Golden Girl Finance
 
Amana Manori, CLO - Introduction Capital
Posts (13)
 
 

Career

The fascination equation

August 9th, 2016 by

This is how you should be developing your professional persona

 
 

A colleague once advised me that: “As you build your career it is very important that you are the one who is fascinating and not the one who is fascinated”.

Over the years, these words have surfaced in my mind as I analyze the professional dynamics with those I encounter. At the crux of the analysis is the simple question – what makes one fascinating? However, underneath this query there is a more serious implication that one who is fascinated by others cannot themselves be fascinating? That is, are these two states of being mutually exclusive?

The result of the analysis of the fascination equation leads to a valuable discussion on how we develop our professional personas.

The perfect story

The most captivating people are ones that can tell a good story. A business story is quite simple to construct. The foundation is three-fold starting with the acknowledgement of where you’ve been – pedigree and experience; where you are now – accomplishments; and, most importantly, where you are going – vision and outlook. However, it is the delivery of this narrative, including the careful details embedded therein, that ultimately has the power to absorb the listener.

Seasoned professionals recognize who is across the boardroom table. Preparation and generous listening become critical to their story. They understand their audience so they can modify their script to make their presentation relevant and poignant. Elevator pitches and sound bites have their place in marketing but they rarely have the strength to connect. Similarly, professional scripts on autopilot can leave the listener detached and disconnected.

Those that captivate our attention tell their stories with powerful simplicity and personal conviction. A fascinating person is one that is continually fine-tuning, self-editing and rehearsing themselves...essentially optimizing their character. Their presentation instills a level of confidence with counterparties because it offers us the opportunity to connect with their focus, ambition and vision.

Attractive people, professionally speaking, communicate using a perfect balance of humility and pride. Accomplishments and milestones are noted but challenges and hardships are also conveyed. You can get a sense of the person’s character while being equally impressed with their business acumen. Personal likeability and professional respect both regularly factor into business decisions. Who we are getting into business with is as important as the business we are intending to do with them.

Charm is not a quality that should be overlooked in the professional realm. While not strictly a professional characteristic, we cannot deny that charming people have the ability to enchant us. The allure of charm is that it is imprecise or indefinable. It not necessarily the substantive aspects of the conversation that appeal to us but rather, a ‘style’ that resonates with us. Charm allows the professional interaction to feel special in some way and adds a level of intrigue because it is not a fully tangible trait.

The calculation

The fascination equation is not a zero sum calculation. One can easily be fascinating to others and still have the ability to be fascinated by those they meet. In fact, one can argue that there is something rather unappealing about someone who doesn’t have the ability to recognize interesting people that they cross paths with. Notable people have unique outlooks, specific goals and strong networks that are informed by the admiration, respect and acknowledgement of other esteemed individuals and their stories.

If we look further into the fascination equation there is a more important message embedded in the advice – be fascinating because you have the ability to be. The original advice is predicated on a notion that we should not hold others above us on an unattainable professional pedestal. We all have all the necessary qualities to be fascinating if we put in the time to understand who we are speaking with, what we should be speaking about and why this conversation matters... that is, to form our perfect story.

What is so great about a good story? It has the power to influence whether it is by example or by inspiration. There is something so spellbinding about the message and/or the messenger that it enchants the listener and more importantly makes all else vanish in that moment of enchantment. In today’s highly stimulating professional world, this ability to gain one’s undivided attention should not be underestimated. Ultimately, if we have the skills to captivate then we will have the ability to compel someone to do business with us... the math on this can be very attractive indeed.

Business

Black box businesspeople

April 28th, 2016 by

Increasing desire for professional transparency

 
 

In finance, “black box” commonly refers to quantitative strategies or artificial trading models whereby it is hard to know exactly what is occurring in the structure. The idea is that complete transparency may disclose information on the model or underlying algorithm that would threaten the proprietary edge of the manager. Like black box strategies, comparable characteristics and motivations can also be applied to professionals we encounter day-to-day. Just like there is a decreasing appetite for black box strategies by sophisticated investors, the appetite for “black box businesspeople” is also waning. Just as savvy investors are vocalizing their desire to invest in what they understand, similarly they want to surround themselves with those they can trust. Whether it is the desire for power or fear of replication that drives secrecy, the financial world is shifting towards a more open and approachable landscape. 

