Craig Novorr was handpicked to join Paragon Capital after a highly successful 10-year period at UMB where he served as Vice President & Portfolio Manager. Mr. Novorr’s success co-managing the UMB Scout Technology Fund and Scout Growth Fund demonstrated his unique abilities in identifying investment opportunities and – more importantly – building strong relationships.
Joining the firm in 2006, Mr. Novorr immediately demonstrated the value his clients place in him, as several with whom he enjoyed longstanding relationships with followed him to Paragon. Since then, he has been named Kansas City Magazine’s Best Personal Wealth Manager for 13 out of the last 14 years and a 2010 Kansas City Business Magazine Rising Star.
Craig Novorr is a 1996 graduate of the University of Kansas, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He is active in the business, religious and local community. Mr. Novorr is an active Rotarian, serving two terms as President of the Overland Park chapter. He has served on committees or boards for many local charities including Children’s Mercy Hospital, Make A Wish Foundation, Camps 4 Kids, the endowment committee for his local synagogue and many more.
Listen to this informative Publish Promote Profit episode with Craig Novorr about using a book to engage the right audience.
Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:
How creating the right content can show off your value proposition.
Why the market isn’t paying attention to the economy or earnings.
How writing a book can help set apart your business or service.
Why it’s important to distill information so everyone can digest it.
How newsletters are a great way to engage interested clients.
Connect with Craig:
Guest Contact Info:
Hey, welcome everyone. Rob Kosberg here with the Publish Promote Profit podcast. Got a great guest for you today, especially in the times that we live in right now. People are always concerned about their money and Craig is here, he’s going to be sharing about his expertise and really looking forward to. I’m going to share a little bit about him in a minute. But he is an expert in what you can do with your money and also in using content to attract people. So, Craig Novorr, I’m going to read a little bit about Craig here.
Handpicked to join Paragon Capital, which now you’re the president of Paragon Capital, which is very cool. After a highly successful period at UMB, where you served as the VP and portfolio manager there. Mr. Novorr’s success co-managing the UMB Scout Tech Fund as well as the Growth Fund demonstrated your unique abilities in identifying investment opportunities.
Joined the firm in 2006, obviously I mentioned your president now. Immediately demonstrated the value to your clients, several with whom enjoyed a longstanding relationship came over with you, fantastic. And probably the thing that is so cool is that you’ve been named Kansas City Magazine’s best personal wealth manager 13 out of the 14 years. I don’t know who beat you out the one year but come on. 13 out of 14 is pretty doggone good. So, Craig, welcome to the show. Great to have you on.
Thank you. Appreciate you having me.
I shared with you already there’s two levels to the things that we talk about today. Level one is I want to talk about your expertise and in particular how perhaps your expertise might apply to people in these, as they say, uncertain times. And you’re also a content creator and I know you’re in the process of writing a book right now. And I want to talk about how your content, that’s the idea of Publish Promote Profit, how your content has helped you to grow your audience, attract people to you, become the celebrity in your field. And that’s what it takes to be named the best wealth manager 13 out of 14 years in a row.
So, why don’t we dive right in? I’m sure over the last year your clients have been quite concerned with what’s going on because of the coronavirus, COVID, the markets, the unemployment rate, the uncertainty of the election. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve seen and how have you been able to overcome that for your clients in the last year, managing their money and taking care to make sure they make a profit?
Absolutely. So, look, the investment world is very interesting in that it’s become almost a commodity where there’s so many different investment firms today and for the average client they all look the same. It’s very difficult for the average client to be able to differentiate one wealth manager from another. A lot of them talk in terms that are over the client’s head and everybody sounds like they have a process that makes a lot of sense. And so, it gets to the point where it can be almost paralysis by analysis for a lot of clients when trying to choose where they need to go to get help.
The markets go up two-thirds of the time. They only go down one-third of the time. But when they go down it can be very dramatic. We had the big 50% downturn in 2000 with the tech market bubble when it popped. We had the financial crisis in ’08, when the market went down 53%. And then, like you said, with the coronavirus we had the market drop 34% in March of last year. So, these are huge dramatic times that make people reevaluate and look at the world a little bit different.
