The Advantus Address
I was drafted by the company president to provide some pithy comments on the occasion of my
employer's 20-year anniversary of incorporation. I am one of only a few of the 100+
employees that have been with the firm for that long. Well, needless to say my afternoon
productivity took a different turn from the usual business-related activities. I was given
the assignment around 11 am on Thursday with show-time scheduled for 2 pm the next day.
After an hour of ruminating on various memories over that score of years such as the
challenges of resolving a difficult investment, the four different locations in which the
firm resided, or the idiosyncrasies of previous fellow employees. I toyed with an opening
line of "One score and 3 months ago.." that parallels a very famous American speech that
began with "Four score and 7 years ago...". That is the opening line to the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln. He delivered it on November 19, 1863 on the recent
battlefield of one of the most famous of exchanges of the American Civil War. That idea
vibrated taking over more of my consciousness until I located the text of the speech on the
Internet. As I reread those words, my speech fell rapidly into place with just a
few changes to the topic of President Lincoln's well-known Address.
The speech gave me a perfect framework for expressing important ideas and people in a tone of
weight and importance - based on the phrasing used by President Lincoln. I replaced selected
words and phrases that referenced the battle, the soldiers, and
other Civil War specific concepts. In their place were inserted ideas of financial
management and investment along with specific references to former officers of my employer.
Almost every school child in America learns about President Lincoln and the Gettysburg
Address. Many memorize the speech as an assignment sometime before the age of 15 years.
Now to be fair, most citizens don't recall the entire speech as adults, but recognize
selected phrases. For example, the "Four score" quote, as well as
- "...conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
- "...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
My employer is a financial advisor providing investments and portfolio management for
several million life insurance policyholders and mutual fund investors. Our customers
place in our hands their family wealth and trust us to fulfill our promise to provide them
with financial security. That security is for many varied events from an unexpected
disaster to a steady income for retirement.
So when I stood in front of the 100 or so fellow associates I had an informed audience
for which a small prologue would sufficiently prime them. The Address delivered respect for
the sacrifice of those who-managed-before-us and proclaimed the sacred trust we, as the
present employees, must carry forward into the future. (References to company employees are limited to their initials out of respect for privacy.)
My presentation ...
"On occasions such as this, Mr. J read original poems achieving a trifecta of wit, insight,
and creativity. Being a lesser mortal, I aspire to only a doublet of wit and insight. I
offer a modest testimonial in the form of a re-phrasing of another's great work. So with
thanks to President Abraham LIncoln, I present.."
The Advantus Address
Twelve score and 3 months ago our fore-Officers brought forth in Minnesota Mutual Life a
new company, MIMLIC Asset Management, conceived in Integrity, and dedicated to the proposition that our Clients deserve Above-Average Portfolio Returns.
Now we are engaged in a great competitive struggle, testing whether this Financial Advisor,
or any Asset Management Firm, so conceived and so dedicated, can find Superior Investments.
We are met on a great Trading Desk of that contest. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that Desk to those before us who found Safe Investments so our Customers might have
Financial Security. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow -
these Portfolios. The brave employees, living and dead, who struggled here, have
consecrated them, far above our poor power to add or detract: Mr. JB, Mr. RA, Mr. AN, Mr.
RS, Ms. LM, Mr. GD, and a host of others. They strove, not with multi-channel phones,
computers, email, or the Internet, but instead by handwriting letters, calling for prices
one deal at a time, and hand-coding short term trades on 120-column computer input forms.
Our clients will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but they will never forget
the yields our predecessors thus achieved.
It is for us, the present employees, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work,
which They-Who-Managed-Before-Us have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored Cash-Flows
we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the full measure of Analysis and Risk Assessment - that we here highly resolve that these Capital Gains shall not have been paid in vain - that this Advantus Capital Management, Inc., under President DO, shall have a new birth of
Reinvestment - and that Investment Returns,
Of the Portfolio Managers, Analysts, and Attorneys;
By the Administrative, Tech, and Support Staff; and
For the Client,
Shall not vanish from the Top Decile of Market Performance.
January 21, 2005
The presentation was well received with resounding applause.
Lincoln, Abraham, The Gettysburg Address, http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm