Corrections or additions?
These stories by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 6, 1998. All rights reserved
When she’s not out roaring around on her Honda,
is out there getting perspective in the world of mutual
funds. "So often our portfolios tend to be a collection of top
performers of the past year really with no rhyme or reason to
says Buttner. "You have to know what purpose they serve in your
Buttner, a former television host, an Oxford Rhodes Scholar, and a
former editor of a motorcycle magazine, now writes for The Street,
the fee-based online financial newsletter found at
She is one of the speakers at the "Countdown to 2000: Financial
Strategies for Your Future II" conference sponsored by Money 2000
and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension on Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m. at
Frelinghuysen Arboretum, 53 East Hanover Street in Morris Township.
Call 973-579-0985 for more information.
Whenever Buttner gives a speech, someone in the audience asks her
to reveal the best mutual fund. If you listen closely enough, you
might hear Buttner sigh before she gives her reply. "You really
need to rephrase the question," she says. "What’s more
is, what are the best funds for me at this point in my life?"
One trick Buttner uses to gauge a fund’s worthiness is if the fund
manager invests his own money in it. "That’s something you’re
not going to find in a prospectus," says Buttner. "That’s
something you have to call and ask for. I find it very useful to call
the 800 number and ask the fund representative. You can often get
pretty honest answers that way. Usually if you’re not being told about
it that should tell you something."
Performance-wise, most investors tend to have short frames of
when researching mutual funds, Buttner reports. "I recommend
at long-term performance when you can," she says. "Look beyond
the beyond the fund du jour to find the real performers. Look
for three-year records. Look for down periods within those three-year
records to get some idea of how volatile the fund may be. Look at
these numbers in context. A double-digit return last year doesn’t
mean anything unless you compare it to a benchmark."
When considering costs, she reports, it may be necessary to get
glasses to read the prospectus. "You can really go cross-eyed
trying to pay attention to what you’re paying, but costs really are
key to future returns," says Buttner. "So I urge investors
to pay attention to the expense ratio of a fund."
Determining risk is important too, if not slightly apocryphal.
is no shortage of tools out there," says Buttner. "Some of
them are sophisticated, others are crude, none of them are perfect,
but depending on your time horizon and your stomach’s ability to take
highs and lows I think it’s worthwhile to see how a fund does
The point is not to avoid risks but really to understand the risks
you are taking."
Buttner, 36, has made several career moves that would classify as
high-risk. She has a degree in social studies from Harvard University
(Class of 1983). After her two years of Rhodes Scholar studies at
Oxford, she immediately entered the television world. "I went
to Reno, Nevada, and worked for $4 an hour at an NBC affiliate,"
she says. Then followed stints in Washington, D.C., for Gannett
and CNBC, where she eventually stayed on as a host for the Money Club.
This show was canceled last October. Thereafter, Buttner got an offer
from the Street and decided to drop out of television.
In between television jobs Buttner became the editor of Cycle World
magazine, a title that earned her the distinction of becoming the
first female editor of a motorcycle magazine. "I don’t usually
put that on my resume," she says. "It was a very physically
challenging and exerting job. I was hauling motorcycles around in
a big van. It was really fun to ride a different cycle each day."
The proud owner of a Honda VRF ("a little faster and more nimble
than a Harley," she reports), Buttner still rides a lot and uses
a lot of motorcycle metaphors in her column. Also, she and her
banker Larry Klane,
biked cross-country in 1993, and are more
likely to talk about gaskets and throttles than about finance.
Buttner detests sports metaphors, which she feels are emblematic of
the days when old boy networks dominated the field of investing.
think the field can be very intimidating to women and we tend to be
more risk-averse, so we tend not to invest," she says. "But
in the end I think there are a lot of things that are gender-specific
that make us better investors. We’re more willing to do research to
find the funds that are right for us, and not use the hot funds. And
our ego doesn’t get involved. And once you get past the jargon and
the stupid sports metaphors, women really can be better investors
and be good at it and insure the goals that we want through it."
But wouldn’t motorcycling classify as a sport? Not really, Buttner
insists. "I’m talking about getting on a bike and physically
yourself. It’s not so us-versus-them." Never mind those times
she taunted Jim Rogers
(the other financial guru/biking
who used to appear on her CNBC show) about the fact that he rides
a wimpy BMW.
