April 15, 2024
Wealth Management: A wealth of knowledge

Photo: Michael Price

Diane Ridley: "We are still big believers in high-quality dividend-paying stocks."

Wealth Management: A wealth of knowledge

In today's financial environment, experienced Florida private bankers and wealth management professionals suggest the following strategies for investors.

Richard Westlund | 3/25/2015

In today's financial environmnet, experienced Florida private bankers and wealth management professionals suggest the following strategies for investors.

Diane Ridley
Senior vice president/wealth management
BMR Group, Merrill Lynch
Palm Beach Gardens

Protect against market volatility: "We are increasing our cash reserves for excess liquidity and opportunistic events," says Diane Ridley. As part of a balanced portfolio, she and her team also suggest a "laddered" bond strategy, holding short- to intermediate-term bonds with differing maturities.

"We are still big believers in high-quality dividend-paying stocks, both domestically and abroad as a core component to a client's equity allocation," Ridley says. One approach to consider for potentially higher returns, she says, is a "covered call," selling an option on an equity owned by the investor.

Ridley also cautions investors not to overlook municipal bonds. "With continued pressures to raise taxes, investors in higher tax brackets should work with an adviser and revisit the strategy of laddering municipal bonds," she says.

Michael Clark
Retirement plan adviser
Raymond James Financial Services

Consider energy, technology and financial stocks: When Michael Clark looks at the U.S. and international stock markets, he sees plenty of opportunities. "Investors may want to look for deals in the oil and gas industry as oil prices have fallen," says Clark. "Adding a little bit to this sector this year could pay off nicely in the years to come." Chevron (CVX) and Superior Energy Services (SPN) are two possibilities he cites.

Clark also likes technology and financial stocks. "Technology is favored due to the sector's projected increase in earnings," he says. "Financials are in favor because of the possibility for raising interest rates. Higher interest rates will help banks be more profitable."

Like other advisers, Clark recommends holding a diversified mix of investments and adjusting the weightings to form the final portfolio. "We have had some very volatile sectors and should continue to see that in 2015," he adds.

Bob Doyle
Doyle Wealth Management
St. Petersburg

Pick stocks with growing dividends: Wall Street's longrunning bull market should continue in the coming year, says Bob Doyle. "Many investors are asking us, 'Is it too late to get into stocks?' " he says. "My answer is no, particularly if you are concerned about inflation and rising interest rates."

Doyle suggests focusing on stocks with a history of increasing dividends. "We like the possibility of an income stream that can grow faster than inflation," he says. "We seek out stocks that might pay only a modest dividend, such as 2%, in today's market. Then we do extensive research to see whether that company is likely to increase its dividends in the coming years." For example, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Emerson Electric (EMR) and W.W. Grainger (GWW) have consistently grown their annual dividends for more than 40 years, says Doyle.

Doyle says that dividendoriented approach has two other benefits for patient investors: A potential appreciation in the stock and a reduction in volatility compared with the S&P 500 index. As he says, "It's a conservative stock portfolio that can generate an income stream that you won't outlive."

Robert T. Edwards
Managing director
Moran Edwards Asset Management Group, Wells Fargo Advisors

Place your bet on oil and gas and casino stocks: One of the key trends this year will be increased bank lending to smaller businesses, says Robert T. Edwards. "That expansion of credit can have a significant positive impact on the U. S. economy," he says. "We see solid growth, leading to higher wages and tighter corporate profit margins."

Edwards says investors should stay in the stock market but lower their return expectations in 2015. He says integrated oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) are likely to do well over the next five years as prices climb again. "It's hard to believe that the price of oil will not be higher in the near future," he adds.

Investors could also roll the dice on casino stocks, which have been out of favor recently. "Some have fabulous resort properties," Edwards says, citing Nevada-based Wynn Resorts (WYNN) as an example. "They can be a good addition to the portfolio. Being able to buy great assets at a cheap price is a sound long-term strategy that can lead to higher returns."

