Monthly Archives: October 2014

Category: Industry Trends

Looking Back Before We Move On

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Industry-Trends-Icon-2-1024x682Believe it or not, 2014 is quickly coming to an end. The next few weeks will be filled with reporting, forecasting and performance evaluations. We’ll take time off to celebrate the holidays and we’ll make goals for the coming year.

Each year the mutual fund industry evolves based on regulations, consumer expectations and other external factors. Back in January, Boston Financial presented what we thought to be the top trends that would drive the fund industry in 2014. We are diligently looking to the future and compiling the trends that will likely impact the industry in 2015. However, before we get to that, let’s take a look back at the trends that have shaped this past year…

  • Shifts in Product and Service Distribution Models: In recent years many industries have been actively cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers. However, the opposite is true in the mutual fund industry. Intermediaries have gained increasing influence over fund distribution. Read more here.
  • Changes in Consumer and Advisor Behaviors/Expectations: When it comes to consumer expectations, the mutual fund industry typically lags three-to-five years behind other industries like retail and entertainment. Proliferation of mobile device use, increased expectations for online functions, and social media all came to the forefront in 2014. Read more here.
  • Stepped-Up Regulatory Compliance Oversight: The financial services industry has always operated in an environment of intense regulatory enforcement and policy making. 2014 was no different with state regulatory enforcement, board education, intermediary oversight and valuation policies and practices as areas of focus. Read more here.
  • Movement Toward Fact-Based Decision Making: Big Data may be a buzzword that will fade with time, but sophisticated business analytics are here to stay. Businesses will continue looking for more efficient and reliable ways to solve problems, gain an edge, and provide additional value to customers. Read more here.
  • Increase in Market Competition: Change is an enduring legacy in financial services. As the competitive landscape continues to shift it is important to think about competitive advantage, strategic partnerships, and regulatory expertise. Read more here.

We would like to hear your feedback. Did these trends meet the mark? Were there other trends that stood out in 2014? What do you think will drive the industry in 2015? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Category: Corporate Citizenship

How Positive Options and Good Choices Saved One Life

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United-Way-Women's-BreakfastTwo boys with the same name, Wes Moore, were born within a year of one another, growing up blocks apart in a bad neighborhood of Baltimore. Both grew up with no father and experienced trouble with the police at a young age. Given these beginnings, you would assume both boys were destined to fail.

But one went on to become a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and a successful business professional; the other became a convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison, with no chance for parole. Both boys had similar beginnings; however, one was given the opportunity to make good choices, the other one lacked positive options, choosing a way that essentially ended his life.

The United Way recently held its 19th Annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast in Boston. I had the chance to meet Wes Moore; the Wes Moore who was given the opportunity to make good choices.

Moore gave an inspiring and at times chilling reminder of how easy it is for those living in a ‘hostile world’ to make wrong choices that can send them down the path to self-destruction. Moore’s message wasn’t meant to spread despair and depression, but the opposite; the importance of having positive options available to children so they in turn can make good choices.

Moore went on to add that it’s our responsibility to take care of our neighborhoods, our neighbors, our communities, towns, and cities. In his book, “The Other Wes Moore,” this is the story Moore tells.

At the breakfast, we also heard from Melissa Graham, a young lady who was facing her own struggles at home. Although barely a teenager, she was fending for herself and expected to take care of her younger sister while her mother spent most days hidden in her room. While in high school, she was introduced to Teen BLOCK, a United Way sponsored program based in Lowell, Massachusetts that supports the healthy development of young people. Through her work with Teen BLOCK, Graham went on to give back to her community by joining The 84, a statewide movement of youth fighting tobacco in Massachusetts. She also went on to graduate with honors from high school.

Through the United Way, Graham earned a $10,000 scholarship and this fall began her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Graham is another example of given positive options and making good choices, youth can set themselves on a positive path to success.

At Boston Financial, we’re winding down from our 2014 United Way campaign. Boston Financial and our associates have been supporting the United Way since 1973. Our partnership with the United Way provides us the opportunity to help others through organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister, Interfaith Social Services, YMCA Training, Inc., South Shore Stars, Camp Ponkapoag, Team Smile, and many more. These organizations and hundreds of other organizations are working to assist children, helping put them on the right path.

When kids make good choices, and accept help, good things come of it. What can we do to ensure more of our youth end up like Graham and not “The Other Wes Moore?” Are you doing all that you can? Can you spare some time to provide positive options and choices? You could be saving a life in the process.

Category: CCO Forum, Compliance

Looking Back on 10 Years of the CCO Forum

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2014_CCO_Forum_footerWhat were you doing 10 years ago? 10 years ago you were probably sporting a flip phone. Or maybe you were cutting edge and had a camera phone. Ten years ago the television show “Lost” debuted. Renting DVDs from Blockbuster was a staple for most of us and Facebook launched.

And we can’t forget about Rule 38a-1.

In 2004, Rule 38a-1 went into effect, marking the beginning of a more formal role of compliance. Mutual funds were now required to hire chief compliance officers (CCOs), responsible for implementing due diligence and oversight of various entities as well as implementing appropriate controls to prevent security law violations.

During this time, Boston Financial appointed a CCO to provide independent oversight of all aspects of our 38a-1 program, to play an active role in industry committees, and to continually assess the regulatory environment. To further support our clients’ CCOs, we also began hosting an annual CCO Due Diligence Forum for our clients.

2014 marks our tenth year hosting the CCO Forum. Yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! Over the years, our Forum has grown and evolved to reflect the regulatory changes and challenges the industry faces as well as how the CCO’s role has grown; today’s CCOs have become a more strategic partner in their organizations.

