CEO’s Note – Fall 2023

September 28, 2023

You can see and feel the changes. The summer haze fading. Fall firmly taking hold. Kids back in school. Colors bursting in the high country. Folsom Field (finally) rocking and raucous again. Arapahoe Basin blowing snow (since last Saturday)! The days grow shorter, the nights stretch longer. Three-quarters through its annual trip around the sun, planet Earth (with us on it) racing toward 2024. When the cycle begins again.

You can also see and feel the changes in markets. Talk of “soft landings” and goldilocks conditions giving way to talk of “higher for longer” and recessions. In his news conference last week, Chairman Powell said the Fed would “proceed carefully” six times. Six times, eh? Do we really expect that victory will EVER be declared on inflation? Or that we will never have another recession? Or that “uncertainty” will be eliminated?  When will the “coast be clear”? Has it ever actually been clear?

Imagine if we took a time machine back four years ago, to the close of the third quarter of 2019. We could tell ourselves what was coming over the next four years:

  • COVID 19
  • Global Economic Shutdown
  • Broken supply chains
  • Racial strife and demonstrations not seen since the 60s
  • January 6 Congressional attack
  • Ukraine War
  • Highest inflation rates in decades
  • Fastest interest rate hikes in decades
  • Bank failures and a banking crisis

How might we react? What might our outlook be? Lost in the noise of the news cycle, third quarter numbers for 2023 were recently released. Let’s take a look:

US Gross Domestic Product:

  • 3Q19 = $21 trillion
  • 3Q23 = $26.5 trillion

S&P 500 Earnings:

  • 2019 = $163
  • 2023 = $225

ACWI Stock Index:

  • As of 09.30.2019 = 1,323
  • As of 09.27.2023 = 1,651

In light of the challenges we were soon to face back in 3Q 2019, was adding $5 trillion of GDP and growing earnings by nearly 40% what would have been expected? Does it square with our memories? Or is the media’s constant din of negativity and fear such that the narrative becomes our reality? I like to think that we humans are in the business of overcoming difficulties. And business has been good. So if the immense, unforeseen challenges noted above haven’t stopped us, why do we think future hurdles will?

As countless research studies have demonstrated, the highest predictor of happiness is deep, authentic, and meaningful relationships. Our work together is anchored in authentic relationships — with our clients, investment partners, and our team. Authentic relationships require time, energy, effort, and in-person connection.

So each fall, we get out on the road to visit with our investment partners and colleagues — photos below. Most importantly, though, BSW’s shareholders took time away recently for our inaugural offsite — header photo above. BSW’s founder, Debi Baydush, generously hosted at her beautiful ranch, Suwarrow, in Montana. Two days of strategic discussions, fun, and deepening our authentic relationships with one another.

As is often the case, I was struck by the depth and intensity of concern and care that my BSW partners have for you, our clients. They speak about you (our clients) like family. They know your life stories, your hopes, your concerns, and your uniqueness. There is a gravity and weight they carry on your behalf, a stewardship, that they brought to all of our discussions. They mention you by name. What is best for Jane? For Michael? For Jen? For Steve? How do we best serve BSW’s client families? What steps can we take NOW for what may lie ahead?

Authentic relationships require time, energy, effort, and in-person connection. Left: With our longtime Harbor Group partners, Vice Chairman Saul Lubetski & Chairman Jordan Sloane at the US Open in New York. Right: At the LP Advisory Board meeting for our partners at Renewal Funds in Vancouver.

Just as 2019 to 2023 brought unforeseen calamities and challenges, the next four years will undoubtedly bring us new monsters to overcome. Things that haven’t even been conceived of or considered yet. Having spent these past two days off-the-grid with my partners around the discussion table, the dinner table, and the campfire; I am more confident than ever that our authentic relationships with you and one another will allow us to not only endure, but to thrive.

Have a wonderful fall and make the remainder of 2023 great.

-David Wolf, CEO





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