacted — it is currently under judicial review — companies should still take this time to review practices and prepare.
 
At minimum, companies should be actively monitoring and engaging with significant shareholders, a point that is echoed in a recent Harvard Law School Forum article. Among the recommendations include monitoring the company’s investor base and shareholder filings, updating changes to advance notice, director qualification by-laws and corporate governance policies as well as reviewing the size and makeup of the board.
 
The next big hot button issue on the SEC calendar is the provision for Say-on-Pay. If the delay in proxy-access is any indication on how the Say-on-Pay provision will proceed, it could be quite some time before all 100 provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act are complete.

 

Matt Sheldon, msheldon@pondel.com