Continuing Education: My Time at Schwab Impact

BernankeLearning is so very important. Just because one has undergone extensive training through classroom work, hands-on experience, or has obtained a prestigious designation like the Certified Financial Planner practitioner or the Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder, doesn’t mean the education stops there. At DWM, we actively participate in ongoing education to keep us up-to-date with the latest and greatest in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing by the second.

In this blog, I’ll provide a little insight about what I think is the “mack daddy” educational event in our industry: Schwab’s annual IMPACT convention, held this year in beautiful Denver, Colorado. For a Registered Investment Advisor Representative like me, I think it’s the best convention available in terms of blending thought-provoking speakers, networking opportunities, and collaborative learning that can be customized to an advisor’s personal taste.

For example, the educational sessions that I chose included ones such as health care reform, social marketing, and investor behavior. I also attended many investment-oriented sessions including, but not limited to, emerging markets, liquid alternatives, fixed income, and smart beta. It was also great fun to hear different ideas and research some of the newest products from over 300 exhibitors in the 500,000+ square foot Exhibit Hall. One can also see CNBC broadcasting within the Hall, where, as they say, “the heartbeat of the industry beats”, represented by the networking of around 2000 of the country’s finest advisors (including yours truly).

There are always a number of good speakers at this event. Charles Best, who leads DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address education inequity, spoke of how the same technology behind “crowdfunding” can help students in schools with needs. Dr. Dambisa Moyo, economist and author, gave us macroeconomic views on global affairs and where this world may be heading if we don’t take action now. But the most thrilling presenters were this year’s keynotes: Dr. Ben Bernanke, our former Fed Chairman and President George W. Bush. Bernanke talked about the crazy times during the Great Recession and how he and his team led us out of the turmoil and brought this country back on its feet. George W. talked about his new passion and talent for painting and how anyone can reinvent themselves however old or young they are. He also had everyone rolling when he told us the story about how Putin made it a point to show him how Putin’s dog was bigger, stronger, and better than Bush’s dog, Barney.

These events are great in that we get to hear past and future leaders and gather our own ideas which ultimately make us better leaders. We leave an event like this with new ideas, strategies, and knowledge to propel us individually forward, our firms forward, and our clients forward.

Brett at BroncosMy four day agenda was jam-packed. The days were long amongst all the sessions and networking, but there were still a little time for fun which for me included a stop at fabulous Mile High Stadium and culminated with the final night event featuring the band Train (“Hey Soul Sister”).

In an effort to continue to learn and gain knowledge, Les and I attend many educational events and workshops like this throughout the year. They equip us to be stronger advocates for our clients and for our industry. Never stop learning. Knowledge is power!

Ben Bernanke’s Latest Report to Congress

Ben Bernanke reportOn February 29th, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his biannual “Humphrey-Hawkins” report on monetary policy to Congress. In short, Mr. Bernanke testified that the “recovery of the U.S. economy continues, but the pace of expansion has been uneven and modest by historical standards.”

Mr. Bernanke noted recent “positive developments in the labor market” but said that the job market remains “far from normal.” He indicated very little worry about inflation even with the recent rise in energy prices. He pointed to advanced household spending in 2011, even though “the fundamentals that support spending continue to be weak: real household income and wealth were flat in 2011 and access to credit remained restricted for many potential borrowers.”

In the housing sector, he testified that affordability has increased, however many potential buyers lack the down payment and credit history to qualify for loans and others are reluctant to buy due to their concerns about “their income, employment prospects and the future path of home prices.” Mr. Bernanke outlined increases in manufacturing production and capital expenditures, yet indicated that the consensus of the Federal Open Market Committee is that GDP will increase overall by only 2.5% in 2012. 

Mr. Bernanke indicated that the target range for the federal funds rate remains at 0-1/4% and is expected to stay near that until the end of 2014. If so, mortgage rates should stay low and C.D. rates will be just slightly above zero for the next three years. He left the door open to a new program of mortgage-bond purchases to drive long-term rates even lower.

The Fed Chairman testified that a number of “constructive policy actions have been taken of late in Europe”. He continued, “We are in frequent contact with our counterparts in Europe and will continue to follow the situation closely.” One day after Mr. Bernanke’s testimony, the Euro-zone finance ministers said they were ready to give Greece the money it needs provided a bond swap that will cut the debt Greece owes it private creditors goes according to plan this week. At the same time, European economic data released on March 1st was grim. Overall unemployment hit a 15 year high, while inflation unexpectedly accelerated.

Zanny Minton Beddoes, of the Economist speaking on NPR’s Morning Edition last week, put the potential impact of the European problems on the America recovery this way: “In the past few months, the Europeans have successfully covered their festering sore with a massive, great Band-Aid. And, now the acute crisis has turned into a chronic one. With that, we can take off the table the risk of a financial catastrophe in Europe.” Let’s hope so. We’d like to keep the momentum going on our current U.S. recovery.

For more information: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9113704/Ben-Bernankes-monetary-policy-report-to-Congress.html