Hire Me

Subliminal Message: Hire MeWho I am:

Digital marketing strategist and creative technologist with 15+ years of professional experience — eight years in the financial services industry — with specific knowledge of socially responsible investing and alternative asset classes. FINRA licenses 6, 26, and 63.

Who I really am:

Father. Occasional writer and musician.

What I’m looking for:

The ideal position would be within the marketing department of a financial services company or at an agency with financial clients.  Job title would resemble the following: E-business Lead; Digital Marketing Strategist; E-Commerce Director; Online Marketing Manager et al. But I have many interests and areas of knowledge and would be open to other opportunities.

Reasons to Hire Me:

I know stuff. And if I don’t know the answer, I know where to find it. Everything from web analytics to Google Adwords to Facebook apps to FINRA compliance to what it’s like to drive an ice cream truck in November. Just ask.

I can do stuff. The natural evolution of a career takes you from accomplishing tasks to assigning them — and mine is no different — but I think it’s important to always have one foot in the trenches. I’m great with Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Excel, Mac or Windows, you name it.

I can juggle. I mean this figuratively…and literally. Throw projects at me and I will keep them running. Throw machetes at me and, if I am not mortally wounded, I will juggle them.

My Resume:

This is a PDF document.Financial services resume (Warning: insider baseball)


This is a PDF document.Resume for agencies, startups, anyone else who doesn’t say the word “FINRA” multiple times per day


View Noah Masterson's profile on LinkedIn



Ever since drugmakers started advertising prescription medicine to the public, we’ve grown accustomed to vast amounts of legal disclaimer. We hardly even notice that bit about the seizures because we really want to eat fried cheese without getting heartburn.

Now it’s the financial services industry. Legal disclosure about potential risk dominates advertisements for financial products.

Ten years ago, you might have seen an advertisement for a mutual fund with disclaimer in tiny print, like this:

Example 1: Not Enough Disclaimer

That was bad. We don’t want to go back to those days, where you could promise just about anything as long as you included some 6-pt. disclaimer.

But now it looks more like this:

Example 2: Too Much Disclaimer

Neither is effective. The first makes the risk too easy to overlook. The second overwhelms with information about risk and is therefore ignored.

There are better examples in other industries. I think the MPAA Ratings system is pretty good:

MPAA Ratings Chart

And the Department of Homeland Security’s threat level chart — though widely ridiculed — is at least fairly simple.

Department of Homeland Security Alert Levels

Most people benefit from visual aids.

So what if we developed a rating system for investors that was easy to understand at a glance? It might look something like this:


The Risk Typical Disclaimer Proposed Icon
The fund is not insured by the federal government. An investment in the Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the Fund.

Not FDIC-Insured
The fund invests in emerging/foreign markets. Investment in foreign securities involves greater risks than U.S. investments, including political and economic risks and the risk of currency fluctuations.

The fund invests in small or mid-cap companies. Prices of small-cap stocks may respond to market activity differently from and can be more volatile than those of larger, more established companies. Small-cap companies are more likely to have more limited product lines, fewer capital resources and less depth of management than larger companies.

Run by Monkeys
The fund is non-diversified. The Fund is non-diversified, meaning it may concentrate its assets in fewer individual holdings than a diversified which involve fund. Therefore, the Fund is more exposed to individual stock volatility than a diversified fund.

Sinking Ship
The fund invests in only one sector, such as energy. The Fund is subject to the risk that stocks that comprise the energy sector may decline in value, and the risk that prices of energy (including traditional sources such as oil, gas or electricity) or alternative energy may decline.

Sentient Lightning.
The fund invests in large-cap companies. Large-cap companies may be unable to respond quickly to new competitive challenges, such as changes in technology, and also may not be able to attain the high growth rate of successful smaller companies, especially during periods of economic expansion.

Headed for Extinction
The fund invests in Value stocks. The market may not recognize a security’s intrinsic value for a long time or that a stock judged to be undervalued may actually be appropriately priced.

What some call “value,” others call a $4 cup of coffee.
Index Funds The Fund, while expected to track its target index as closely as possible, will not be able to match the performance of the index exactly. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Cheese Maze Ahead.

(Many thanks to designer Robert Brown. More on him below.)

By implementing a visually snazzy ratings system, we could start seeing new and improved ads like this one:

Example 3: Just Right!

About the Designer
Robert Brown, 25, was born in Jackson, MS and lives near Huntsville, AL. He’s always loved photography and computers and thought it would be convenient to combine the two into a career. He’s been doing freelance design and photo work since he was 16, and currently teaches design as part of the Visual Communication Faculty at ITT Technical Institute in Madison, Al. For case studies on past work, as well as any banter on his mind, visit Robert’s website: http://browneagle44.wordpress.com.

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5 Ways to Improve the Way Risk Is Communicated to Investors

All these years in the mutual fund business has destroyed the part of my brain that enabled me to speak in precise sentences. Whereas previously I said, “I would like a glass of water,” now I say “I may potentially like a glass of water.” And I use words like “whereas.”

FINRA requires that asset managers link the word FINRA to their website. It's government-mandated SEO!This is because, in the financial services industry, communications to the public are beholden to an elaborate set of rules drafted by government and quasi-government agencies. Their motives are good: to insure that investors are informed of risks before they invest. It’s the implementation that sucks.

For example, in a block of legalese known as the prospectus legend—which is required in the majority of communications— the word “carefully” must be used twice. Adverbs seldom help make a point—and often dilute your message—yet the same adverb is required twice, repetitiously, redundantly. Here is the SEC rule:

Advises an investor to consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the investment company carefully before investing; explains that the prospectus contains this and other information about the investment company; identifies a source from which an investor may obtain a prospectus; and states that the prospectus should be read carefully before investing.

Another example is the summary prospectus, which came out early this year. On the face of it, it’s a great idea: Allow investment companies to provide a four-page summary of the objectives and risks of a mutual fund, rather than burden investors with a lengthy legal document that no one reads.

But again, it’s the implementation that sucks, because the rule also requires that the four-page document link to the long-form prospectus, and specifically to the table of contents in the long-form prospectus. Easily done in HTML, right? But when lawyers think “electronic legal document” they don’t think “website,” they think “PDF.”

Have you ever tried to link one PDF to another? It’s possible, barely. Depending on operating system, browser, and personal settings, sometimes the linked PDF opens in a new window or tab, sometimes it opens invisibly behind the first document, sometimes the pop-up blocker prevents it from opening at all. All of which must be frustrating to the investor who is trying to assess the risks of his or her investment.

cigarette-warning.jpgHere are some suggestions:

  1. Mandate that all regulators read and memorize Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
  2. Reduce to its essence the legalese required on communications with the public, similar to the warning on a pack of cigarettes. (OK, maybe the slightly more subtle American style, not the pictures of mouth cancer employed in other countries.)
  3. Have actual investors participate in extensive user-testing before mandating changes to the way electronic documents are presented.
  4. Conduct eye-tracking and page-view analysis to see where users ignore or get frustrated by legal disclaimer.
  5. Partner with asset managers and investors to develop more creative ways to convey risk, e.g., video, quizzes, slideshows, infographics, etc.

All of this would serve the most important constituent—the investor.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


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