Old-school power plays

Notorious secrecy undoubtedly held great appeal in a bygone era. Similar to the secretive hedge funds that suggested a complex underlying strategy, the secretive businessperson suggested a multidimensional individual. Both were once very attractive because they were beyond comprehension and reach. Elitism in finance worked splendidly for decades. Not knowing what the powerhouse or power player was doing just made investors want to be a part of their game. Funds not available for further investments, CEOs unavailable for meetings, exclusive events and membership; this all played into the psychology of desire which, when carefully constructed can and has been a very effective sales strategy. 

Cautious to a fault 

On the other hand, if it is not a power hungry megalomaniac across the boardroom table, the want for secrecy might just be a result of professional cautiousness. In most cases it is either the fear of replication or the fear of judgment that prevents an open and honest dialogue. 

Competitive analysis is critical to professional success. It is important to have discretion and to follow protocol to protect confidential, proprietary information or intellectual property. However, the fear that drives secrecy beyond a level of protecting trade secrets or displaying a level of professionalism can leave a negative perception. 

Striving for excellence should encapsulate the endeavor for true distinction. Make the fear of replication a non-issue and eliminate the competition. Plan to be the expert, a trusted advisor, a leader and whenever possible, a pioneer. If your competitor prospers from the information you have disclosed (and you didn’t have the foresight to author it through social media), let that be a driver for continued innovation, and a lesson learned. 

We are all human and judgment can be hard. It is true that the more people know the more they have to criticize. However, if you can thicken your skin there is a lot of value that comes from showing your cards – unsolicited advice, intelligence on the competitive landscape, information on how you or your business are perceived by outsiders. It will prove wise to be generous in your listening and exploitive in using these insights given freely as a result of your disclosure. As we gain experience, we all come to the realization that the façade of perfection is unexciting.

Illusiveness as bad business 

Sometimes the lack of transparency is simply just due to an absence of clarity. Poor communication may be a result of uncertainty and there is no intention to be illusive or withholding. The problem with uncertainty to this level is that it will inevitably instill doubt and doubt does not pair well with business. Have intention to know what you are doing, do it precisely and therefore, effectively. 

The new paradigm 

As there has been a shift in investors’ tolerance for black box investment models, there has also been a shift in individual tolerance of black box professionals. The new (business) black is ‘if I don’t understand it, I don’t invest in it’. This applies to both the underlying investment opportunity and the overlying professional. 

The old ‘on a need to know basis’ is trite. The new communication paradigm is ‘happy to share’. It is Sales 101 that people like to do business with people that they like, and likeable people communicate directly and authentically. Also, in the information age when everything is easy to find, not sharing information just seems petty. 

When the person across the boardroom table is candid (and fearless) enough to share their goals and challenges, and to discuss their successes and failures (monetary and otherwise), it sends a strong message. It shows that being open does not make you powerless…it makes you powerful.

Family

The story of one woman who climbed out of poverty and addiction - and how she did it

January 28th, 2016 by

St. Stephen's Community House has many stories to share...

 
 

Shari suffered with addiction issues for more than twenty years. For her, change seemed impossible until the Children’s Aid removed her two year old daughter. With the intense support of our Toronto Community Addiction Team (TCAT), Shari was able to overcome her addiction through a newfound trust and belief in herself and the desire to be reunited with her daughter

That desire helped Shari work with the St. Stephen’s employment counsellor to successfully enroll in the Pre-Community Services program at George Brown, volunteer at our youth and homeless drop-ins, and work at TCAT, where she helps clients cope with addiction. Most importantly, Shari regained custody of her daughter.

Today, at 36 years old, Shari sees a bright future. “My life is so full of new wonderful things, and having my daughter with me…I don’t need drugs or alcohol anymore. Now I can provide for her and set a good example.”

