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Seeking Alpha Creatively Is a Theme at Morningstar Conference

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Portfolio managers from around the country are pouring in to Chicago in an annual summer pilgrimage to the Morningstar Investment Conference, where those on a quest for alpha can slake their thirst in hearing the views of the mighty and the yet undiscovered.

Will housing and homebuilders, industrials or consumer discretionary be the next big thing? Or should sectors be eschewed in favor of individual stocks, each on their merits?

John BogleEven alpha-seekers will likely appreciate the opportunity to hear beta-finder John Bogle (left), paragon of passivity, or an indexing approach to investing.

Bogle is one of five keynote speakers spaced through the Wednesday through Friday gathering at McCormick Place.

Though dispensing stock tips is not Bogle’s thing, the 84-year-old retired Vanguard founder and author of 10 books, can usually be relied on for sagacious commentary on the financial services industry and investing.

But the opening keynote will certainly give stock hunters their first smell of the hunt. Michael Mauboussin of Credit Suisse, a managing director but formerly a research analyst, appeared for many years on both the Wall Street Journal’s and Institutional Investor’s lists of the best analysts. One of his books is titled More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places, and that is likely to be of greatest interest to this audience.

While intense focus is a hallmark of top analyst, the quite opposite ability of viewing things with a distant and critical perspective may be the reason the artist Erik Wahl was invited to deliver a keynote address. While graffiti artists are usually seen as unwanted renegades, Wahl is working for the man most of the time with top blue-chip clients such as AT&T, Disney, Microsoft and ExxonMobil.

Wahl should probably want to meet Ronald O’Hanley, one of the senior executives of the behemoth Fidelity Investments. Besides overseeing the firm’s asset management, research and corporate services, as well as serving on the firm’s executive committee, O’Hanley sits on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art and the East/West Institute, so his resume includes financial acumen and patron of the arts alike.

The three-day conference’s closing keynoter is Carl Richards, author of the New York Times’ popular Bucks Blog, whose hallmark sketches bring market concepts home to ordinary investors.

Richards, a CFP and director of investor education for the BAM Alliance of wealth management firms, is also an artist whose work appears on the gallery circuit in New York, London and elsewhere. So creativity—and how it connects to portfolio management—appears to be a theme stressed by conference organizers this year.


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