In the meantime, we’ve been on basically an 11-year bull market. And so a lot of investors get very comfortable with managing money themselves or putting it in a passive investment product, like a robo-advisor or an ETF strategy and just putting it on autopilot and saying, “Why am I paying somebody a management fee when I can do this myself and it always goes up?” And then we have those downturns like we did last March and then everybody gets that aha moment of what do I do now?
And so those big downturns make people, and make professional investors like me, be able to show our value. And that’s where last year we had a lot of people starting to question maybe I should have an active portfolio manager versus a passive portfolio manager or do I have somebody that can actually technically move money and take advantage of these downturns as opposed to just riding it through it.
A lot of wealth managers today are more financial planners that create a financial plan for their clients and then put them into an autopilot type of system and they’re not prepared to be able to move quickly to take advantage of downturns, to be able to advise their clients through that. As a matter of fact, they dread when the phone call comes because they don’t know how to answer that phone call.
Myself and my associates at Paragon, we’re all professional money managers first and we have financial planning, we have a very talented estate planning professional that does that for us within our office. But what we really specialize in is the money management side, being active stock tickers, active bond managers, active alternative investment managers.
And so last year the two things that we heard from the most was active versus passive and then customization. What can you do to help me solve my problems? And last year’s biggest problem for everybody was income. The bond market is dried up. There is very, very, very little income out there in the world right now and the bond yields are horrible. We just saw the 10-year treasury get all the way down to 0.7 at one-point last year. Bonds are maturing. Bonds are getting called. And clients don’t know what to do with their money. They don’t want to lock it up for three or four years at less than 1%. And so, they’re really stuck and there’s not a lot of great alternatives.
Early last year people started chasing risk. They went into master limited partnerships, which are energy pipelines that pay you great income for the flow of natural gas and oil through a pipeline. But last April those went down 70%. So, yeah, you may be getting 8% income, but you lost 70% of your principal. That’s not a good investment. Very, very risky. So, people are chasing junk bonds, which are companies that aren’t good credit. People are chasing preferred stocks. People are chasing high dividend paying stocks.
What’s interesting over the weekend, Warren Buffet released his letter to shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway. And within that letter he wrote about bonds and he talked about that bonds are not the place to be these days. And he talked about the treasury hitting 0.7 last year and then rallying to 0.93 at 1% by the end of the year, and as of last night we were at 1.41%. And so, it’s almost doubled since early last year. When bond yields go up, bond prices go down. That makes being a bondholder not a great place to be in rising interest rate environments.
And so, Warren Buffet went on said, “Fixed income investors worldwide, whether pension funds, insurance companies or retirees, face a bleak future.” So, he’s talking about the pathetic returns now available and shifting purchase obligations back to shaky borrowers and taking higher risk to get those returns. And that’s where we come in.
We’ve got some great products that we’ve created for our clients in the last year that are senior unsecured debt, much safer. We’re buying from high quality borrowers, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Very high-quality investors and we’re getting our clients tremendous amount of income without all the risk of going out there and chasing these risky asset classes.
That’s beautiful. So, the market obviously has gone up to record highs. It’s continued to go up. There’s a lot of people that would say, “Well, the market is disconnected from reality, it’s disconnected from what’s really going on in the economy.” And of course, a lot of people are pointing to the fact that the Fed has printed money like it’s going out of style. The Fed holdings increased, what? I think we printed 20% of all the money ever created just in the last 12 months and more is going to be “printed” with this new $1.9 trillion package. So, how do you look at all of that stuff? There’s obviously concern about the market itself and maybe the market dipping in 2021, but on the other hand there’s concerns about inflation and the dollar being inflated away with the printing. There’s a lot to do, right? Of course, most people don’t think or know any of this stuff. How do you manage all of this? How do you juggle all of these contradictory type things?
So, you have to look at the facts and you have to look at what causes markets to move. And obviously it’s a weighing scale of buyers and sellers and right now, as you said, the market is not paying attention to the economy. They’re not paying attention necessarily even to earnings. They’re looking at the future. They’re looking at down the road. So, what the market’s looking at is a stimulus bill getting passed in March. The House passed a $1.9 trillion bill just last night. We don’t think that will get passed in the Senate because obviously they’re not going to pass the minimum wage and a few different aspects. But there will be a stimulus bill passed and it will be substantial. It won’t be the full 1.9, but it will be a substantial amount of money that will continue to fuel this economy and keep it red hot.