About SCSCC

St. Stephen’s Community House is a unique, community-based social service agency that has been serving the needs of Kensington Market and other neighbourhoods in Toronto since 1962. We are dedicated to making our communities stronger, happier and healthier.

With more than 100 staff and the support of almost 550 volunteers, our nine locations offer services for more than 25,200 people a year and address the most pressing issues in our community: hunger, homelessness, unemployment, isolation, conflict, violence, HIV and AIDS, youth alienation and integration of immigrants.

Read more Success Stories

St. Stephen’s Community House Success Stories

Amana Manori is on the Board of St. Stephen’s Community House

Career

The art of relationship brokering

April 23rd, 2015 by ,    photos by

Plus, 10 sure-fire ways to burn your professional relationship bridges

 
 

Hillary Clinton and Warren Buffett shake hands at a 2007 event in San Francisco.

Professional relationships, like personal ones, take care and attention to build. They require nurturing and delicacy. Trust is earned and needs to be protected. Sometimes in a professional capacity, such carefulness is overlooked to focus on the deal without regard to the long game or the players. In the introduction business, it is through the mastery of relationship brokering that deep and meaningful relationships can be formed. In order to garner maximum value from relationships, the process should be viewed as a continuum of collaboration and mutual prosperity.

The art of relationship brokering…

Building relationships, including professional ones, is not a one size fits all approach – it is an art. Merriam-Webster defies “art” as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination” or a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation”.  “Art” therefore, while requiring an element of skill, suggests a subjective and non-scientific approach. In the relationship brokering business it indicates the need for authenticity, intuition, foresight and the appropriate reactionary behavior. The skill set that is referenced includes qualitative analysis, interpersonal skills, diplomacy and excellence in communication decorum.

“Relationship brokering” is the precise act of introducing synergetic people or groups to one another.  It is a qualitative process that ensures that when the introduction is made that there is a high likelihood of success. It is underpinned by the belief that the match will provide richness to each side (not necessarily solely in monetary terms).  Shared objectives, visions and ambitions will allow introduced parties to draw value strategically, culturally and hopefully towards the successful outcome of a business endeavor.    While brokering is transactional in nature, it is the “application of creative skill” (i.e. the art) that transforms the transaction into a purposeful relationship, collaboration or strategic partnership. 

In the relationship brokering business, there are many metrics to get a sense of client perceptions, appetite and the likelihood of success. Nevertheless, there are no guarantees. There are so many variables in play that no matter how much professionalism, diligence and hard work may be put into an introduction there is still an undeniable element of hope.  While this level of uncertainty can be unsettling at times, there is a thick silver lining that offers comfort. All the care, attention and effort invested in the development of the relationship seeps into the foundation of that connection. It breeds trust, integrity and respect − characteristics needed for a long-term relationship beyond the immediate opportunity on the table.

…and the science of burning bridges

Unfortunately, no matter how conscientiously a relationship is designed, its demise can happen in a swift shortsighted moment. With all the nuances and intangible factors that go into building client relationships, there are some very clear guidelines to be mindful of in order to ensure that these carefully established connections are not lost.

If preservation of relationship is not a concern, here are 10 sure-fire ways to burn bridges:

  1. Use your clients.  Put your goals first.
     
  2. Act like you are smarter than your client. Disregard any experience, expertise or sophistication they may have.
     
  3. Do not pay attention. Show clients opportunities that they would never consider.
     
  4. Overlook the fact that time is precious. Have meetings just for the sake of it and hope something positive comes of it.
     
  5. Focus only on what you get out of the relationship. Disregard that it is your client’s hard earned money that is at risk.
     
  6. Once your client has made an investment, act like your job is done.
     
  7. If your client decides not to invest in the opportunity you have presented, cut them off.
     
  8. Forget your manners. Do not have your own standard of decorum that you adhere to.
     
  9. Be naïve enough to think that no one is paying attention to the company you keep.
     
  10. Refuse to believe that reputation is everything.  Assume that your clients are forgiving (and forgetful).

Building strong bonds

Successful client relationships should be crafted from inception upon a solid foundation of knowledge and skill, and then further enveloped in thoughtfulness and consideration. Bonds are formed from the experiences, not merely the words and actions of the players.  It is the art of relationship brokering – the expression, the application and the act collectively that fosters a strong and sustainable professional network that will be abundant with opportunity.