Penny White Gordon
Senior vice president/private wealth adviser
Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust
Coral Gables

Use alternatives to help manage global risks: Penny White Gordon believes that managing global risks will be a priority for investors this year. "The outlook for 2015 is one of caution, since there is so much uncertainty both here in the U.S. and abroad," says Gordon. "Investors are getting more complacent about the need to manage for downside risk. After six years of strong equity returns, it can be easier to forget the pain of a surprise to the downside."

In a world with increased volatility across asset classes — as well as diverging central bank monetary policies — Gordon likes global macro and trading strategies, which generally involve hedging approaches to securities affected by currency flows, economic policy changes and other factors. An example of a global macro fund is John Hancock Global Absolute Return Strategies, while Abbey Capital, an Ireland firm, is active in global trading strategies.

These alternative strategies — added to a traditional stock/bond portfolio — tend to be better equipped to handle the current investment environment and can actually benefit from increased volatility, Gordon says. "In general, our overall alternatives allocations range from 15% to 35% of most portfolios based on the unique characteristics of each client," she says.

Cary Putrino
Florida director of investment advisers
Fifth Third Private Bank

Look for global opportunities: The global investment outlook for the remainder of 2015 is positive, says Cary Putrino, but there has been a shift in investment opportunities. "While the U. S. has led the world as an attractive investment landscape for the past few years, markets outside our borders are beginning to represent better investment values," says Putrino.

"India, Mexico and China are evolving into more attractive investment areas as the stronger economies in some of these countries are generating greater disposable income and stronger economic growth potential," he adds. "Familiar U.S. names that have refocused on foreign markets should also continue to be attractive."

Key trends that will be shaping the global market this year include the decline in oil prices, fear of disinflation in Europe and the strength of the dollar, Putrino says. "The continued resurgence of the U.S. consumer and the expansion of the middle class in many regions around the world are creating opportunities that should produce positive returns for investors," he says.

Christen Sanchez
Sanchez Wealth Management Group

Invest in 2014's underperformers: Investors should focus on equities rather than bonds this year, says Christen Sanchez. "The Fed is on track to raise rates in midyear, and that would have a negative impact on the entire fixed-income environment."

Sanchez also advises holding onto last year's underperformers. "Most investors are inclined to sell losers and buy winners," he says. "But it's not a good idea to buy expensive stocks hoping they will go higher." Investors who use index funds should also understand that the S&P index is market-weighted, so higherpriced stocks carry more weight in the fund.

Instead, Sanchez suggests an equally weighted S&P index fund that maintains the same percentage of every stock such as the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP). "That avoids increasing your exposure to companies or sectors that have become overvalued, especially since we are now in the late stages of a bull market."

Investors may also want to consider master limited partnerships like the Oppenheimer SteelPath MLP (MLPAX) and global infrastructure funds like Deutsche Global Infrastructure (TOLSX) that finance toll roads, bridges, cellular telephone towers and other projects. "You want to own something that can increase the tolls or rent in the future to help protect against inflation," he adds.

Michael Marquez
Managing director, Florida region head
Bessemer Trust

Focus on U.S. large-cap equities: Michael Marquez likes U. S. large-cap stocks over small and mid-caps. "We expect U.S. growth and corporate earnings to benefit in 2015 from a strengthening labor market, low interest rates and inflation, and lower energy costs," says Marquez. "Given the current valuations of small and mid-cap stocks and their aggressive earnings estimates, we have reduced exposure to these companies."

Marquez also believes that rising interest rates and a stronger dollar could weaken emerging market currencies. He notes that central banks in Europe and Japan are facing pressures to stimulate their economies, a move that would further increase the relative value of the dollar. "Any gains in the commodity market would be limited by rising rates and the stronger dollar," he adds.

In general, the narrowing U.S. budget deficit and the 2016 elections could lead to greater government spending this year, with fewer defense cuts, increased infrastructure spending and more public-sector jobs. Marquez says the result could be a U.S. economy that is stronger than expected this year.