You’ve got support of both the White House and Congress, but you also have support of the Fed. So, everybody in Washington is more than happy to spend money right now to keep the economy red hot. And that is dangerous long-term, but in the near-term it shows a catalyst to why the market continues to go higher. People are counting in the economy staying strong.
And then you throw on top of that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine just got approved, so now we’ve got at least three different drug companies that have vaccines that will be distributed. Astra Zeneca could be next. And so, by May, June, July, almost anybody in America that wants a vaccine should have been able to get one. And then you would hopefully be able to translate that into the economy opening back up and, again, the stocks going a little bit higher. So, you’re seeing a big rally in what we call the recovery stocks, the airlines, things like that. And you’re seeing a little bit of a sell off…exactly. And you’re seeing a selloff in some of the things that didn’t do as well that have done extremely well the last year but that may not do as well, for example Door Dash or something like that, where people have been ordering food in for the last year. Well, if the economy opens up and people decide to get out of their house and go eat, you’re seeing that stock go down on that type of news.
But the traditional asset manager tells the same story. What they’re telling people is diversification, diversification, diversification. You want to be invested in international, emerging markets, large cap, small cap, mid cap, growth, value. They show you the nine style boxes and they set your asset allocation and they leave it there forever.
The problem is we’ve got a lot of wealth in this country that’s changing hands. People that have gotten laid off and have rollover retirement accounts, people that have sold businesses and there’s a lot of cash. And people are scared to invest that at a market that’s at an all-time high. Everybody’s positive that they’re the one that’s going to cause it to go down. As soon as I get my money to work. Absolutely, absolutely. So, there’s a lot of what we call fence sitters, people that are sitting on the fence waiting for the right opportunity or maybe they sold last March when the market was down 30% and then it rebounded and now they don’t want to buy because they missed the entire rally and they’ll wait for the next downturn. Well, that could be years from now or it could be months from now. We never really know.
So, we have an investment that we use for our clients called structured products, and there’s not a lot of people who do these. They’ve been around since the 1980s and they’re used all over the world. They were actually created in Europe and then they went to Asia, the United States. And there’s a couple different varieties of them.
There’s what we call the retail notes and there’s the institutional notes. The retail notes have been out for a long, long time. There are so many bad things written about them. It’s one of the reasons I’m writing a book actually. So, the retail notes, if you google structured notes on Google, there’s 255,000 articles written about them. And everyone that I’ve read has been extremely negative. And I tell prospects and our clients all the time, “If you read those articles, they’re 100% accurate. They are horrible investments if you buy them from warehouses and brokers that charge front loads and they charge big fees and they cap how much money you can make on the backend.” And so, they really have it all set up for the broker that’s selling it to make money and the bank that’s issuing it to make money. But it’s not great for the client.
So, way back in 2015, my team and I sat down and we said, “How can we protect our clients from another 50% downturn?” And we started studying these structured notes, and we said, “There’s got to be a better way to do these.” And so what we do is we make partnerships with a lot of these big banks in the world to have access to be able to price their notes directly, so it goes straight from the trading desk into the client’s account with no front loads, with no additional markups, with no commissions, with no capped upsides. They’re all uncapped. They can make unlimited upside potential. Because we’re a fee-based advisory we aren’t licensed brokers. We can’t take a markup or a commission or a kickback or a front load. And so, it just goes directly from the trading desk at the bank that issues it directly to the client. And we just charge them a management fee for the advice.
But what these investments do is they offer downside protection. And so we just did some notes on Friday actually and we did 20% downside protection, which means between the date they’re issued and the date they mature, which could be five-and-a-half, six years, if the market goes down during that timeframe up to 20%, they’re fully protected. They get all their money back at maturity. If the market goes down more than that, we have 20% downside buffer and it goes down 25%, they’re only going to be down 5%. And so, it’s a way for them to get off that fence and to be able to put some money to work in the stock market without bearing the full risk.
