September 2017 | Posted By Nell Swanson

I’m sure by now you have heard of Equifax’s recent data breach. When faced with situations like this, we like to think about our good friend Carl Richards’ sketch that encourages us to focus on what we can control. With this in mind, we point you toward resources that help protect your data in the post-Equifax-hack world. Also, we’ll share a little backstage information on our own cybersecurity efforts.

What To Do

While there isn’t a magic bullet, below are a few resources we’ve shared with our clients. These resources provide both checklist actions, as well as general information and important questions to consider.

As time marches on, the steps you could or should take are likely to evolve. We are staying informed, so keep an eye out for updates in subsequent newsletters.

Here at HIG

While no system is impregnable, we have long been taking strong measures to protect against hackers and identity thieves.

This year, we participated in a 12-week Schwab Cybersecurity Engagement to assess our current readiness, identify room for improvement, and formalize our action plan. Since then, we’ve been upgrading our infrastructure, engaging in ongoing education, and continually implementing checks and updates.

As this wise educator observed in reflecting on the Equifax breach, “Security isn’t a product. It’s a process.” As cybersecurity requirements continuously evolve, so will we. We would be happy to talk with you directly if you would like to learn more about our cybersecurity procedures.

September 2017 | Posted By Henry Bragg

At Hill Investment Group, we love to ask questions – to get to know you upon initial meeting and discover more about you as we go. But what questions should investors be asking? Here are “The 19 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor” (or a prospective advisor) according to Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal. At the highest level, these 19 questions seek to establish the rhetorical question: Are you paying your advisor to serve YOUR best interests or their own?

“The obligation of those who give investment advice to serve clients, not themselves, is called fiduciary duty. That obligation is far from universal and, in some ways, is in retreat,” says Zweig (emphasis ours).

The challenge, however, is merely asking an advisor if they are a fiduciary may not suffice. Zweig’s queries will help you differentiate fake fiduciary “talk” from a real fiduciary “walk.”

Zweig also provides the answers he feels are most appropriate, while leaving #12 (“What is your investment philosophy?”) curiously blank. We agree wholeheartedly with nearly all of his suggested responses, although there are a couple we would qualify. And of course we have quite a lot to say about that curiously blank one. Here, we’ll simply add the words of Dimensional Fund Advisors’ co-founder Rex Sinquefield, as he describes evidence-based investing: “This investment approach is easy to communicate, is verifiable, and is eminently defensible.”

This and many other great insights are found in Dimensional’s recently published “35 Quotations on a Better Way to Invest.” Want a copy of it, or would you like to know where else we differ on Zweig’s other questions (and why)? Just ask!

Oh, by the way, YES, we are a fiduciary firm – in name and practice.

September 2017 | Posted By Matt Hall

Katie Ackerman and Dimensional’s Apollo Lupescu pause for a pose at our recent Houston client event.

We were pleased to have Dimensional’s Vice President Apollo Lupescu, PhD at a pair of events we held in Houston and St. Louis. Apollo spoke about the historical context of modern investing, the essence of an evidence-based approach, and the future of our community.

What does history tell us about how the financial future might look? Be on the look-out for a recorded version of Apollo’s St. Louis presentation, which we’ll be sharing soon via our blog/newsletter.

Dimensional Fund Advisors is a hugely important alliance for Hill Investment Group, and yet this is the first event we’ve done with a member of their team conversing directly with HIG’s clients and friends. Despite having a low profile, Dimensional currently manages $518 USD billion across eight countries (as of June 30, 2017). How have they done it? Through sharing ideas that make sense and by creating solutions that reflect their beliefs (and ours).

We also respect Dimensional as a thought leader, regularly publishing content that helps change the way investors think. We like one of their recent pieces, “Lessons for the Next Crisis,” which points out we’re nearing the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the Great Recession. That’s not exactly an event to celebrate, but it’s important to apply what we learned from it the next time we’re in a bear market, once again feeling like there’s no end in sight. As Dimensional says (and buttresses with evidence-based illustrations):

“Capital markets have rewarded investors over the long term, and having an investment approach you can stick with—especially during tough times—may better prepare you for the next crisis and its aftermath.”