— Peter J. Mladineo
So you want to be a noted financial columnist? First,
read the above article and note all the neat things Brenda Buttner
has done with her life. Second, read this article and note all the
neat things Warren Boroson,
the 63-year-old financial columnist
for the Daily Record of Morristown, has done in his life. Then write
your own script and be sure to include arduous hours of sitting in
a front of word processor wondering why you are doing this.
Soul-searching aside, Boroson and Buttner are the keynotes at the
conference sponsored by Money 2000 and the Rutgers Cooperative
on Saturday, May 9. The other speakers are Barbara O’Neill,
a consumer sciences educator with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension,
and certified financial planners Patricia Brennan,
and Diahann Lassus. Call 973-579-0985.
Boroson has written 20 books, had a radio show on mutual funds,
a mutual funds newsletter, taught at Rutgers University, Ramapo
and the New School, and been on the staffs of both Money magazine
and Sylvia Porter’s Money Guide. His bestselling book, "Keys to
Investing in Mutual Funds" ($4.95, Barrons Educational Publishing)
"sold a hell of a lot of copies" and is currently in its third
Boroson grew up in Hudson County, got his degree from Columbia College
(Class of 1957). For the Daily Record, a job Boroson loves because
it gives him the opportunity to work with vigorous young people, he
churns out three columns a week and spends a lot of time interviewing
Here are three ways these gurus say you can get rich playing the stock
— those funds that act as a representation of everything on the
market. "If you do that you’re going to do very well most of the
time, because you’re going to have a very diversified portfolio,"
he says. "You’re not paying the manager very much, and you’re
diversified by industry. Another benefit is there won’t be any drastic
change in the way the fund is managed. Another benefit is that when
you buy an index, you would be buying stocks that no one else wants
to buy because they’re dogs. And some of the dogs, like Oxford
have done tremendously." This advice comes from John C.
who started Vanguard Funds.
straw hats in winter." The goal: Look for signs that a company
with a low-priced stock can turn around. A well-known investor who
does this is Michael F. Price, who runs Mutual Series Funds
in Short Hills. "Whenever a company is in trouble Michael Price
is waiting in the wings," Boroson says. The Mutual Series Fund
was started by Max Heine, who made his name by buying railroad
bonds. "He had the guts to look at bankrupt railroads. That, in
essence, is what Michael Price does."
long-term buys if you know when to get out. "You have to be the
first person off of the merry go round," says Boroson. Experts
in high-performance stocks like Ron Baron,
who runs the Baron
Funds, and Warren Buffet, usually sniff out stocks for items
that will fare well in the big picture. Currently Baron is buying
stock in agricultural firms and in Spanish-speaking radio stations.
Buffet raised a lot of eyebrows when he admitted he bought Gillette
stock because it would allow him to make money in his sleep —
as America’s beards grew. "He makes more money snoring than
says Boroson. If only the same thing was true about writing columns.
— Peter J. Mladineo
Geeks never had it so good. In times like these, one
thing scarcer than an underpaid information technology professional
is a company with all of its IT positions full. The fact is, IT
are hitting all-time highs and, if you’re a programmer who knows the
hot languages like Oracle, Java, Visual Basic, Windows NT, or C++,
chances are — if you’re good, that is — you’ll be able to
shop your talent around and join the ranks of the ridiculously
Their salaries as not quite as glaringly overinflated as those of
sports stars, but David L. Sears reports, the same
attitude permeates the industry.
"There are people who literally bounce around going from offer
to offer," says Sears. "From their perspective it’s a rational
economic thing to do. You’re hot now but your skills are going to
get old pretty quick so you better make the money while you can."
But Sears, whose Morris Plains-based consulting firm, D.L. Sears &
Associates, works with IT companies on issues of recruiting,
and leadership. Sears and Stephen Berlin, an attorney with
Halleran & Ciesla, will speak at the New Jersey Technology Council
on Friday, May 8. The moderator is Ron Woodmansee of Fuller
Woodmansee & Co. Call 609-452-1010. "The key issues are the
of IT-skilled professionals and how are people developing strategies
to both attract these people and retain them," says Sears.
This winter, reports proliferated in the media that 10 percent of
the IT jobs in the country weren’t filled. This information was rooted
in a survey done by the Information Technology Association of America,
which hypothesized that at any given time in the United States there
were 350,000 vacant jobs — roughly 10 percent of the country’s
estimated IT workforce. "That’s been the scare number that’s been
thrown around and what Congress has been asked to react to when they
talk about raising the quotas for entry visas," says Sears.
quota (65,000) gets filled long before the end of the year."