 

Footnote: “The Art of Relationship Brokering” trademark application is pending for Introduction Capital Inc.

Investing

Long live the (qualitative) queen

April 16th, 2014 by

Quantitative analysis has been king, naturally the queen is next in line...

 
 

In a world where quantitative analysis has been king, qualitative analysis is the new reigning queen. And why shouldn’t she be? She is intuitive and she wields the weapon of insight. She understands that risk may not be fully assessed by using information that is provided by numbers alone. She is forward-thinking. She is driven by goals of abundance and prosperity.

The hows & the whys

Qualitative review expands the universe of questions that are asked and will delve deeper into the “how” and the “why” of an investment scenario. It allows for a conversation with the people behind the numbers. It brings forth critical information about the realities of the situation – both the opportunity under review and the business that is promoting it. Ultimately, it allows for complexity to be reintroduced where the numbers have stripped it out in quantitative reporting.

Qualitative assessment allows one to gather important information on motivations, opinions, experience, pedigree and other background material that cannot be quantified. In the investment space, qualitative analysis illustrates how other factors can impact performance numbers. It acknowledges that there are subjective forces behind investment situations that have informed past performance and may continue to impact future results.

Consider all the elements

All this is not to say quantitative analysis should be dismissed. Where the intention of an investment is to perform well relative to the competition, numbers are still the most important things to consider…at the outset, at least. However, numeric data will prove more valuable to investors when informed by non-quantitative details. Investment decisions are not made by looking at snapshots in time. Consideration of a variety of factors is crucial, including elements specific to the investor (risk appetite, time horizon, goals, etc.) and to the investment opportunity (volatility, targets, stress testing, etc.) It is the qualitative review over and above the quantitative data that provides insight beyond the point of the initial allocation; thus, helping make informed investment decisions.

Critics of the qualitative approach will note that qualitative analysis makes it hard to compare investment opportunities against peers since there is no defined measurement or baseline. Unlike quantitative results that can be trusted because the findings are measured and there is little room for bias, qualitative reviews are untidy and unconstrained. Tangential information is considered, perceptions are reviewed, and histories and beliefs come into play.

Giddy up!

Putting a qualitative overlay on quantitative information allows for holistic interpretation of the investment situation at hand. It illuminates the fallacies in relative performance - it is often not a comparison of apples to apples. Sometimes you find a cowboy in the bushel. It may magnify the flaws in the foundation. However, it is not always the negative that is highlighted. Qualitative analysis has the ability to uncover a rare stone that with careful excavation, strategic partnership and quality advice will prove to be a winning investment.

There is no question that qualitative review operates in an uncontrolled environment where one’s ‘gut’ may have a greater role than other spheres of investment analysis. This type of examination seeks an understanding of relationships amongst the mathematical figures. It observes and forms opinions on the interactions within the infrastructure. Nevertheless, if experienced analysts interpret this information collected correctly it can produce reliable information. After all, “experience is the teacher of all things” (Julius Caesar).

Question everything

Where we get our qualitative analysis is important. Unlike quantitative data that can result in the same results regardless of the analyst, qualitative review allows for greater variance. Seek out the assistance of experts who have the experience to ask the right questions – they know the industry, the players and the products. Rely on the information derived from specialists who aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions - they question intention, motivation and drivers. Depend on trusted advisors with whom you have built a meaningful relationship.

The blending of qualitative and quantitative methods is becoming increasingly acknowledged in many industries, including the alternative investment space. While some may approach the integration as a hierarchy where one method is more important than the other, a partnership may be the more sensible approach. Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each will allow for an optimal merger between the two. As it turns out, our qualitative queen and our quantitative king may be the perfect couple after all. Each contributes something to the relationship that the other does not have. Together they can be more powerful than on their own….and alone, they may only be able to tell part of the story.