Thank You, Joe “JJ” Kinahan

April 19, 2017

Joe “JJ” Kinahan, Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services; Latha Ramchand, Dean of the C. T. Bauer College of Business; and John Lopez, Bauer College Clinical Assistant Professor of Finance gather for a photo before the college’s 2017 Financial Symposium. See more photos on

On Saturday, April 8, Bauer College hosted our annual Financial Symposium open to students, faculty, staff and the community. The symposium is meant to provide UH students and the Houston community information on topics that will help them make better financial decisions. Students also listen to experts talk about careers in financial services, including commercial banking, financial analysis and personal financial planning. The goal of the symposium is to take learning to the community in ways that make a difference.

Consider the facts:

Today, only 13% of all private-sector workers have a traditional pension, compared with 38% in 1979, and close to 45% of Americans have nothing saved for retirement. More than 30 million people don’t have access to any retirement plan because the small businesses that they work for don’t provide one.

Clearly, we can and must do better.

At Bauer College, we take the message of financial literacy seriously. We need to share the message and share it often. In many ways, the actionable part of financial literacy has to do as much with discipline as it does with finance. As with any behavior, those that enforce discipline in our expenditure and savings plans are best taught early in life. It is for this reason that Bauer College makes every effort to share this message with students and with the community.

This year the keynote speaker at the Financial Symposium was Joe “JJ” Kinahan (@TDAJJKinahan), Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services. He took this message one step further by connecting the message of financial literacy to a strong work ethic and character.

Work hard, for there is no substitute. Every job has parts that are frustrating. A typical job might have 25% that we absolutely enjoy and are engaged in, another 25% that we abhor, leaving the middle 50% in a neutral zone that we are neither excited about nor disgusted with. Success results when we move this middle 50% into the more exciting zone, leading us to love 75% of what we do. Plan the 25% that is frustrating and everything else will seem exciting. In everything you do, character matters.  Not doing the right thing has financial implications.  Your behavior builds reputation, and reputation is your biggest asset.

As you build your reputation, consider building your financial asset base as well — when you start working, make sure you maximize the contribution to your 401(K) or retirement plan.  Starting early, and leveraging your employer’s contribution, can boost your total returns more than starting late and investing more for a shorter length of time. As they often say, when it comes to investment and maximizing returns, it is time, not timing. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to investment and returns. Timing assumes perfect foresight which is a fiction of the imagination.

At the same time, have fun. It is important that you love and enjoy what you do.

JJ Kinahan is a 30-year trading veteran who began his career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) market maker trading in the S&P 100 (OEX) and S&P 500 (SPX) pits. He also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. Later in his career he joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade.

Thank you, JJ — thank you for inspiring us.

Speaking of Trust

April 4, 2016

Last week, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to discuss the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer survey. In partnership with Texas CEO Magazine, and ably led by publisher Pat Niekamp, Edelman hosted the panel which included Terry Wade (Reuters), Kathy Beiser (Edelman) and myself.

We discussed the results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. This year’s survey shows that trust levels for business and for CEOs are bouncing back. The informed public — defined as those between ages 25-64, who are college educated and who belong to the top 25 percent of household income per age group in each country and who are avid consumers of media — places more trust in business, government, media and NGOs, compared to the mass population, which represents the remaining 85 percent of the population. Interestingly, for the 16th consecutive year, the technology sector continues to lead the trust index. Over the last five years, the energy sector has witnessed an increase in trust as has financial services (which despite this increase, continues to be the least trusted sector and comes in below pharmaceuticals).

Why is business regaining trust?

Is this a business cycle phenomenon?

When times are good, we tend to believe that businesses are doing the right thing and tend to increase our levels of trust. In addition, anymore, it is not your father’s capitalism. Whether it is Mackey’s ideas on “conscious capitalism” or Benioff’s appeal for “compassionate capitalism,” there is a recognition that customers, employees, and society at large are as important to business as shareholders. Fortune’s “Companies that Change the World” list looks at companies that do well by changing the world for the better. CVS, whose stock price has risen 66 percent since announcing that it will not carry tobacco products on its shelves; Ecolab, which is as much about water and conservation as it is about cleaning and sanitizing; Vodafone, which has helped over 16 million people in Kenya, India and other emerging market countries use financial services without ever having entered a bank; or our own Waste Management in Houston, which has made it easier for us to recycle so we can save the world from ourselves — these are good examples of doing well and doing good.