And then on the upside, the notes we did this past Friday, we got 144% upside, which means if the market’s up 10%, they’re going to be up 14.4%. If the market’s up 20%, they’re going to be up 28.8%. If the market’s up 100%, they’re going to be up 144%. And so, they’re going to participate in the upside and they’re going to outperform the market on the upside because that’s in this contractual obligation that they’re going to get 144%. And then if it goes down, they’re protected. So, it’s a way for them to get off the sidelines and to be able to invest and do it in a way that’s more risk averse and provide some different strategies than what they’re hearing from the average investment manager.
For our clients that are looking for income it’s the same type of story where they’re a little bit shorter, we’re doing a lot of one- and two-year notes last week. Where we’re getting people 10%, 11%, 12% coupons, getting these 12% income yields on these short-term bonds where they’re getting 1% in the traditional bond market.
But because Google’s full of all these negative articles, I started out last year and we wrote a couple of white papers. And it’s a frequently asked questions about callable yield notes or frequently asked questions about structured notes. We call them the Investor’s Guide to Structured Notes or the Investor’s Guide to Callable Yield Notes that we could email to prospects and clients that answer a lot of these questions. Because the stuff they’re reading online we didn’t think was accurate depiction of what we were doing.
And then I decided to follow that up by writing a book about it. And that way we can distribute the book to prospects and to clients and say, “Here’s a book and in the book, we’re going to have a chapter dedicated to the equity notes, we’re going to have a chapter dedicated to the income notes.” And some of the other strategies that we do so that they will have a way to read about it and understand it other than what you find, as we all know, a lot of what you find on the internet isn’t exactly accurate and so we want to get people reading things that we know we can stand behind and explain.
Love it. Love it. That’s a great segue, thank you, into the second part. You talked about the white papers that you’ve written. You mentioned you’re obviously in the process of writing a book. On your website I noticed that since 2008, which is a long time, your company has been doing a newsletter. I’m very familiar with Ray Dalio and was always impressed by the fact that much of his hedge fund was built on his initial newsletter that he started writing back in, I don’t know, what was it, 70s? Maybe early 80s at that time.
So, talk to me. Publish Promote Profit is about using your content to help people make a difference in the world, make a change and create both an impact and an income for yourself. So, talk about the content that you’ve produced. How has it helped you to become an authority in the eyes of your prospects? You already were an expert, right? But it’s about becoming an authority in the eyes of people that don’t know you. So, how has that worked for you and what kind of examples can you give of that?
Absolutely. So, newsletters are an interesting thing because everybody’s got one. So, there’s nothing unique about a newsletter. And there’s three major types of newsletters that I see in the financial services industry. You’ve got your technical ones that are very high level that most people, A, don’t understand and, B, don’t have the patience to get through. Where because there are so many screens in our lives, most people nowadays are very ADD. So, if it’s not short, distinct and interesting, they’re not going to make it through the entire thing.
Newsletters come out on such a regular basis you’re competing against a lot of very high powerful firms with big marketing budgets and entire teams of people to write them. And there’s only so much you can write about, so everybody’s writing about the exact same thing. Then you have newsletters that are more recommendation oriented, they’re recommending stocks, they’re recommending mutual funds, they’re giving specific buy this company, buy that company.
What we try to do is very different. The newsletters we write, we’re writing to the general public that is not educated in investments. We’re trying to take all the craziness of this world and make sense of it. And do it in a handful of pages with diagrams and charts and stuff to say, “Hey, this is what you’re hearing on the news. This is what you’re seeing in the headlines. Let me explain what that actually means in a meaningful, concise, consistent way.” So, if you read our newsletters over time, they sound exactly the same and you really start to understand.
So, I always have my kids read them. I’ve got kids in the ages of 9 to 17, and obviously my 9 and 11-year-old don’t want to read them, but my high school kids do. But I always have them read them. They don’t understand every word of it, but that’s the audience I’m trying to write to is the person who doesn’t understand the stuff already. And can I explain it in a way that makes sense, that makes you want to ask questions?
I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years, and what you tend to find is there are investment people that will sit across from somebody in a conference room and talk for 20, 30 minutes while the client nods their head and they think they’re doing a brilliant job. The problem is the client doesn’t say anything because you lost them 15 minutes ago and they don’t want to sound like an idiot by asking a stupid question. So, what we want to do is when we’re presenting, whether it’s in front of a group live or it’s in the newsletter, we want to make things so that you understand it.
