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Bob Doll: Watch Equities, Get Clients Ready for Lower Returns

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Every year in early January, investment strategist Bob Doll issues his 10 predictions on financial markets and the economy and follows that up with a report card six months later, grading how well he did.

Since it’s too early to learn Doll’s top 10 predictions for 2022 or his assessment of his predictions for 2021, we asked him to answer 10 questions about job and after-work activities.

Doll has over 40 years of experience in financial services as a portfolio manager and strategist for large-cap, long and long-short equity strategies.

He’s a former chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management and Blackrock and a former chief investment officer at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and OppenheimerFunds. Three months after he retired from Nuveen earlier this year, he resurfaced at Crossmark Global Investments, a faith-based investment management firm, serving as chief investment officer.

Here are Doll’s answers to our questions.

1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

The key indicators are inflation, employment, money growth and, of course, earnings.

2. How have they been changing recently (2021), and how do you expect them to change in 2022?

Things are more mixed going forward. The punchbowl is slowly being taken away as the Fed tapers and eventually raises rates. The pace of that will be worth watching.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

As an equity investor, I would be slightly less aggressive today than at the beginning of 2021. I would educate my clients for lower returns going forward.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track?

They are the same variables as above. But in order to manage my portfolios, I also have my quant models, which are securities selections. There are about 55 variables in those quant models.

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic?  

There’s not really any change in work habits. I’ve been in the local office virtually every day since the pandemic started.

6. What’s your biggest hobby, and what was the last activity you did related to it?

I do music of all sorts, particularly piano and organ, and I direct a choir, preparing for a Lessons and Carol service in mid-December, which I suspect will be [held], COVID permitting. (On Dec. 8, Doll told ThinkAdvisor that the service Lessons and Carols will take place on Dec. 12, exactly as planned.)

7.  How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

Serving a Thanksgiving meal in a shelter, in a mission.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

I’m reading Heaven by David Jeremiah. Why am I reading that? Well, my faith belief is that I am going to spend a whole lot more time in heaven than here on Earth, and I’m going to get educated about it.

9. Do you have any special plans for the end of the year?

From a business standpoint, the end of the year/beginning of the new year is always a good annual planning time for me … . What are the [critical objectives] going to be for 2022? I haven’t worked on that yet.

Also, I will also be attending the University of Michigan vs. Georgia Institute of Technology college semifinals football game in Miami on Dec. 31.

10. Do you have any other piece of advice you’d like to share with advisors? 

Focus on the long term, recognizing that our business is never black and white; it is always shades of gray. Also read more. Read everything. … It broadens your horizons, makes one a better portfolio manager and perhaps a better person.