Well said, Dimensional.

September 2017 | Posted By Dyanna Jones

St. Louis or Houston? Places To Go, People To See

I sure had fun last July, sharing some history from Houston and St. Louis. Who knew at the time that Hurricane Harvey was on its way? Today, we’d like to reinforce that we remain as proud as ever of our respective hometowns, where there are still plenty of places to go and things to do when you come visit. Of course, I hope your first stop will be at our local Hill Investment Group office, so we can join you for a personalized tour.

Foodies (Where to even begin?!)

  • Houston – Etoile Cuisine et Bar, Café Annie, Tiny Boxwoods, Kiran’s, Pondi Cheri, Local Foods, Southwell’s Burgers, beef BBQ at Roegels, El Tiempo (Matt’s favorite), fajitas at Lupe Tortilla, and many, many, many more.
  • St. Louis – Tony’s, Bar Les Freres, Paul Manno’s, Winslow’s Home, Claverach Farms, Truffles, Stone Soup Cottage … let’s not forget BBQ – Sugarfire, Pappys, and Vernon’s.

Outdoor Theater

  • St. Louis – The St. Louis Municipal Opera (The Muny) – America’s oldest and largest outdoor theatre. The Muny turns 100 years old in 2018, while its president and CEO Dennis Reagan (our very own John Reagan’s dad!) celebrates his 50th year as a member of the Muny team.
  • Houston – The Miller Outdoor Theatre – open year-round due to Houston’s usually mild climate, our treasured venue experienced only minimal damage from Hurricane Harvey.

The Muny in St. Louis. John’s dad Denny Reagan is president and CEO! (Photo credit: Phil Hamer)

Parks and Recreation

  • Houston – Besides the Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park is home to the Houston Zoo, several museums, a golf course and plenty of space for hiking, biking or just chilling out.
  • St. Louis – Host to the 1904 World’s Fair (with several original structures still intact), Forest Park is the original “Meet me in St. Louis” venue and among the country’s largest urban parks, hosting the Muny, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and so much more.

The Green Scene

  • St. Louis – St. Louis is home to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Established in 1859 as one of the nation’s oldest botanical gardens, it offers stunning public displays, as well as a world-class research library of rare botanical books and specimens.
  • Houston – While at Hermann Park, you can take in the formal McGovern Centennial Gardens and an exotic Japanese Garden before skipping over to Memorial Park for a run, a round of golf and a burger at Beck’s Prime.

For the Young or Young at Heart

  • Houston – What kid (or inner child) doesn’t get a large charge out of space rockets? Space Center Houston should be just the ticket for the entire family to have a blast in our fair city.
  • St. Louis – The name may seem plain, but St. Louis’ City Museum was just voted #1 among Trip.Com’s 2017 Family Tribe Top Attractions. All recycled, all interactive, all imaginative – there’s nowhere else quite like it. (PS: Houston Zoo was voted #5; not too shabby either.)

Batter Up! (St. Louis and Houston)

Rick Hill, busted wearing an Astros cap and hanging out with “Orbit.”

So, I’ve already mentioned that my HIG colleagues may sometimes sit on opposite sides of the field when the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals face off. But I thought it would be nice to wrap today’s installment by pointing out that our two favorite teams share common ground as well. Most notably, Astros’ current GM Jeff Luhnow came to the team by way of the Cardinals’ administration. And lucky for us, Luhnow is a friend and a fan of Matt Hall’s Odds On, regardless of where he calls home … not unlike all of us here at HIG!

September 2017 | Posted By Buddy Reisinger

Visiting fashion entrepreneurs Sid & Ann Mashburn to mentor our Saint Louis Fashion Incubator fellows.

Hill Investment Group’s investment philosophy is based on the fundamental belief that, over the long view, global capitalism will succeed. HIG also loves continuing education – for our clients, our future clients, and ourselves. We’ve also got a demonstrated commitment to giving back.

