Whose Line is it Anyway?

I was quite surprised by a new set up at LAX when traveling to New York for a meeting last week.  Signs at the security checkpoint asked me to choose a line depending on my travel status.  Was I an expert traveler, a casual traveler or a traveler with a family?
Clearly, as it was 5 a.m. and my family was still at home tucked in bed, I could tick off family traveler.  But, since I was going to New York for both a business meeting and for a personal commitment, I had trouble deciding which “label” fit best.
A recent Wall Street Journal article confirmed that I am not alone in my confusion.  Many people find the signs unclear and are not sure if choosing the correct line is mandatory or voluntary.  However, the Transportation Security Administration says the program is working better than originally anticipated and that traveler aggravation is being minimized.  Many people like the new system and believe they are getting through security quicker and with less hassle.
According to the TSA, the “Black Diamond” program, named for the ski-resort term for expert trails, is aimed at improving security by creating a less stressful experience.  The program, which is currently in operation in a handful of airports today, is slated for expansion to additional airports in the near future.
So, which line did I ultimately choose?  Given my familiarity with security procedures and having mastered the art of taking my jacket and shoes off while removing my laptop, I decided I was indeed an expert traveler.  It didn’t speed my wait time any, but I suppose during peak travel hours it’s a plan that just might work.


Laurie Berman, Senior Vice President, lberman@pondel.com

Kendall Jackson

So, NIRI hosted its annual Los Angeles dinner last night at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.  I was the first person to arrive (gulp) and quickly did a u-turn at the door to avoid feeling like an over zealous investor relations professional.  But then I noticed Kendall Jackson standing at the bar.  I affixed my name tag to my lapel and meandered over to the bar for a chat with Mr. Jackson.  I kept my head down at first, you know, to keep the casual nature of the event in full effect.  Armed with business cards and a fresh coat of antiperspirant, I proceeded to speak with Mr. Jackson.  I said hello, and before he could utter a word, his handler, the bartender, informed me that it would cost $5 to speak with Mr. Jackson.
I forked over the $5 and spent the next hour and a half entertaining Mr. Jackson, along with other investor relations professionals.  We met Jeff Morgan, the recently appointed chief executive officer of NIRI.  We said hello to Jim Lucas of Abernathy MacGregor.  We also listened to Linda Kelleher, executive vice president of NIRI, talk about shareholder activism and where the industry is headed.  Specifically, Kelleher said instead of letting activist shareholders come to you with questions about a particular company, you should proactively be reaching out to them.  My motto for 2008: Engage activism with activism.  And with that I finished my conversation with Kendall Jackson and proactively ordered another one at the bar.


Evan Pondel, Senior Associate, epondel@pondel.com

A Little Optimism for ’08

It never hurts to express a little optimism for what could be in 2008.  And the Wall Street Journal did just that this morning with a list of why investors should feel pretty darn good about the year ahead.
Drum roll, please.

  1. Stocks rally — Assuming we’ve seen the worst in the fourth quarter.
  2. The housing market stabilizes — Really, how low can it go?
  3. Consumer spending remains solid — A healthy job market is keeping those cash registers ringing.
  4. Corporate profits accelerate — The jury is still out on this one.
  5. Economic growth accelerates — The Fed’s gonna have to provide some assistance here.


 — Evan Pondel, Senior Associate, epondel@pondel.com

Wall Street’s Dress Code

From Brooks Brother’s and Armani pin stripes to those who found True Religion, it’s hard to tell  whether Wall Street’s dress code is changing again. Along the trail of PW’s last 2007 roadshow—this one exclusively with institutional investors—business casual still rules.
While observing 23 portfolio managers and buy-side analysts from firms as large as $800 billion under management in Boston (guess which one) and as small as $50 million:  five, equal to 21.7%, were dressed in denim, including the only female; 11, or 47.8%, donned slacks and open collar shirts; and seven, or 30.5 %, were of the old school vintage, wearing ties.  Of the presenting executives, 100% wore suits and ties.
Other roadshow observations …
Less than two hours from bustling Manhattan, money managers abound.  In a day, we visited firms in Greenville, DE, just outside of Wilmington, plus West Conshohocken, Malvern, Berwyn and Radnor, PA, all within a stone’s throw of Philadelphia.
And what to eat? Picks from the trip: Oceanairre in Philadelphia; Luca in the North End of Boston; Town in the always hip Chambers Hotel on West 56th Street in Manhattan. Try the lamb.


Roger Pondel, President, rpondel@pondel.com