Book review: Never Bulls**t the Client

Never a Bulls**t Client: My Life in Investment Advice. 2019. Richard M. Ennis, CFA. Carrom Press.

If you decide up a guide with this title, you would possibly anticipate content material that is concise, to the purpose, and never afraid to disturb the cage of standard knowledge. That is precisely what you get with this memoir from Richard M. Ennis, CFA. Specializing in his private and enterprise experiences from childhood to retirement, the guide takes readers via Ennis’ life and profession from two views.

One of many tracks is the private story. It leads via the writer’s early years, which targeted on pool halls and quick automobiles, with little indication of his future profession, to his considerably unintentional arrival within the security markets throughout the “go-go period” of the late Nineteen Sixties. It’s the story of an entrepreneur who was not solely in the proper place on the proper time (the fund analysis division of AG Becker, referred to as the birthplace of the funding advisory business at the moment) however was additionally prepared to take a danger by beginning a brand new firm (Ennis, Knupp & Gold) in an already new business. .

The Parallel Monitor takes readers via the evolution of that new business, from the faltering starting of impartial consultants making an attempt to see if they’ve a working enterprise mannequin to at the moment’s influential consulting enterprise, which is dominated by a comparatively small variety of company giants.

College students of the funding business must be conscious that that is neither a textbook nor a historic information. The story of Richard Ennis is simply that – a narrative – or somewhat, a collection of tales. The consulting enterprise is (principally) about folks, and that is what we get. As may be anticipated, a few of Ennis’s colleagues and acquaintances will probably be well-known to readers. Along with his unique companions, Jim Knupp and Ron Gold, we be taught of Ennis’ involvement with Harry Markowitz, Jim O’Brien, Dennis Tito, and lots of different well-known buyers. However we additionally hear about his fellow pool corridor mates, together with Bunt, Gator, and Becky the bartender!

Remarkably, a few third of the guide’s content material is contained in two appendices. It consists of a collection of Ennis’ articles on a variety of matters, together with funding coverage. (He was government editor of Financial Analysts Journal from 2006 to 2010.) The articles present perception into not solely many vital matters but in addition Ennis’s method to the funding business.

For funding professionals, my foremost suggestion is to learn this guide backwards. Not in a literal sense, in fact, however for these particularly in search of funding perception, the complement is the place to begin. The innocuously named “Appendix 1” is simply 16 pages lengthy, however is “the gist of Ennis”–a clear exposition of the writer’s considering on funding coverage for institutional funds.

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The articles in Appendix 2 are additionally value studying. Though these date again to earlier than Ennis’ retirement upon the sale of his firm in 2010, the letters are nonetheless related at the moment. In reality, it is attention-grabbing to notice how related a few of these articles may be, a decade or extra after they had been written. “Darwin and the Diffusion of Funding Merchandise,” for instance, raises issues concerning the sheer variety of new merchandise being pushed by enterprise wants somewhat than funding innovation. This text dates again to 1997! The “Uncorrelated Return Fantasy” is a full of life 2009 refutation of the existence of high-risk, high-risk uncorrelated belongings, whereas “Annuities or Pensions?” Heralds a disaster that has continued to unfold because the article was first revealed in 2007.

With that studying underneath your belt, solely then return to Chapter One and delve into the participating story of Richard Ennis’ life and profession. As a “storybook,” it is well-written, with a lightweight contact balancing private anecdotes, interviews with funding luminaries, and the fundamentals of funding recommendation. In his introduction, Innes states that his aim is “to assist folks within the fields of funding administration and advisory acquire a greater appreciation of our shared historical past.” On this reviewer’s view, it has achieved it.

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All posts are the opinion of the writer. As such, it shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially replicate the views of the CFA Institute or the writer’s employer.

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Barry M. Gilman, CFA

Barry M. Gilman, CFA, is a principal at Longevity Monetary Consulting, Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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