Obviously, the ITAA, an association for technology employers, has
its own interests in mind by promulgating the 10 percent statistic.
Its members would benefit greatly if Congress made it easier for them
to hire more technology workers from overseas — thereby easing
the perceived labor shortage.
But while some companies pay premiums for what Sears calls
athletes," there are also other companies with "computers
that take up entire rooms" and legacy-trained people to go with
them. Many of these older workers could be retrained to do higher
The shortage can also be a potential hindrance for small businesses.
"The small technology employers are trying to compete in this
marketplace and trying to do the best they can and pay competitively
so their talent doesn’t walk out the door," says Sears. "Are
technology companies figuring out ways to tweak their practices so
that they come off as attractive and retention-worthy employers?"
The rapidly rising salaries of IT people poses the biggest dilemma
for small companies, many of which can’t compete with large firms
for the talent. But, almost as a form of poetic justice, many large
companies are now growing so frustrated with staffing shortages that
they are outsourcing an increasing amount of work, thereby creating
new niches for smaller, more specialized IT firms.
Here are some tactics that larger companies are employing to keep
their IT people:
is nothing to sneeze at (some actually do), but that isn’t the end
of it. Some companies have found it necessary to give their prized
geeks "stay bonuses."
job within a large company, there are salary ranges and grades within
those ranges. Using a technique called "broadbanding,"
give hiring managers and supervisors more leeway to flatten out those
grade structures and line their IT heroes’ pockets faster.
notices a trend where companies are now allocating nine to ten percent
of their annual budgets for this type of raise, which typically has
nothing to do with merit. "People call them merit increases but
they end being an everybody-gets-his-increase-type of thing,"
exciting than giving your franchise programmer a bigger stake in the
company’s stock — especially if it’s stock from IT company (in
some cases, putting the employee on a bus to Atlantic City would be
of the Golden Shackles: good management. "In my experience
that do the best with this problem don’t just throw money at it —
they try to get people’s involvement in projects," says Sears.
In other words, you can give your employees quantum pay increases,
but if your management staff resembles that portrayed in Dilbert,
you’re throwing money away. Instead, try keeping them interested in
the work they are doing. Feed them. Treat them like humans as opposed
to Web servers.
"Lousy management and bureaucracy — that’s the kind of stuff
you want to avoid," says Sears. "Management hasn’t gotten
a lot of attention. There are obviously good managers in the IT
but there are a lot of good people who have never had any training
or good exposure to managers who do it well."
Sears, 50, has an undergraduate degree from the University of
(Class of 1969) and a graduate degree in industrial relations from
Cornell (Class of ’81). Prior to starting his company three years
ago, he spent eight years in charge of professional and managerial
staffing for Dow Jones & Co. on Route 1 and worked in employee
and human resources for the New York Times.
Both of these jobs dealt with information systems, and, says Sears,
both of those companies also have problems keeping their IT staffs
intact. "They both operate in and around the New York market and
they end up competing with Wall Street for technology people,"
he says. "Wall Street pays handsomely when Wall Street’s doing
well." Well, better git while the gittin’s good.
— Peter J. Mladineo
Here’s an opportunity for the umpteen million clinical
research professionals in the Princeton area to get out and rub
The Association of Clinical Research Professionals meets on Thursday,
May 14, 6 p.m. at Convatec at Headquarters Park Drive off Route 518.
Call 609-252-4410 for information.
The speaker is Ellen Loonan, a clinical projects senior manager
at DZS Computer Solutions, a 14-year-old Bound Brook-based consulting
firm that specializes in helping drug companies, contract research
organizations, and medical device manufacturers with the data
and statistical analysis portions of their drug studies. "We take
drugs, collect the data, put it in the databases, and do quality
says Loonan. "We go from that to developing a whole statistical
plan, creating programs and generating reports, tables, and listings,
which will enable the drug company to get the new drug approval."
People in the world of data management speak in terms of adverse
concomitant medications, data queries, data tracking, and data flow.
DZS’s work is heavily software-intensive, and, Loonan reports, last
year the company created a sister company, DZS Software Solutions,
to market the software it has been honing over the years to do the
work. It’s called ClinPlus, an SAS-based, platform-independent package
that comes with eight modules to help with various steps of the
review process. These include data management, new drug applications,
queries, drug coding, and tracking.
SAS, an acronym for statistical analysis systems, is a programming
language and dataset structure designed by the SAS Institute of Cary,
North Carolina. Specifically designed for statisticians, SAS is
used by contract research organizations, insurance companies,
firms, and marketing firms.