When Corporate Social Responsibility goes beyond a 30-minute chat on a Friday afternoon, when responsibility gets woven into the business plan, when companies appreciate that long term sustainability and growth are linked to building a trustworthy brand among all stakeholders in society — this is when trust is not merely a word in your values statement; rather, it is your corporate work ethic, which builds your brand and grows market value.

Speaking of market value, the gap between market and book values may have to do with growth options.  At the same time, to believe that a company can grow speaks to the trust that investors have in the firm’s model and mission. Under current accounting rules, U.S. companies do not record intangible items that capture trust on their books.  According to Leonard Nakamura, an economist at the Philadelphia Fed, more than $8 trillion in intangible assets is currently not on the books.  In 2014, companies invested the equivalent of 14 percent of the private sector’s GDP in intangibles and 10 percent in physical assets, the reverse of what it was 40 years ago when 13 percent of private sector GDP went to tangibles and 9 percent to intangibles. Intangibles as a proportion of total investment overtook tangibles in the mid-90s, right before the dot com bubble and have exceeded the proportion in tangibles ever since.

In a survey of global executives, Weber Shandwick finds that 44 percent of a company’s market value is attributable to CEO reputation.

How can CEOs grow, retain and maintain trust, brand and reputation?

  1. Keep the company at the forefront of your message. Repeat the message. As Jeff Immelt says, your message has “got to be repeatable, it’s got to be learnable, and it’s got to be teachable.”
  2. Leaders and CEOs need to cultivate a visible public profile that is about credibility, not so much celebrity. Engage/speak at events, be accessible to news media and be visible on the company website so you can repeat the company message. Am I repeating myself?

Tell me what you think.

When the Tide Goes Out

February 26, 2016

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked, or so Warren Buffet has been known to say.

The tide has been going down for the energy industry, and Houston sees and hears it loud and clear. Layoffs, reductions in capital expenditures by 50% relative to 2014, and by some estimate, over 50,000 job losses still to come. Over 40% of investment grade bonds of oil and gas firms are currently trading at junk levels. Big banks are expecting losses from the loans in their portfolio made to energy companies.

Those that are prepared to manage through times when the tide runs out — those that have built resilient business models and agile learning systems — will survive and thrive.  Better yet, those that have shown they can be trusted will come out ahead of the crowd.

In this environment, enter Silver Run Acquisition Corp., which raised $450 million to buy energy assets.  Interestingly, it was more than what the company expected to raise. They sold 45 million units at $10 per unit.  Each unit represents one share and a third of a warrant to buy shares at $11.50 in a year.  Additionally, it is what they call a “blank check” IPO.  The company does not have any sales or earnings yet, and plans to use the proceeds to invest in assets in the oil and gas sector. Interesting again, the IPO market this year has been depressed with only 5 IPOs since the beginning of the year compared to over 25 at the same time last year, and only a fifth of the proceeds raised during the same time frame last year.  This issue was the largest IPO so far this year.  Mark Papa, former CEO of EOG Resources and a Bauer MBA alumnus, is the prominent player in this deal.

Under Papa, and starting in 2006, EOG began to drill for oil.  This was unusual given that EOG’s core business had been in natural gas.  Furthermore, the drilling was to be in North Dakota and not in the usual areas like Canada or the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy paid off, leading EOG to become the largest oil producer in North Dakota.  A sound land acquisition strategy, along with technical expertise driven by scientists at EOG who identified the Bakken in North Dakota as the area that had the most potential for oil, helped the company.  Papa saw the decline in the price of natural gas coming before others did and moved to oil.  Most important of all, perhaps, was Papa’s strong belief in the Bakken and in EOG’s ability to extract oil, when other companies were backing off from there.  This allowed the company to buy acreage at bargain prices.  In addition, a conservative balance sheet helped the company emerge stronger and ahead of others in the recent downturn.

Smarts, and resilience, seem to be the Mark Papa brand.  Building trust is not easy, but those that can do it have a place at the front row during good times, but more so during bad times.

Sometimes we need the tide to run out to also discover who’s been building muscle.

At Bauer College, our goal is to build resilience and develop “smart” leaders — trustworthy leaders with good judgment who can keep their teams afloat even in a down cycle. And we’re doing this, one successful student at a time.