Mar 25, 2021
March 23rd, 2021 marks the first anniversary of a moment few of us will ever forget. This day will stand out in the minds of many for years to come. On this day, one year ago, the Narwhal Capital Management team launched the first edition of the “Daily Market Briefing” Zoom call. After delivering hard-hitting and impartial market commentary to the masses for 365 days, we have a chance to look back at the origin of the call and the impact it’s had through both the eyes of the team and two loyal listeners.
What is the Daily Market Briefing?
The Daily Market Briefing is a Zoom call held by three members of the Narwhal Capital Investment committee: Ben Nye – Chief Investment Officer, Tom Russell – Director of Fixed Income, and Andrew Hall – Vice President. Each morning at 8:30 (EST), they go live on air to discuss the market headlines of the day and provide their commentary on the implications of the news.
Who is the intended audience?
The Daily Market Briefing is open to anyone interested in hearing up-to-date market commentary. The majority of our listeners are existing clients who use the call as a way to stay informed on the day-to-day thought process of those managing their portfolios. However, it isn’t a requirement that you are an existing client in order to listen in. For the prospective client, the Daily Market Briefing offers a peek behind the curtain into how Narwhal operates as a firm, while at the same time, creating a level of familiarity between those new listeners and a portion of the Narwhal team.
How do you access the Daily Market Briefings?
You can access the live Daily Market Briefing calls every weekday morning from 8:30-8:45 by clicking this hyperlink. This will send you to the Narwhal website where you will find a Zoom link to access the call. Recordings are uploaded each day to the Narwhal Capital Management Instagram account as well as to the Apple Podcasts app under the title “Narwhal Capital Management.”
Q&A with the members of the team:
What was the thought process behind starting the daily call?
Andrew: “Like most good ideas around here, I think I came up with the plan for the briefings. And like most good ideas around here, I made sure someone else (in this case Ben) did most of the work. At the time (last March) we were being inundated with client calls, and it was tough. I’m choosing my words carefully and probably shouldn’t move forward without first saying, 1. We love clients who want to engage and 2. We are incredibly sensitive to fears and concerns during periods of volatility. But we were in a tough spot of trying to balance client calls and e-mails all day while also trying to manage portfolios in a very difficult environment. We found ourselves having the same conversations repeatedly and to an extent our genuine insistence on discipline started to ring hollow. My honest hope was that by doing a pre-market and post-market call (we launched with two shows per day) might save us some repetition in answering questions and enable us to spend a little more time trading and taking care of portfolios without creating distance between us and the client. I had the idea, ran it by Ben and Tom and we pretty much just started it.”
What has been the biggest challenge conducting a 15-minute show every day for the past year?
Andrew: “I said this earlier, but Ben really does 95% of the planning for these calls. It’s invaluable to have him so on top of things. From my perspective, the biggest challenge was always keeping content somewhat fresh and engaging. For those early months, it felt like the only topic was COVID. Then we got lots of other fun (kidding) things to talk about, like bankruptcies, unemployment, etc. That actually helped a lot. As the market rallied, the narrative was able to shift a bit and I felt like we got closer to talking about “normal” things and not just talking folks off the ledge.”
Tom: “I definitely echo Andrew on this, the biggest challenge is trying to keep it fresh. Somedays there is not a ton to talk about. Luckily, we can lean heavily on Ben to keep the content relevant. He does a great job putting together the agenda for each call and can always pick out at least a few interesting topics to talk about because he has his eyes on everything.”
Ben: “The biggest challenge for me is getting in 60-90 minutes earlier to curate the call and review the news each and every day. Monitoring ever evolving situations (like COVID early on) isn’t easy, so it takes a good chunk of time every morning to get up to speed and to get prepared for the call.”
What have been some of the biggest positives that have resulted from the daily call?
Andrew: “By far the biggest positive has been the level of client engagement. We’ve got folks who are on the call every single day; that’s very humbling. I think it has been a great way for clients to get to know us better on a personal level. We’ve obviously done a lot in the office, but we’ve hosted calls from our houses when working from home was mandated, we’ve hosted from out-of-town meetings, we’ve even hosted one call on Narwhal’s picture day up at the square. These calls have not only given the viewer a deeper understanding of how we operate as a firm but also a deeper understanding of who we are at a personal level. It’s impossible to spend 15 minutes with someone every day and not feel closer to them in one way or another. Candidly, the second biggest win has simply been the offer of engagement. We feel like we’ve removed a lot of the barriers to understanding by doing these calls. I think that’s going to continue to be a value-add for clients, certainly, but also for us as we continue to grow and pursue new clients. This is a hefty endeavor and I have not seen any other firm our size doing anything like this.”
Tom: “I think that it’s a great way for the investment team to connect with a lot of our clients all at once on a deeper level than would otherwise be possible. Like Andrew mentioned earlier, when the pandemic started, we had a huge demand for one-on-one conversation from clients. This outlet allowed us to address every client concern while staying focused on trading and portfolio management. This was hugely beneficial when we had so much on our plate on both the client side and the portfolio management side. As we get back closer to normality, the call still provides a ton of benefits, even some internal benefits. I think a big positive for us as an investment team is how the call sets the tone for our investment team each morning. We compile these topics and set an agenda for the call, but at the same time, we are also setting an agenda for the topics we want to monitor throughout the day. This helps direct our efforts as an investment team and resets our aim on a well laid out game plan each morning.”