When the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator launched in late 2016, we found another natural place to combine all three of these core beliefs. Through this non-profit incubator initiative, HIG has partnered with others to make a significant financial and mentoring commitment to six talented young designers who have come to St. Louis from across the U.S. Their two-year fellowships here are preparing them for full commercial debuts upon graduation. 

Relationships are important too, which is how HIG came to lead a perhaps surprising charge in fashion and design. It came about in part when our Houston team introduced us to the husband/wife fashion aficionados, Sid and Ann Mashburn. We’re excited to co-host the Mashburns when they visit St. Louis in mid-October to share their decades of fashion world experience. From “brick and mortar” stores to an online, Skype-based business offering made-to-measure clothing, Sid and Ann have been there, done that, and will be sharing their leadership experience with our incubator designers … and a few others while they’re here.

Just as we’re proud of our entrepreneurial and philanthropic involvement here at HIG, we enjoy inspiring other business owners and friends to share their time, talent, and treasures to spread their own unique vision and values. Cheers to the Mashburns for joining us!

 

August 2017 | Posted By Katie Ackerman

It’s hard to watch – and even harder to be part of – the unfolding news coming out of Texas without feeling a shared anguish at the devastation being wrought by Hurricane Harvey.

Here at Hill Investment Group, we’re counting ourselves among the relative fortunate. Our Houston team members have been displaced from their homes and office as a precautionary measure, but all loved ones are present and accounted for – thank goodness.

If you are searching for ways you can make a difference for those suffering in the Lone Star state, “Here Are Ways You Can Help People During Hurricane Harvey.” Odds are, you’ll find a cause on this list that’s right for you, as we at HIG have done, selecting the Houston Food Bank, the Texas Diaper Bank and the San Antonio Food Bank.

Resilience is something we have been talking about in our offices lately, as has the Governor of Texas in his recent statements. Said simply, we think it means “bouncing back.”

Being tough or resilient is likely to become everyone’s mantra over the next several weeks and months. We’re confident that, as Mother Nature shows you her worst side, you’ll show your best. Just click on the article above for an example featuring an incredible photo of Henry and Laurence Bragg’s friend (and our new resilient hero) Andrew White.

August 2017 | Posted By Nell Swanson

Henry, John, Matt and Rick (left to right) take a break to enjoy the awesome St. Louis eclipse, about to enter totality!

While staring off into space is all well and good when waiting for a total eclipse of the sun (what a treat!), when it comes to our clients and our firm, we prefer to be a little more focused.

That’s why, shortly after co-founding Hill Investment Group in 2005, Matt Hall and Rick Hill turned to Collaborative Strategies, an independent strategic planning firm, to help them articulate the vision they had for us, and to hold us accountable for getting the job done. Lots of businesses have ideals, but not nearly as many solidify them into the measurables: What will it actually take to achieve them?

In a way, our strategic planning began before Rick and Matt even co-founded HIG, sandwiched into lunch breaks at their previous career. Today, all of us convene with Collaborative Strategies every few years to revisit our plans. We hold our meeting out of the office, where we can focus on the business at hand. Our most recent round took place in July at the Saint Louis Art Museum (so we could wax creative). There, we reviewed our ongoing focus as a firm and tightened up our succession planning in the context of our larger, multi-office team.

Now, if you’ve been reading all of our commentary, you may think you’ve caught us in a contradiction, based on a comment Matt posted last spring about our Houston office: “Opening another office was nowhere in our strategic plan.”

The thing is, having a strong strategic plan in place is not only paramount for existing initiatives. It also serves as an essential touchstone whenever new opportunities beckon. While our Houston office wasn’t specifically part of the original plan – and neither was hiring me as the firm’s first COO – the idea fit so well with everything else HIG had in mind that what might otherwise have felt like a random wager became a clear, confident choice. Similarly, our leadership team also has felt more comfortable declining several other tempting opportunities when they did not fit as well with our existing plans.

So here’s to many more years of well-structured strategic plans, with the occasional twist of serendipity to season our success.