We’re not trying to make you feel dumb. We’re not trying to make ourselves feel smart. What we want to do is engage you in a way that you want to do business with us and that you want to share the newsletter with your friends and family and say, “Hey, I didn’t understand this, you should read this. This is great.” And so that’s the type of writing we try to do.
I love it. One type of newsletter that you didn’t reference is the worst kind in my opinion, and that’s these canned newsletters. There are companies that produce newsletters for attorneys, for financial advisors, for dentists, for doctors and, in my opinion, they’re complete garbage. Now, maybe it’s something to keep your name in front of somebody and if you’re too lazy to actually write it yourself then sure. I guess that’s better than nothing. Although from my perspective and opinion, that’s not much better than nothing.
I love what you’re doing. You have your voice. You’re writing it yourself. You’re writing it with a specific individual in mind and I guarantee you that the type of impact that you’re making with that is massively greater than is being made with one of these canned-type letters. People are lazy unfortunately. But for those of us that are not and are content creators, we get to reap the rewards of their laziness. Which is communicating and building a platform that honestly, they will never build because they’re not willing to do the work. So, I commend you for doing that.
Do you have any examples of people that have read your newsletters and called in or emailed you back or said, “Look, I got to have this product,” or “Can we talk about this,” because of what you’ve written? Give me some examples of that.
Well, we just got one yesterday. On a Sunday I got a letter from a current client. We just bought him some of these income notes last Friday. And so we sent out the terms of the notes to the client that we bought them for and he sent me back and said, “Hey, do you have a one-page letter or something that you can provide me to give to a friend of mine? They’re not very sophisticated. I don’t know how to explain these in a way that makes them understand. Do you have something that you can send out that makes this pretty simple to understand?”
So, obviously we’d all love to get in front of somebody face-to-face the first time and be able to talk to them, sell them, however you want to phrase it. But you have to realize that a lot of people are going to read something before they talk to you. They want to pre-qualify you before they waste their time with a meeting. And nobody wants to be hard sold or anything like that, so if you can provide them something to read that really speaks to the nature of what they’re going to hear, it makes them a lot more comfortable taking the meeting. And then once they take the meeting, that’s where you have to be able to show your expertise and be able to tell them how you can help them. But the first step is putting something in front of them that makes them want to engage with you.
For us, I like what you said a minute ago, what we do is we also post our newsletters on LinkedIn and Facebook and things like that. But we will put a few pretty canned things that we do find out there every once in a while, on topics that are not our expertise. So, for example, my financial planner gave me a great piece late last year on savings for college. So, for our clients that have children that are looking for college savings ideas. That’s not something we typically advise on, although I do help clients a lot with it because I’ve got four kids. So, I’ve got 529s set up and I tell people what I do for myself. But there’s nothing I could have written that would have been better than that two-page article that was written on some great college savings tips.
So, we always read them first and say, “Okay, if we agree with everything, I’ll post that to my LinkedIn page or Paragon’s LinkedIn page for people to see because it’s useful.” But it’s not something I really want to spend my time writing. So, what we try to do is stick to what we’re experts in and that people aren’t talking about and then supplement it with some of those pieces, but you don’t want that to be your full marketing strategy.
Yeah, yeah, I love that. There’s nothing wrong with that and most importantly there’s nothing wrong with it if you’re vetting it yourself and reading through it. One of the beautiful parts of creating your own content and writing in your own voice, which is something that you’re obviously doing, Craig, is you want to pre-qualify people and let people determine if they like you before you ever sit down with them. Because truth be told you only have so many hours in a day, I only have so many hours in a day, those listening only have so many hours in a day. And we want to attract the people to us that get us and have the same thinking and approach and desires. And when you’re writing in your own voice, people are able to read and determine is this somebody that I like, is this somebody that I trust.
And the know, like and trust is still and always will be how people ultimately buy. And if you can get them 75% down that path by something you’ve written, holy cow, your work is done. Now you just have to produce more content, right? To get people into your funnel but to educate people on this is who I am, and this is what I believe, and this is why we’re not brokerages. We’re not collecting commissions. You make your case and people can determine from there whether or not they like you and want to know you and trust you.
