For almost 20 years, I’ve been writing about evidence-based investing (aka, passive investing). I’ve been at it since Humberto Cruz was a familiar syndicated columnist, nationally reporting the passive news as well. Remember him? Cruz retired in 2010 after this final column, but check out how timely his reflections remain:
“Just as investors piled into tech stocks in late 1999 and early 2000, and went into hock to flip condos in 2005-2006, they will flock to whatever investment is ‘hot’ in 2011, increasing the risk of getting burned. Through the years, this self-destructing investor behavior has never changed.”
Before I embarked on my current career, I was a tech-head writer for computing facilities at Washington University in St. Louis, Ralston Purina, and a library software developer you’ve never heard of unless you’re a librarian. Even when I was at BAM Advisor Services, we developed a lot of in-house tech toys, which generated the usual questions about how – and when – to talk about them.
If there’s one rule I learned, it’s that you DO NOT talk up next releases until they’re actually released. With Murphy’s Law in force right up until you flip the switch, anything that can go wrong, probably will. So predicting publication dates and final features is about as wise as forecasting next month’s stock prices, and about as safe as sharing client testimonials (at least here in the U.S.).
So you can understand why I don’t usually announce any goodies before they’re fully baked.
Have you heard the news? First there was that little Wells Fargo dust-up down here in the states. Now, ALL of Canada’s big banks – or at least some 1,000 of their employees – have reportedly been deluging CBC News investigative reporter Erica Johnson’s inbox, anxious to talk about the pressures they’ve felt to place customers’ best interests second.
The story broke in early March with a bank teller confessing, “I will do anything I can to make my goal.” I wonder if Johnson had any notion that this chink in the wall was soon to be split wide open with a flood of “me too” mea culpas sent her way. She reported on them in this incredible, mid-March follow-up piece, “We are all doing it.”
Incredible to me, anyway. Usually, the popular press loves nothing more than a juicy financial scandal. Except, apparently, if it’s going down up in Canada. What, have we got too many of our own to report on? Unless I’ve missed it, I haven’t seen a peep in the major U.S. media outlets.
One of the best lessons from last fall’s Evidence-Based Investing Conference in NYC didn’t take place at the conference itself. It happened in the train station, where I met up for a couple of hours with “Annie,” a high school friend I hadn’t seen since the late 70s.
Had Facebook existed then, maybe we would have been better at staying in touch. It didn’t, and we weren’t. Fortunately, the bear hug Annie gave me when we reconnected promptly eliminated any time and distance between us. We jumped right back in where we left off, talking about nothing in particular and everything at once.
One of the things we talked about was this “evidence-based investing” jones that had brought me to the East Coast to begin with. Annie, who is a palliative care senior social worker at a major medical center, said something at the time about the comparative challenge of evidence-based medicine, controlled studies and practical treatments.