As I have continued to do over the last couple of years, I managed to upgrade the website again over the last three months. If you haven't already seen it please take a look at www.areteam.com and let me know what you think!
A couple of things I wanted to accomplish were to make the site more responsive to different screen sizes and to mobile devices, and to make the site "cleaner" and easier to navigate. After running for seven years now, a lot of ideas and information had piled up and not all of it was easy to find. Indeed, some of the most common feedback I have gotten on the site is that there is a lot of great information, but it is not always very easy to find. This gave me a chance to organize key ideas and to tidy things up.
A colleague of mine at betamore, Todd Douglas, was instrumental in the effort to freshen up the site, make it easier to use, and to make it more attractive visually. He has provided invaluable feedback in improving the site's appearance, distilling my thoughts into more digestible phrases, translating verbiage to visual representations, and he even created a new logo! If you ever need someone to do website design work, I highly recommend him.
The website project also gave me a chance to refine and clarify the message for Areté. A big part of the reason for founding Areté was that I thought there were a lot of things that could be done better than what most of the industry was doing. When Areté introduced its personal CIO (chief investment officer) service, the same sentiments applied, but with respect to investment services, not just investment management. This gave me a chance to develop a broader, but still completely consistent message for Areté: Helping investors to invest better.
When you visit the website, you will also notice that I have updated the competitive advantages too. While multiple dimensions and technology strategy absolutely remain key competitive advantages, I didn't feel that those two aspects alone did service to other key strengths of Areté.
For one, Areté is purpose built to help investors invest better. This is something I have always taken for granted, but it may well be the greatest single distinguishing feature and deserves attention. There are a lot of smart people in the business and there are a lot of things that are really interesting. If these things are not designed from the get-go to benefit investors, which too often they are not, they usually end up enriching their practitioners far more than making their investors better off. Areté is about helping, not taking.
Another element that differentiates Areté is knowledge management. I have always made this a core part of the research effort, but once again, I haven't talked about it in regards to the company nearly as much I could have. In a time of proliferation of automation and commoditization of information, I think it is absolutely critical to figure out what analysts should be working on and thinking about. I do believe people can add a lot to the process, but far less so when those contributions are ad hoc and directionless. Investors shouldn’t have to pay for analysts who are spinning their wheels.
One of the goals I have always had for Areté is that it can be part of a broader community to improve financial and investment literacy. I think that a lot of pain that is felt as a result of bad investment decisions starts with not really understanding what is going on. While I know that a great number of people are just never going to engage in the process even to help themselves, I do think that everyone deserves to have a fighting chance. Hopefully the content that I continue to post to the Research and Education section [here] is contributing to this goal.
I am happy to report that there is good evidence that the upgrades to the website are having the desired effects. There has been a noticeable improvement in some key engagement statistics, mainly in average number of pages viewed and average time per page. Perhaps even more importantly, there are clearly individuals who are consuming twenty to forty pages of content and spending several minutes on the site. In short, it appears as if the message is resonating with people and that the upgrades to the website are succeeding in making it more accessible.
Finally, I am still spending a fair amount of time marketing the new personal chief investment officer service. I continue to hear of investors being sick and tired of conflicts of interest and high fees and that they are taking control of their own investments for lack of a better alternative. I actually think this is a pretty healthy response and liken it to the movement to self-service at gas stations many years ago. With so many good, low cost financial utilities available today, it simply doesn't make sense to pay a lot for basic services.
Given our environment of extremely low rates and hidden risks, however, the challenges associated with investing are significant and even more so if one is only doing it part time and with limited background and experience. Most people with at least some experience investing realize this and want help, but have a hard time finding sources of insight that are affordable, efficient and effective. The personal CIO effort is designed to satisfy this need. If you know of anyone who is looking for some guidance to fill in gaps in their investment knowledge or expertise, please let me know!
Thanks for your interest and take care!
David Robertson, CFA
CEO, Portfolio Manager