So, I love that. I think you writing in your own voice is worth its weight in gold. So, can’t wait for your book to come out. That’ll be another step in that direction.
Absolutely. I think the biggest thing is in our industry so many advisors want to talk to the prospects. They’re so excited to tell them about, hey, this is what we do and listen to my expertise, listen to what we can do. We’ve got this bucket, that bucket, that bucket. And I understand you’re a square but we’re going to stick you in this round hole and we’re going to make it fit and it’s going to be perfect for you.
I always start every meeting I ever have with, even before I say one word about myself or my firm or anything, it’s, “Tell me about yourself. Tell me what it is that you’re looking for. Tell me what it is that’s bothering you. Why are you here today? What problems are you trying to solve?” And that’s where people don’t listen because they don’t want to hear a client’s issues because they don’t have a solution for it.
And that’s where Paragon, we really try to say, “We’re going to customize our clients’ portfolios,” which is cliché, everybody says that, but we’re actually doing that.
Last year when people had an issue with income, we went out and found the callable yield notes, which we had been looking at for a couple years, but we weren’t using broad base. And we said, “Hey, this will fit that solution.” We’ve got clients that are looking for income, we went out and said, “We’ve got access to alternative investments. So, let’s find something that will help produce income for you,” or downside protection or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve, let us build a portfolio that will be something that you’ll be proud of.
Here’s a good example. We had a prospect come to us about a year ago, or probably about nine months ago actually, and they had about $1.1 million. And they were in their late 40s and they said, “We’re looking for $50,000 of income.” Well, to generate $50,000 of income on $1.1 million is almost impossible to do in today’s traditional investment market. You’re looking at having to generate almost 4.5%, 4.7% income. And so, to do that with traditional investments, you’d have to buy bonds at a premium, which means you’re paying more for the bonds than it’s going to mature for. And for somebody in that age group over time their net worth is going to slowly go down because they’re going to spend all their income and those premiums will mature at par. And so, the value of that 1.1 million will slowly get less and less and less as inflation will probably slowly start to creep up. So, that’s a bad investment plan.
And so what we showed them was, hey, with these income notes that we’re doing, we could take 500,000 of your money at 10% and get you the $50,000 you want to live on and then you still have the other 600,000 that we can invest for long-term growth. And therefore, you’re still getting your income, but your 1.1 million is now growing over time. And as you get older that 50,000 may become 60,000 you need or 70,000 you need. And we’ll be able to get that because your portfolio is growing. And so, it’s just being able to offer a unique solution based on hearing what they’re wanting and then being able to create a portfolio that can help them to achieve that and the risk level that they’re wanting to take.
Love it. Love it. Love it. I think there’s probably going to be a lot of people that are interested in those options that you offer. Your book isn’t out yet. Your book will be coming out, I’m sure it will be on your website. Why don’t you tell us where’s the best place people can reach you? Where can they get your book when it does come out, Craig? And obviously I think they should get your newsletter because you have from 2008 all your newsletters on your website. So, tell us where’s the best place people can connect with you? And this has been fantastic.
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Our website’s www.paragoncap.com, that’s P-A-R-A-G-O-N-C-A-P, like capital, paragoncap.com. You can find all of our newsletters, some of our articles we’ve written for magazines, everything online, our bios, everything there. Also follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. We’ve got Paragon pages for Paragon Cap on both LinkedIn and Facebook. We post a lot of our articles and newsletters and updates on there as well. And then you can always get a hold of me directly by email, it’s my first initial, last name, so cnovorr, N-O-V-O-R-R, @paragoncap.com.
And when the book comes out, that will be available on Amazon, that will be available wherever you typically buy your books.
Fantastic. Probably best place would be to go to your site since it’s still untitled, so we can’t tell them what to search. Although they can search your name and find it on Amazon at that time.
Craig, great to have you on. Thanks for your wisdom and the things you shared. I hope they’re helpful for people. I’m sure they will be. And even more importantly it will be a good opportunity for people to connect with you. So, thanks and look forward to your book coming out.
Thank you. I appreciate you having me on today.