Dan Wiener, Vanguard's gadfly, has keen eye on investing

Newsletter editor and co-founder of a money management firm uses tart observations to help build his practice

Jun 28, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

By John Waggoner

Dan Wiener, editor of The Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors and co-founder of Adviser Investments in Newton, Mass., is on a tear lately. Three of the most recent stories from Mr. Wiener:

• "Morningstar's 'Fantastic funds' now just 'great.'" "Morningstar has revised its list of 'Fantastic 40' funds down to a 'Great 38,' blaming errors in its expense-ratio screens. And while editor Russ Kinnel [of Morningstar FundInvestor] said 'most of the list is unchanged,' that's being generous. Of the original Fantastic 40, 12 (or 30%) of the funds have been removed while 10 new ones have been added to the list."

• "Schwab is at it again." "It's one thing to advertise that your namesake index is better than someone else's. But as the fine-print says, 'Investments that track each of these indexes may have different performance as a result of fees, expenses and tracking error, among other variables.' No foolin'!"

• "Vanguard disses Bogle forecasts." "Four members of Vanguard's Investment Strategy Group led by Joe Davis, Vanguard's chief economist, and Roger Aliaga-Díaz, chief economist for the Americas, write in a recent paper, 'Improving U.S. stock return forecasts: A 'fair-value' CAPE approach,' that Jack Bogle's long-standing formula for predicting future stock market returns has almost no value."

Mr. Wiener started his newsletter in 1990 and his advisory service in 1994 with Jim Lowell, editor of Fidelity Investor. Adviser Investments now has $5 billion in assets, thanks in part to the voice he brings to the newsletter.

Back in 1990, there were plenty of fund companies Mr. Wiener could have picked: Fidelity, Dreyfus, T. Rowe Price, Scudder (remember them?). Why Vanguard?

"Two or three newsletters were already writing about Fidelity, but no one was writing about Vanguard," Mr. Wiener said. At the time, he was writing about mutual funds for U.S. News & World Report.

"I had money at Vanguard for the kids," Mr. Wiener said.

At the time, there was no internet and no cell phones.

"I had access to information that no one else had," he said. "The average investor could rely only on one thing: Whatever marketing material they got from the fund company."

Mr. Wiener keeps a Chinese wall between the newsletter and the advisory service, which has large positions in several Vanguard funds.

"We get no advertising from Vanguard, no fees, we don't take ads, we don't ask them for people to speak at our conferences," he said. That gives him the freedom to turn a sometimes acerbic eye on the Valley Forge fund behemoth, such as a January piece detailing Vanguard's struggles to keep up with its enormous inflows.

He also has a knack for publishing things Vanguard doesn't — such as Vanguard's executive compensation. (He estimated that former CEO Jack Brennan's share of Vanguard's Partnership Plan payout would have been $21 million in 2016 and founder Jack Bogle's share would have been $15 million if they had been eligible for a payout that year.)

"It may not be hedge fund money, but it isn't seaman's wages, either," he wrote.

Some of the advisory service's assets came from fans of the newsletters that Mr. Wiener and Mr. Lowell, the group's chief investment offer, write. Others have come through acquisitions, such as the February purchase of Braver Wealth Management.

Mr. Wiener is an advocate of low fees, but he said not to let cost wag the tail of the investment. Like many advisers, he believes that time in the market is better than market timing, and that it's important to be diversified and keep risk at suitable levels.

Unlike Jack Bogle and others, he thinks investing overseas is important. And he's a fan of managed funds.

"You buy the manager, not the fund," he said.

He likes one of Vanguard's best-performing managed funds, Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX), for example, and the PRIMECAP funds — but via PRIMECAP Odyssey funds, not via Vanguard.

Surrounded by 80 employees and what he says is a ridiculous amount of technology, Mr. Wiener tries to stay humble.

"I'm just a pretty face with lots of smart people surrounding me," he said.


What do you think?

View comments

Upcoming event

Oct 22


San Francisco Women Adviser Summit

The InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, a one-day workshop now held in six cities due to popular demand, is uniquely designed for the sophisticated female adviser who wants to take her personal and professional self to the next level.... Learn more

Most watched


How life planning, coaching can arm your clients and help your practice

Advisers are hungry for ways to improve their practice, but how can life planning and coaching help your business? Massachusetts Adviser Abbey Henderson offers her insights


Finding innovation in your firm

Adam Holt of AssetMap explains how advisers understand they need to grow, but great innovation may be lurking right under your nose.

Latest news & opinion

Galvin to propose fiduciary rule for Massachusetts brokers

The secretary of the commonwealth is proposing a fiduciary standard in response to an SEC investment-advice rule he views as too weak.

Summer reading recommendations from financial advisers

Here are some books that will keep you informed and entertained during summer's downtime

4 strategies for Roth conversions

There's never been a better time to do a Roth conversion, and here are several ways to go about it.

Cetera latest to be hit with data breach of personal information

Company is offering clients complimentary, two-year membership to an identity theft protection and credit monitoring service.

Morgan Stanley sees massive growth from giant teams of advisers

Andy Saperstein expects some teams to reach $100 million in annual revenue in the future.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print