February 21, 2000
Investors put more than $30 billion into the technology sector last year, accounting for more than 26.8 percent of all equity dollars, according to AMG Data Services of Arcata, Calif. It is little wonder since it s impossible to pick up a personal finance magazine without finding a headline announcing the astronomical returns of hot tech stocks.
Yearning for returns on the scale of technology stocks, investors are increasingly dissatisfied with the comparatively meager returns of their diversified portfolios, financial advisors say.
"We are conservative investors, not market timers," said Patricia Raskob, a financial planner with Raskob Kambourian Financial of Tucson, Ariz. "We are not chasing the hottest stock of the day. Long-term, five- or ten-year money, just can't go in Internet funds or stocks. Our clients' returns in the last few years have not been anywhere near the S&P 500 - and they are not happy."
Individual investors are not the only ones disenchanted with diversification. Robert Markman, a money manager in Minneapolis, Minn., has posted the following message on his website: "We believe U. S. stocks will outperform foreign stocks over time. We believe large U. S. stocks will outperform small U. S. stocks over time. We believe large U. S. growth stocks will outperform large U. S. value stocks over time. We believe technology stocks will represent an increasingly larger part of the market over time. So we have no choice: large cap U. S. growth stocks, with an overweighting in technology is the road we travel. Will it be the best and smoothest road every month of every year? Of course not. But long-term, it will!"
Financial advisors are taking a variety of approaches to address client discontent and positions like Markman's. Raskob runs her clients' portfolios alongside a blended index rather than just showing them the S&P 500 Index. Richard Bellmer, a financial planner with Deerfield Financial Advisors of Indianapolis, Ind. encourages clients to use a small amount of money they do not need to invest in technology. He invests the bulk of their money in a diversified portfolio.
Fund companies, too, are promoting the benefits of diversification. Vanguard's Online Planner, introduced in April, suggests asset allocations, along with specific Vanguard funds, that may be appropriate for investors. The Planner suggests two portfolios - one made up of index funds and one that uses index and actively-managed funds.
In addition, the "Portfolio Overview" on Vanguard's website enables investors to determine the percentages of money market, bond, balanced, and stock funds in their portfolio.
With research showing that funds with ostensibly different investment styles may concentrate in the same sector and even hold a majority of the same stocks, Fidelity will soon offer "web detectives" at www.fidelity.com to help investors expose portfolio redundancies that may throw asset allocation plans out of whack.
In recent months, asset allocation has also been a major focus in shareholder newsletters. In the Winter 2000 issue of In the Vanguard, John J. Brennan, chairman of Vanguard, wrote, "The enduring principles of sound investing that have served investors for decades are diversification, balance, and a long-term orientation. But many investors are behaving as if they believe in the polar opposite approach. The thinking is that all you have to do is buy a single stock and watch it go up 150 percent."
Brennan also advises investors to look at the ample returns of "high-flying tech stocks," gratefully and to be skeptical about the prospects for future returns.
OppenheimerFunds' consumer literature will continue to advocate asset allocation, said Greg Stitt, a company spokesperson.
At Oppenheimer's website, a page called, "Learn to Diversify Your Portfolio," addresses risk control and market cycles. A chart shows what would have been the best investment for each year from 1980 to 1999 from among U.S. stocks, bonds, foreign stock, commodities. Also, a pie chart illustrates the comparative ten-year returns of a $100,000 "basic portfolio" of U.S. stocks and bonds versus a "more diversified portfolio" of U.S. stocks and bonds, foreign stocks and commodities. The more diversified portfolio outperforms the basic one.
Perhaps the most compelling plea for diversification comes from Alliance Capital Management of New York in the form of a $12 million advertising campaign that pokes fun at the easy-money mentality of day traders. Two spots were aired earlier this year during major sporting events and four new commercials will be introduced nationally over the next six months. The new ads depict investors in situations in which something has gone wrong rather than focusing on what happens if everything goes right, said Duff Ferguson, a spokesperson for Alliance.
"The ad campaign is not so much bashing day traders as it is bashing the idea that making easy money in the technology sector is easy and will always remain so," said Ferguson. "There is a danger that those who are new to the market will be lulled into a false sense of security that they can pick a few technology stocks and do just fine."
Indicating that fund companies feel the need to educate their investors on the importance of asset allocation, a study released this week by Forrester Research, found that 82 percent of financial firms expect to offer advice on the Web by the end of the year.
The message the Forum for Investor Advice of Bethesda, Md. is trying to convey to investors is that, "the point of diversification is that you are covered no matter what the market does," said Barbara Levin, executive director of the Forum.
"Our goal is to educate investors that during market turbulence, it is really vital to tighten your grip on your diversified investment strategy," she said.