ClinPlus competes with products by Oracle and a few other firms,
Oracle’s tools are not SAS-based. Because ClinPlus is SAS-based, says
Loonan, the data is always accessible to users. "We don’t have
to transfer the data from one database structure to another,"
she says. "Our software allows to do queries on it. Our software
allows us to do the coding on it."
David Horowitz, the vice president of sales and marketing,
that Oracle-based systems require an on-site database administrator
and the creation of a second SAS dataset. "What’s the point of
having two databases?" he says. "Oracle claims that you need
a relational database, but you don’t need a relational database to
do data management. In data management a relational database is
Nevertheless, Oracle is still Oracle and is always a formidable
when it comes to databases. "They’ve been out there a lot longer
than us," says Horowitz.
Transitioning a company to software development is never easy for
anyone. It’s one thing to have a good idea, it’s another thing to
be able to sell it. But in the case of ClinPlus, its high price and
ability to expedite a drug study makes the prospect a whole lot
maintains Doron Z. Steger, the founder and namesake of the firm.
"It’s not a mass quantity-type of product," he says. "You
sell five or six a year and you’re doing great. It’s a very a limited
market, very specialized, and very important — it means a month
sooner to getting their drug approved."
So far, ClinPlus has a dozen customers and costs between $30,000 to
$200,000 for the full eight-module package. "We did have some
advantages going to a product that someone going fresh wouldn’t
says Steger. "One of them is a ready-made client base. The second
thing is since what we do is develop software in-house, the products
that we sold were to a large extent already developed. A large cost
of the development has been paid through working for our clients.
We didn’t have to go out at square one and pay 100 percent of the
cost doing development. We were able to start off at 70 percent and
fill in the gap. We had the product, we had the connections, then
it was just a matter of putting the thing together."
A free legal clinic will be held on Wednesday, May 13,
5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Clay Street Learning Center, on the corner
of Clay and Witherspoon Streets in Princeton. Anyone can have a free
15-minute consultation with an attorney to talk about any of the
problems: family law, real estate, municipal court, motor vehicle
violations, landlord/tenant problems, small claims court, personal
injury, wills and estates, workplace problems, how to choose an
Clients are seen on a first come, first served basis. The clinic —
the only free legal clinic of its kind in the county — is
by the public education committee of the Mercer County Bar
Lawyers C.A.R.E., and is held regularly at different locations. The
purpose of the free event is to educate the public about their legal
rights and then point them in the right direction for resources. Call
Networking opportunities are plentiful at YWCA TWIN
dinners, and this year’s is no exception. Want to get to know people
at Educational Testing Service? At state government? At some of the
pharmaceutical companies? Buy an $85 ticket the annual fundraiser
on Thursday, May 14, at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt. Call Diana Leatham
Eight women are being honored: Nancy H. Becker
of the eponymous
public affairs firm in Trenton; Janet Bowker,
of strategic operations of ETS; Mollie Brodsky,
of Crawford House; Brenda Hopper,
state director of New Jersey
Small Business Development Center Network; Janet Lasley,
of Lasley Construction Inc.; Karen Linder,
leader, Bracco Research USA Inc.; Donna Pressma,
CEO, Children’s Home Society/NJ; and Michele Ryan, executive
director/nursing, Medical Center at Princeton.
Will your company be on the honor roll? The Executive
Women of New Jersey have prepared a status report on how women are
advancing their careers on business, law and government, education,
sports, and science and technology. Where are the women CEOs? they
asked. How successful have New Jersey companies been in promoting
women to senior positions and providing programs to increase career
opportunities for their female executives?
The honor roll will be unveiled at the "Salute to the Policy
dinner on Thursday, May 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton.
Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and physics professor at the
University of California at San Diego, will give the keynote. For
$500 tickets call 732-530-4098.
At the dinner 37 women will be honored, and a panel will discuss the
glass ceiling question, posed as "Is it only a matter of time
or must women overcome significant cultural and social challenges
to become CEOs of major corporations?"
Panel members include Nancy Blethen
, president of Executive
Women of New Jersey, Marguerite Schaffer Esq.
, chair of the
dinner, and Sandra Paul
, treasurer of the organization. The
EWNJ is a monthly forum for senior executive members for sharing
and business experiences. The money raised from this biennial dinner
will go toward graduate scholarships.
Corrections or additions?
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