Meg Green
Meg Green & Associates

Consider master limited partnerships: Investors searching to improve their yield on a diversified portfolio have several strategies to consider, says Meg Green. One option is master limited partnerships that invest in infrastructure projects like oil and gas pipelines. "Lower oil prices have created a buying opportunity for MLPs that invest in pipelines," she says. "They provide steady cash flows that can increase with inflation. But you have to be careful about getting hit with taxes from different states." Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) or Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP) are two options.

For equity investors, emerging markets such as India offer strong growth opportunities this year, Green says. "If you're not invested in India, you're missing out on one of the hottest spots in the world," she says, citing Eaton Vance Greater India Fund (ETGIX) or iShares MSCI India (INDA) as two possibilities.

Green also expects municipal bonds to perform well this year, noting that a portfolio of carefully selected three- to 10-year intermediate term bonds can deliver a 4% tax-free return to qualified investors. "We also like global bonds in terms of potential yields," she adds. "Even though there can be volatility in this sector, a bad day in the bond market is not as severe as a bad day in stocks."

Betsy L. Turner
Senior vice president/senior portfolio manager
Northern Trust
Palm Beach

Pursue U.S. and emerging market equities: "We continue to favor U.S. equities given their strong relative momentum," says Betsy L. Turner. "The decline in gas prices is like a tax cut for consumers and puts money in their pockets, increasing their ability to spend on other goods and services in the next year."

While growth remains flat in the European Union, the valuations are less expensive and long-term growth remains higher for emerging markets, Turner adds. "While emerging markets are vulnerable to the stronger U.S. dollar, the valuations are compelling, and their long-term growth rates are higher than in the developed markets." She notes that India was the best-performing emerging market in 2014. "India is a net oil importer, so lower prices will benefit that country," she adds.

For fixed-income investors, U.S. treasuries offer higher yields compared with other developed nations, Turner says. "Foreign investors will pour money into the U.S. in 2015 in search of stability and yield, and that trend will keep rates lower than expected."

Benjamin A. Tobias
Tobias Financial Advisors

Pay attention to global equities: In the last half of 2014, U.S. large-cap equities performed well, while global equities did poorly, says Benjamin A. Tobias. "Today, a strong argument can be made that large caps are overpriced and overseas equities are underpriced," he says. "We are actively rebalancing our clients' portfolios, taking profits from the U.S. and putting them into overseas assets."

Tobias adds that the global markets have more growth potential than U.S. markets. For instance, the relative weakness of the euro compared with the dollar currently can boost profitability for European exporters. "When you buy a German car in Florida, the price hasn't gone down," he says. "That means the auto manufacturer has made a greater profit on the sale."

If the European Central Bank moves to stimulate the region's economy in 2015, new growth opportunities would open up for a wide range of companies. "There are some really interesting things happening there, and if I were going to select one place in the world to invest, it would be Europe at this point."

Favorable Environment for Women

When Meg Green founded her financial advisory firm in 1984, she felt like a pioneer in a male-dominated profession. "We've come a long way from being treated like a secretary in a room filled with suits and cigar smoke," says Green, principal of Meg Green & Associates in Aventura. "Times are changing, and women with the attributes to be great advisers can succeed — big time!"

A 2013 study, "Single Women, Their Wealth and Women in Wealth Management," by Information Asset Partners and Meridian-IQ on women in wealth management, found that:

In Florida, women constitute 24% of active registered representatives (professionals who are licensed to sell securities). Nationally, that number is 20%. The study notes that there is a clear mismatch between the number of women advisers and the estimated 9.5 million U.S. households headed by single women with investable assets of more than $100,000. However, that discrepancy is lower in Florida than most other states.

Florida ranks eighth in the number of women registered representatives.

The state ranks sixth among women registered investment advisers, who provide advice about securities.

Florida ranks in the top 10 for both women retail investors and women financial advisers, the only state in the top 10 in both categories.

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