What Would You Have Done?

She was sobbing hysterically in the luggage claim area of the airport. All by herself. No one helping her.

I realized I had seen her a few minutes early, at 7:30 pm in the main terminal, begging an airport staff person to help her. “I lost my cell phone. No one is helping me.”  Assuming she would be helped, I just kept walking.

In luggage claim, she needed help. I stayed with her. I kept asking a nearby airport visitor information volunteer to call security, the police or EMS. “I can’t find my license. I can’t find my cell phone. I have no boarding pass. How can I get back through security?”   She was young, scared and overwhelmed. She was having a panic attack. She looked like she was going to pass out. I bought her a bottle of water. The volunteer said he made phone calls but no officials appeared.

I have friends at gate 5a. They have my carryon. I don’t have my medication. I need medication.”   She would calm down, then another panic attack would overwhelm her. I could not leave her. She found her boarding pass. I got her first name, her mid-20s age. I got the name of a friend at gate 5a, but no one from the airport was contacting them. She could not remember her mom’s phone number. She was flying from California to upstate New York. She finally found her drivers license.  She finally remembered her dad’s phone number. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t stand up. She needed help. What should I do?

I stayed. I helped.

I was returning from the 2013 BAMAlliance National Conference and BAM Masters Forum meeting. I had been in St. Louis for 5 days and was tired and needed to meet my wife to take her for a medical test. But I needed to stay. This young woman needed help. So I stayed, as she needed me more than Felicia did at that moment.

Speakers at the conference talked about relationships, authenticity, trust, doing the right thing, taking chances, showing up, giving first and without the expectation of anything in return. Seth Godin. Jerry Greenfield. Dr. Robert Cialdini. Carl Richards. Jason Womack. They were all different, but essentially their messages had a common thread. Care. Be present. Do the right thing. How could I just walk away and ignore her?  She needed help.

She could get through security, but she was not physically able to get up. She kept collapsing. “Where are the police?,” I asked the volunteer. Can you get EMS?  She is close to passing out I kept repeating.

Finally, after almost 30 minutes, one police officer arrived. I gave him the information I had written down on a yellow sheet of legal paper. Her name. Her friend’s name. Where she was going. Then another officer arrived. They said I should go. They would handle it.

So I left. Worried. Would she be OK?  Would she be physically able to make her 9:25 pm flight to NY state?  I got on the shuttle bus to get my car. The only other person on the bus worked at the airport. “Is she OK?  he asked. I was startled.  What was he talking about? He said he had seen me with that woman in the luggage area. He said he saw the whole thing. “Did I know her?, he asked. No, I said. I was just trying to help her.

As I drove from the airport to get my wife, thoughts flew through my head. Why did the airport employee I talked to on the shuttle bus, who watched this all unfold, do nothing? Why didn’t he try to help?  Why didn’t the people in the Delta office help? Or just make a phone call?  Why did it take so long for the police or other emergency people or even security personnel at the airport so long to respond?

Today, the next day, I feel good that I tried my best to help this young woman. I didn’t even think about it. On Monday morning, in the calm of a beautiful hotel, surrounded by colleagues and friends, Seth Godin said to do what our gut tells us to do. Be vulnerable. Take chances. (And to write more). Last night, on Tuesday evening, I wasn’t thinking about Seth Godin’s speech. I was just trying to help another human being who was going through a crisis situation.

 

I can’t get her out of my mind. I don’t know if she was able to overcome the panic attacks to make her flight or if she needed further medical treatment. I’m worried about her. At some point in this 30 minutes with her, I wrote down my cell phone number for her on the back of my business card, if she needed more assistance.

I hope I hear from her. I just want to know that she is OK.

Nobel Prize in Economics, Our Firm and You

“The envelope please.  And the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Economics is…”

We’re quite sure that not many of you were glued to your TV for this announcement at around 7 am Monday morning. However, one of the 3 winners has had a significant impact on our firm and our investment philosophy.

Who is Eugene Fama and why is his research important?

Eugene Fama was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics for his research that concluded: attempts to pick stocks and time the markets were often fruitless. This research led to the development of index funds and our approach to investing. Fama is widely recognized as the “father of modern finance” for his academic work in developing this “efficient market hypothesis.”

Fama was the principal scholar whose groundbreaking research inspired the founding of Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), the mutual fund company through which we primarily implement our stock investment philosophy. DFA is now one of the top 10 mutual fund companies in the US, managing over $300 Billion. Fama serves on Dimensional’s Board of Directors and its Investment Policy Committee. Fama has been a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business since 1963.

What does this mean for stock picking?

Fama was selected for his research beginning in the 1960s which show that stocks prices are “extremely hard to predict over short (time) horizons.”  As stock prices react so quickly to any new information, he argues this leaves little opportunity for profitable efforts by actively managed mutual funds and hedge funds.

At a conference in September, Fama said that since markets are efficient, he challenged the Wall Street notion that investment managers such as high-fee hedge funds could outperform market returns. His advice “…would be to avoid high fees. So you can forget about hedge funds” and other high cost mutual funds.

How has our firm incorporated Fama’s research into your investments?

We believe in the thesis of Fama’s research, which won him the Nobel Prize for Economics. To extend his research, we do not feel it is possible to identify in advance investment managers that will consistently outperform a respective benchmark over a long period of time. There is a significant academic research which supports this position, especially if fees and trading costs are considered.

Thus, we adhere to an index or “passive” philosophy, which minimizes your costs and invests in a particular asset class. We have chosen to primarily utilize DFA’s mutual funds to implement this strategy based on their performance and very low costs.

Fama has continued to play a major research role in the investment approach of DFA.  Further research developed the strategies to tilt towards small and value companies, both domestically and internationally, as they have greater expected returns.

Conclusion

It is our role to be independent, intellectually curious, and advise you in the manner that is best for your interests. We are pleased that Professor Fama has been internationally recognized for his research that has led to such a rationale investment approach. His continued guidance and work with DFA is truly valuable. Keith and I have each heard him present at conferences in the past and look forward to this even more in the future.

Note: This is the letter that is accompanying the third quarter, 2013 statements being sent to our clients.