Ben: “I echo Tom here. Internally, I think the call is a big help. I mentioned it before, but coming in early and digging through data isn’t always an easy task and it definitely takes some time, but its hugely beneficial for me to be able to get a head start on all the news and to begin to digest it long before the market opens.”
Will you continue to have the call every morning even as society normalizes? And if so why?
Andrew: “Will we go forever? Who knows? But there certainly is not a plan to stop. I think as long as we have clients who enjoy the call and dial-in every morning, we’re going to keep doing it. The least we can do for folks with that commitment level is meet them on a Zoom. Our mission statement at Narwhal focuses on three things: Investment Performance, Service, and Education. We try to differentiate ourselves on all three levels, but the morning call is far and away the most unique way in which we strive to educate clients.”
Tom: “I’d like to see the call continue, even if a limited capacity. I think it is fun to interact with the clients and give them a peek into the island of misfit toys that is the Narwhal Team.”
Any memorable moments stick out from any of the calls over the last year?
Andrew: “I think three things really stand out. First and foremost, it’s just wild how few cases of COVID there were when we started this show. We’re talking tens of thousands of cases in the U.S. We’re pushing 30 million now. It’s surreal to think that we started this podcast on the tail-end of the actual market sell-off, but we were so early relative to the total COVID tolls. Secondly and perhaps more thematically, it’s been really interesting to see the “recurring viewers” really gain steam. For quite a while after we started, we had an unspoken rule that if we started a Zoom and there was no one on the call other than us…we would just bail. Early on, 30-40% of the calls had no one in the audience until right when the call was scheduled to be live and someone would jump on last-minute, so we’d do the call. At some point, that just stopped. People just started joining the call, and now those days of “will anyone be here?” have clearly passed. Lastly, I really enjoyed covering the election. We did a live blog of the election. Ben and Tom were actually at my house until pretty late on Election Day. I know we’re not a “real” media source, but I think our read on the trend of the election – especially in those first few days when things were less clear – was pretty spot-on. I think we should have elections every year – it’s good for the show.”
Tom: “Oh man, I’d say the countless technical issues definitely stick out. I’m pretty sure Andrew had to do a call from my driveway once. And I’ll never forget having to do one of the calls from the COVID Testing Line one car behind Andrew, that was wild. Good times.”
Ben: “There are a number of memorable moments that stick out to me over the year of doing this call. One that stands out in particular is the call I had to do when I came down with COVID. I had to gut through the call while trying to avoid letting it show that I, in fact, had COVID. Another thing that I’ve enjoyed from the call is having the opportunity to say “COVID is over and America is back.” I’ve probably said that 10+ times, it’s just a fun thing to say.”
Comments from two loyal listeners:
What initially led you to listen in on the calls?
Joe: “I originally began listening to the calls as a source of clarity on what effect the pandemic fallout would have on the underlying economy. It was valuable hearing the perspective of people that I trusted.”
Jon: “I started listening prior to becoming a client. I don't watch the market or my accounts daily, so I wanted to hear Narwhal's perspective on everything day to day.”
What have you found to be the biggest benefit from listening in to the calls?
Joe: “The biggest benefit I receive from listening to the calls is that I am able to form an unbiased view of financial stories before they are reported on by the mainstream media. These calls have opened my eyes to how biased large media organizations are when they write headlines… on both sides of the isle.”
Jon: “It has been a huge benefit to see all the different factors that influence the market and how Narwhal takes those factors into consideration, some they weigh heavily, and some they don’t. Being able to see what they value has been really interesting.”
Have you gained any new perspective on Narwhal, the guys on the call, or the way that we operate as a result of listening to these calls every day?
Joe: “I have gained a tremendous amount of insight into the world of fixed income and bonds. Tom, the bond man, helped me determine the precise time to contact my mortgage broker and lock in a 30-year 2.75% refi. I never knew aggressive and fixed income belonged in the same sentence, but that’s the way he thinks! It’s awesome!”
Jon: “My perspective on the guys that run the call hasn’t changed a ton. I’ve known all of them for years now so listening to them every day hasn’t really changed anything for me.”
Are there any memorable moments from the calls over the past year that stick out to you?
Joe: “The most memorable moment I have from the calls over the past year was something that Ben said during summer of 2020. Ben made the proclamation that the economy was back by using an analogy of a race car doing a burnout. That was a great way to explain it and it stuck with me.”
Jon: “I really enjoyed their thoughts on Trump, the election, and the impact that it would all have on the economy (very minimally as with most presidential races). Oh, and I can’t leave out Matt Burton's glorious Zoom photo!”
John started at Narwhal as an investment intern in the summer of 2019 while working to complete his MBA at Auburn University. After finishing his schooling, John joined the Narwhal team in a full-time role as a client service associate in the summer of 2020. John has been tasked with servicing a portion of Narwhal’s younger client base as well as expanding the company’s management of outside 401k plans. Along with his MBA, John holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Auburn.
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