| INVESTING YOUR MONEY: MEET ALVIN THE GURU The stock market is the 'civilised' way to invest for the future, some say. Yet, it's a business fraught with risk and danger, especially for the untutored. But who better to teach us the ropes than the sage himself. Kachi Okezie reports on his encounter with Britain's best loved American. |
ne key feature of the new millennium, so far, has been the turbulence that struck and savaged the financial markets worldwide. We have witnessed the battering of the Asian tiger, the NYSE hit a record low, London conk out due to computer failure and now wants to merge with Frankfurt, while the Euro continues its freefall. We've also watched - perhaps with as much excitement as trepidation - as the dot.coms puff out, some even before a full huff.
All of which have combined to raise the profile of stocks and money markets across the various bands of society all over the world, somewhat in that perverse way that PR profits from even the most unpalatable events. Which is not, of course, to imply that this was all planned and penned,
What these events have done is bring the whole business stocks and investing to a new and wider audience. It certainly got some of my usually indifferent friends and colleagues interested in stocks and investing, especially the dot.coms, with their fabled propensity to create overnight millionaires.
So it was that when the opportunity presented to learn, first hand, more about the subject, investors and prospective investors, turned out in their throngs to listen and learn from the man variously described as the "sage of stocks", "professor of Wall Street" and "money guru".
Alvin D. Hall - an African American living in London - is indeed a master of his field, as I found out when I went to his seminar in Cardiff, 2 hours drive westwards from London.
The event - ShareAware - was a roadshow organised by the London Stock Exchange, in collaboration with leading stockbrokers and financial institutions such as Natwest, Bloomberg and Stocktrade. The being - I'm informed - to promote the stock market, the Exchange and its activities and to help investors improve their investment skills with the help of experts. And in Alvin D. Hall, the organisers could choose no better expert to spearhead the seminar.
Alvin's background is pretty humble, a typically American tale of progression from the ordinary to the spectacular. He was born to a family of farmers, day workers and fishermen in rural Florida, south of Tallahassee. His endless references to his mother - usually as his repository of wisdom - portrays him as a man firmly connected with his roots. "As an American farm boy from the deep south, who has grappled with growing food as well as fortunes, I'm only too aware that money markets, like farming, are volatile and subject to sudden change - but with careful planning huge rewards can be reaped," he says of himself. Alvin attended the University of North Carolina, where he took a degree in English and an MA in American Literature, before becoming a college professor. An intervening period of unemployment taught him to take control of his personal finances, as he began buying shares, starting with a small outlay.
His ability to analyse market trends and to translate complex concepts into simple English endeared him to the industry and in no time he was appointed director of course development for Leo Fleur, Inc., the company responsible for training Wall Street personnel. In 1986 Alvin became Director of Marketing for the Chicago-based Longman Financial Services Institute, where he created and implemented marketing campaigns for training programmes and sales enhancement products. He then became the Executive Director of the New York Institute of Finance, where he gained further experience in developing training programmes.
Now, as President of Cooperhall Press Inc., (formerly Alvin D Hall Associates), Alvin trains personnel and runs seminars on investing and stock markets for financial companies worldwide.
Alvin is widely respected and courted as a financial trainer, and has written a number of books including the best-selling Getting Started In Stocks, Getting Started In Mutual Funds and Money For Life: Everyone's guide to Financial Freedom.
I first came across the charismatic Alvin on the BBC's award winning primetime series 'Your Money or Your Life' which he presented. I was struck by his witty, light-hearted yet highly effective approach to personal finance counselling. I needed some at the time and - I'm grateful to say - I learned a few tips.
Alvin approaches his subject with the same humor and candor that he exudes in real life. His trade mark seems to be his laughter - a deep-throated chortle, ranging somewhere between a turkey's and cockerel's.
According to Alvin there are three keys to successful investing: "choosing a company that has a unique product or market position which is hard to copy, has good growth potential, and strong management." Finally, it's always worth keeping in mind Alvin's favourite phrase: "Remember, as long as you invest no more money than you can afford to lose, you'll have few sleepless nights. See you next time!"
Wall Street guru Alvin Hall makes a welcome return to the UK to present Investing For All, a no-nonsense, jargon-free series during which Alvin shares insider knowledge on how to improve your investing skills, on BBC TWO, from Monday, 6 July, 1998. The series follows Alvin, professor to Wall Street professionals, as he visits four different British investment clubs to help them make the most of their savings. "Everyone thinks that investing is simply crunching numbers - but it's actually looking at the numbers and determining what the research implies. If it were totally formulaic we'd all be rich. Everyone thinks that there's a set pattern you can follow, but the market is constantly evolving," says Alvin.
From 16-year-old school kids to 60-something pensioners, charismatic Alvin makes investing accessible to everyone. None of the members of the investment clubs are flushed with money, yet - but they've all learned that taking an interest in their own money can really pay dividends. During the course of the series, Alvin guides representatives of the clubs as they investigate three different companies in their chosen industry sector. Successful companies in the areas of transportation, lingerie, food and entertainment are examined by Alvin and his team of investment detectives, who must decide if they think the businesses are worth investors' savings.