Trading Update: Wolves on Wall Street

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but when I finished watching Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” movie about Jordan Belfort, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, yesterday afternoon in the local theater, I wanted to go home and take a shower.

I thought that Christina Prousalis McDowell’s open letter to the LA Weekly probably stated it best when she wrote:

“So here’s the deal.  You people (Scorsese and DiCaprio) are dangerous.  Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals.  We want to get lost in what?  These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges?  Come on, we know the truth.  This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.”

If you’d like to read entire letter, the link is:

Prousalis is the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man implicated by Jordan Belfort in a pump and dump penny stock scheme.

What struck me the most, as we were leaving the theater were the comments of many of the other viewers who believe that the kind of behavior exhibited in this movie were reflective of the actions of most “Wall Streeters”.

In my over 30 years of experience as an investor, as a President & CEO of three nationally known fiduciary trust companies, as an officer with two large “Wall Street” firms, as a registered investment advisor representative and as a partner with HighTower, the shenanigans portrayed in this movie constitute a rare exception, rather than the normal state of play on Wall Street.

HighTower’s philosophical etiology lies in its partners’ belief that our clients are entitled to much better than “traditional” Wall Street firms have offered and certainly, far, far better than that portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  Joanne and I just celebrated our 5th Anniversary as early partners in HighTower.   We have never “looked back” and have enjoyed the rather incredible growth within HighTower from being early partners in a start-up firm to now being members of a “leading edge” thought leader in the financial services industry.

Hightower is, quite simply, the anti-thesis of what the “Wolf on Wall Street” represented.  HighTower is first, and foremost, focused on our clients.  We have, at several critical junctures over the past several years, remained true to our fundamental concept that we do not need to become “product manufacturers” which would immediately create the potential for a conflict of interest with our clients.  Within our group, we have steadfastly resisted the allure of taking on commission-based accounts, in spite of HighTower’s ability to do so.  All of our accounts are fee-for-service based upon assets under management, placing us squarely on the same side of the table as our clients.  Our primary objective is to grow the value of those accounts, on a risk-adjusted basis.

We have adopted some fundamental principles that Wall Street firms owned, initially:  “Take care of your clients and everything else will take care of itself.”  “Control your risk and protect your balance sheet.”  “Use leverage (margin) sparingly for while it enhances gains, it can significantly magnify losses.”

As a firm, even stating our current number of offices, employees, and assets under management is a challenge because of our rapid growth.

At the end of this, our 5th year as HighTower partners, Mike, Joanne, and I would simply like to say thank you.  Thank you for your confidence and faith in us to act as stewards in the protection and growth of your wealth.  Thank you for your confidence in a firm which we are incredibly proud of, both on our local and on a national level.  Thank you for your understanding that we conduct our business in a manner which is focused on your needs as opposed to our own.  Lastly, thank you for telling your friends and neighbors that there are firms within the financial services industry that are “good” and that it is a very small minority who act like the “wolves.”  That you know of a team that is focused on the needs of their clients, that enjoys a broad based research platform which includes sell-side and independent sources of macro, market, sector, and company specific information, that enjoys the independence to construct portfolios for the benefit of our individual clients and that is not conflicted by the needs and demands of conflicted profit centers within the firm, as many Wall Street firms are.

So, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in 2013.  We are looking forward to a healthy and prosperous 2014.

Best regards,

Curt Lyman

Joanne Robin

Mike Robinson

P.S. Keep an eye on your email, we’ll be sending our 2014 “primer” out within the next few days.



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