The round table was organized by Dawn Mueller, senior area analyst for product review at Edward Jones, and Scott Froidl, a senior member of Stifel’s traditional product research group.
The two have worked in the industry for many years and are regular attendees of the wider National Analyst Round Table, which takes place in a different city each year.
They both enjoy these events – where due diligence professionals from across the country meet up to discuss best practice and investment ideas – and find them valuable for their careers.
Left to right: Dawn Mueller, Emily Dai, me, Christine Sinicrope, Scott Burkhardt, Meagan Carrow and Dario Castagna.
‘I’ve always said that some of my best ideas come from other people, and many of those ideas have come from hearing my peers share their wisdom at investment conferences. We’re both still thirsty to learn, but we also want to help others at this point in our lives,’ Froidl said.
And help they did, by organizing a great day for the large due diligence community in and around St. Louis, which hasn’t hosted such an event for five years.
Over the course of the day, I caught up with due diligence teams from Stifel, Edward Jones and Wells Fargo to hear about their coverage areas, to-do lists and what was keeping them awake at night.
First I met with Enzo Egidi, James Ritzema and Tommy Willett, who are all analysts at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
Left to right: Tommy Willett, me, Enzo Egidi and James Ritzema.
Egidi covers taxable investment grade strategies. When asked what’s keeping him awake at night, he said: ‘Our clients’ reactions to downside risk are a concern as we haven’t been exposed to much downside volatility over the past decade. I do believe the sell-off we experienced this quarter was a wake-up call for some of our clients.’
Ritzema focuses on high yield, multi-sector bond, unconstrained bond and some municipal bond strategies. Like Egidi, February’s market moves were on his mind.
‘With the recent move up in rates, is this finally the secular move higher in rates that everyone has predicted for a long time, or another head fake? What will be the catalyst for credit spreads to move wider in a meaningful way?’
Lastly, I spoke with Willett, who works on the equity side of the global manager research team. Willett covers US small-cap value and US small/mid-cap value managers. He joined the team in August 2017, having previously worked for Wells Fargo Advisors as a retail securities trader and a sales advisory consultant supporting financial advisors in the field.
Next, I nabbed Froidl along with Dylan Gray, Mark Webster, Tyler Miller and Rick Bettger – all members of the traditional product research group at Stifel, which is led by Michael Belloli.
Left to right: Rick Bettger, Tyler Miller, Dylan Gray, me, Scott Froidl, Michael Belloli and Mark Webster.
The team does mutual fund and ETF due diligence, putting together recommended lists and picking managers for a range of model portfolios.
Froidl, whose current search list includes mid-cap value, small/mid caps and government bond managers, was less worried about the recent sell-off than about ‘advisors selling strategies based on past performance,’ he said.
‘It is our duty to explain the styles of each recommendation to our advisors. Our story helps them understand when and why to use each strategy to pair the recommendation with the right type of client.’
Gray had two things on his to-do list: completing the same searches as Froidl and studying for his CFA. But he said he was more worried about less liquid parts of the market.
‘You saw what happened with products trading on volatility – both mutual fund and ETFs – and the subsequent blow-ups there when the VIX spiked earlier this year. What happens if products in a larger but still less liquid segment experience a shock and have a hard time delivering on the promise of liquidity? Does that spill over or not?’
Webster, Miller and Bettger are all working on the same searches as Gray and Froidl, but Bettger and Webster are also working to revamp the way in which the team communicates its research to Stifel’s financial advisors.
Lastly, I sat down with Mueller, who, along with the rest of the team at Edward Jones, oversees $660.9 billion in mutual fund assets, of which $183.8 billion is advisory.
Mueller’s role has shifted from head of fixed income to more of product review position, but Meagan Carrow, Christine Sinicrope and Scott Burkhardt are still heavily involved in the fund due diligence process. I was also able to meet with Dario Castagna and Emily Dai, who are part of the model portfolio team at Edward Jones, which is overseen by Bryan Luebbert.
I really enjoyed my time in St. Louis. Hopefully I behaved well enough to secure an invitation to next year’s event!
To see all the pictures from the event, click here.