Market insights and analysis

How dynamic, risk-managed investment solutions are performing in the current market environment

4th Quarter | 2020

Market insights and analysis

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Updates on how dynamic, risk-managed investment solutions are performing in the current market environment.

Staying relevant over the long run

By David Wismer

I was listening to one of my favorite early morning radio shows last week. While it offers hard national and local news, it also features some lighter lifestyle stories.

That can be a welcome change of pace these days.

The radio hosts were interviewing filmmaker and playwright Douglas McGrath. McGrath wrote the script, or book, for the hit 2014 Broadway show “Beautiful,” which tells the story of singer-songwriter Carole King’s early career and her astounding later success.

The occasion for the interview was the 50th anniversary of the release of King’s hit 1971 album, “Tapestry.”

For those of you too young to have been a music listener at the time of the album’s release, it is a little bit hard to overstate how big of a deal it was.

King was a talented songwriter behind some of the biggest pop hits of the 1960s, but she was not particularly known beyond music industry professionals until “Tapestry” came on the scene.

It was actually her second studio album, but few remember the first. The recording artists she wrote hits for—dozens of songs in the Billboard Top 100—included Aretha Franklin, Steve Lawrence, The Drifters, Bobby Vee, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, Little Eva, The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, and (to my surprise) The Animals. According to Rolling Stone, The Beatles even covered one of her songs on their debut album.

“Tapestry” won many critical awards (including four Grammys) and set many different sales and chart records, too numerous to list here. It took 46 years to break one of those records.

Well-known music critic Robert Christgau wrote in 1972,

“Carole King’s Tapestry is a triumph of mass culture. In less than two years it has sold well over five million copies, putting it in a class with the best-selling albums of all time, and it is still on the charts. … Such statistics are so overwhelming that they seem to transform a mere record into some sort of ineluctable cultural presence, and in a sense they do.”

McGrath shared some interesting stories about spending hours interviewing the very private King, his praise for her talent and music, and how she avoided seeing the Broadway show for months after it opened. When she did finally attend, it was in some semblance of disguise. She was greeted with thunderous applause from the audience when one of the cast members introduced her at the end of the show.

I was telling one of my co-workers that I have a clear remembrance of the first time I heard a song from “Tapestry” on our college radio station, driving around in my beat-up ’60s MGB. It definitely felt like something very different. You could not avoid one of the many great songs from the album for the next year on that same station … or music stations around the country.

McGrath said something I could particularly relate to. “Tapestry,” he said, was that special album that people wanted to listen to in a group. It was not a “sit in your chair and listen to it alone” album. Rather, teens and college students would gather together, sit on the floor around the record player, and listen to it many times over.

I asked several of my (younger) colleagues the other day if they were aware of Carole King and “Tapestry.” I was a little surprised that several had the album in their personal collections. A few others were vaguely aware of King and her songs, but all had at least heard of her or knew a specific song.

I asked the group what makes an album like this “a cultural icon” that has, in many ways, stood the test of time? (It is certainly not alone in that category, and I invited them to think as well about their own personal favorite albums from other decades.)

Some of the adjectives that came to mind for them, and me, were: “personal and honest,” “timeless,” “unpretentious,” “accessible,” “groundbreaking,” “transformative,” “speaks to me,” “evokes emotion,” “captures the spirit of the times,” “authentic,” “original,” and “occupies a specific space in your mind.”

Well-said thoughts, I think.

FPI’s 40th anniversary

I mentioned Flexible Plan Investments’ 40th anniversary in this space two weeks ago, and you have probably received emails since then linking to FPI’s anniversary page.

Again, FPI thanks all of its adviser and investor clients on this occasion. FPI’s president and founder Jerry Wagner writes, “You are an integral part of our success and inspire us to continue seeking better investment solutions.”

If you have not looked at the anniversary page, I urge you to do so.

To me, two of the highlights of the anniversary page are (1) a video message from Jerry Wagner describing the overall drivers and beliefs behind FPI’s long-standing investment philosophy, and (2) a timeline of key events in the company’s 40 years of investment innovation.

The Carole King “Tapestry” story made me think, “When it comes to an investment manager, or TAMP, what factors or attributes help explain a long period—in fact, decades—of relevance and continued success serving clients?”

We have explored similar topics of “What to look for in an investment manager?” in Proactive Advisor Magazine, both in interviews with financial advisers and articles written by industry professionals.

Many of the answers or thoughts in this area have been remarkably consistent:

- A differentiating and value-added overall investment philosophy.

- The nature of the investment management process and how performance is reported and verified.

- A track record of delivering risk-adjusted results through various types of market environments.

- Strength, stability, and focus of the management and research teams.

- Strategies that deliver on their stated objectives. (That does not mean they are always the strategies with the highest absolute returns, but rather generally perform as expected in both favorable and unfavorable market conditions.)

- Dedication to outstanding service, problem resolution, and standing behind the needs of their clients.

- Tools and reporting systems that are user-friendly, timely, and provide valuable insights.

- A proven commitment to seek ongoing improvement, refinement, and transformation.

I believe, and you probably will agree, that FPI stands up very well when measured against these criteria as it celebrates “40 years of innovation.”

“40 Acts of Giving”

I also want to reiterate another message from two weeks ago.

As part of FPI’s “40 years of innovation with 40 acts of giving” event, all financial advisers and investors who work with FPI, as well as FPI employees, are invited to nominate a charity and pledge a charitable gift in any amount. FPI will match donations to the first 40 qualifying charities submitted (with a maximum match of $1,000 total to each organization).

The response to this event has been excellent so far—75% of the way to 40 charities. FPI would be honored to have you participate and several spots for new charity nominations are still available.

I also want to point out that once the 40-charity limit has been reached, additional contributions to those specific charities will be accepted throughout 2021 (and matched up to a total of $1,000 each).    

Please visit FPI’s anniversary page to learn more and fill out the brief form to nominate a charity important to you.

Thank you in advance!



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