And although our Forum has evolved, a trademark feature of our Forum continues; providing our clients and their CCOs with an opportunity to network and gain valuable information.

We’re less than 24 hours from the kickoff of our 2014 CCO Forum. Over the course of tomorrow, our Forum theme, “Opening the Door to Boston Financial’s Compliance and Risk Management Culture,” will be reflected throughout our day-long program. We have many knowledgeable speakers and interesting panel discussions planned, and I look forward to hearing from our clients and their CCOs.

Category: Associate Development and Engagement

Be A Toastmaster

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Toastmasters blog image 1Toastmasters is the highlight of my month. It’s scary and it’s exhilarating. It’s the one place I can leave my comfort zone and just see what happens. It’s thinking creatively on your feet; it’s taking the lead over and over; and it’s becoming the kind of communicator you once thought was impossibly out of reach. And, more importantly, it’s being there for others as they do the same.

What skills are the hardest to teach? What are most valuable in creating a highly functional, cohesive organization? Which skills are necessary to truly add value and elevate the folks around you to do their best work? Is it clear, confident communication? Empathy? Quick, extemporaneous creativity and problem solving?  Being able to lead on the fly?  A toastmaster will hit on each of these Every. Single. Meeting.

Toastmasters is global, and the consistent approach to building skills makes it easy to relate to a fellow toastmaster no matter where you are. I recently read an article about one of the most coveted toastmaster groups in NYC. Reading about the meeting, I felt like I was reading about my own club. This shared experience across the global organization furthers the connection between members. In my own club, I’ve not only had the chance to interact with folks from all levels, but I’ve truly gotten to know them. Toastmasters speeches often are very personal.  It’s an amazing experience hearing someone share their personal experiences and hopes and fears, all while they are improving themselves in the process.

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At Boston Financial, associates use Toastmasters as a safe and realistic forum to improve the way we communicate with coworkers and clients. Boston Financial’s commitment to Toastmasters is evident in both their covering new member fees and also making time for associates to attend meetings. Once a month, the Boston Financial group even extends the experience beyond our core group by sponsoring a company- wide “Open Mic”.  This event is video conferenced across four locations, and gives anyone a chance to get up and speak for 1-2 minutes about that month’s topic.  Example topics include “How would you invest $1,000,000.00 for the benefit of Boston Financial” or “What is your crazy idea for improving Boston Financial”.  The events are not only fun and productive, but are an opportunity for associates to attack their fear of public speaking.

So, how should you think about Toastmasters? Sure, it’s a public speaking organization. But, what is Toastmasters really about? It’s about brand new members getting the courage to volunteer to speak at a corporate conference in front of 150 people. It’s about a new member’s manager seeing such concrete improvement that he stepped in on the phones to cover for her just so that she could continue to attend meetings during tight periods of phone coverage. This kind of improvement is within everyone’s reach. If you have someone wanting to join or are already in Toastmasters, I hope you can be supportive. You won’t regret it.

Don’t have a Toastmasters group at your company yet?  You should think about it. Have one but haven’t considered joining? You should.

Don’t take my word for it. There are countless testimonials and I am just one. Take control of your skills. Improve relentlessly. Help others to do the same. Be a Toastmaster.

Category: Conferences and Events, Industry Trends

What Happens When a Millennial Escapes the Office?

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millennialsBeing a millennial and first-time attendee of the NICSA General Membership Meeting, it was interesting to see a focus on the impact and challenges that the millennial generation will have on the workplace. This whole time I thought we were the perfect generation and no one had anything to worry about.

OK, so we talk in 140 characters or less, can’t make change if the cash register goes down, and share (often too many) details of our lives online. So the thought of millennials someday leading the firms and industries that baby boomers and Gen X have worked so hard to create may sound scary. 

At the conference, I saw a tight knit group of professionals, with strong relationships and in-depth knowledge built over years of working together on complex industry issues. Yet, only a few millennials were in attendance. Clearly the baby boomers and Gen X value the conference, the sharing of best practices, and the networking opportunities. But keep in mind that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials.

So, how can you feel better about the future?  

If you’re a baby boomer or Gen X, bring a millennial co-worker to the next industry event and introduce him or her to your peers. Millennials, more so than any other generation, are wired to connect, share, and explore. If we are not connected through this community, we’ll find other ways to interact and exchange ideas. Don’t let us lose out on the value of hearing your stories and connecting with you. 

Millennials are highly resourceful and independent, so when it comes to fact finding or putting together puzzle pieces, we’ve got that: Google. We’re more interested in hearing stories. Start with your story. How has NICSA helped your career or your firm? Millennials may learn in small bites, but we love personal, meaningful stories. Why do you think we share so much online? Don’t teach us just the technical business skills; we want to learn the soft skills too. We want to hear how you took the firm from point A to point B. 

Be honest, especially when it comes to your failures. We’re a generation that is ok with failure. We won’t judge. In fact, we’ll respect you more for the failures you’ve had, the mistakes you’ve made, and how you’ve adapted. We admire leaders and innovators who succeed by never giving up on their dream.  It’s why Steve Jobs’ story resonates so much with us.

Someday this “crazy” bunch of kids will lead the industry. Now is your chance to work with them to carry on what you’ve worked so hard to create. We’re up for the challenge. Give us responsibility, let us share our voice, and provide us with leadership opportunities. By bringing us into your community, you’ll play a meaningful role in shaping the future of the industry and tomorrow’s leaders.