Philly Deals: Election fears of the high-net-worth investor

"Four more years of an Obama administration" is a primary election fear for a group of financial advisers. CHRIS O'MEARA / Associated Press
"Four more years of an Obama administration" is a primary election fear for a group of financial advisers. CHRIS O'MEARA / Associated Press
Posted: June 26, 2012

Why do the rich fear Barack Obama?

John Coyne and his team at Brinker Capital Inc., which invests $12 billion for financially successful Americans from its King of Prussia offices, last month asked financial advisers who refer clients from across the United States to name their "biggest election fear" for the November presidential vote.

"Four more years of an Obama administration" was the choice for 70 percent of the 442 who answered. "A divided Congress" trailed at 18 percent; a Mitt Romney win or "growing Tea Party influence" were judged least scary, given the alternatives.

"The anxiety is around taxes," Coyne, Brinker's chief executive, told me. "Their concern is that a Democratic administration is going to try to bail out the deficit on the backs of the high-net-worth, mass-affluent market.

“It's really becoming visceral," he added, noting that the fear-Obama choice was up from 56 percent at year-end 2011. "The fear is that the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire."

The drop in home values since the mid-2000s — before Obama took office, Coyne noted — has made "Americans feel, ‘I'm poor, and now they're going to raise my taxes?' "

A slight majority of the advisers added that they believe their clients are financially better off than last year; a slight plurality said investment markets were doing better than expected, and a majority agreed that a rise in employment now to November would probably help Obama more than Romney.

‘Virtual' hiring

The Drug Information Association, which plans to host 7,000 guests at the Convention Center this week, hopes speakers such as Dean Kamen, inventor of gadgets like the HomeChoice portable kidney-dialysis unit and the Segway Human Transporter, will rally salespeople and strategists at a time when drug profits are under pressure and the government funding that drives the business is uncertain.

But even as companies reorganize to cut costs, recruiters are busy, said Greg Coir, president of Woburn, Mass.-based Randstad Pharma, a $1?billion-a-year division of $20?billion multinational placement agency Randstad. "We're seeing [about] a 20 percent increase in demand, year on year," he told me. His group is lately filling 200-plus jobs a month.

That's not because drug organizations are getting larger, but because many are relying more on outsourced and contract help instead of full-time workers who are expensive to hire, manage, and lay off. Typically, they're looking for "skilled, experienced" bio and chemistry pros, not recent college grads, Coir added.

Clients in the drug centers of Philadelphia and New Jersey seek medical writers "who document clinical trials and post-trial marketing," "pharmaco-vigilance," including monitors for drug safety, side effects, and prevention, and also "study monitors," who help manage drug studies and clinical trials — including "virtual workers" who monitor European and Asian drug trials from Philadelphia and other university towns where researchers congregate. Electronic medical-records management is also "a booming area."

Coir is concerned about long-term prospects. He cited an industry projection that "the number of biotech companies will contract by 50 percent in the next couple of years" as successful firms get "gobbled up." In the past, they'd be replaced by start-ups. But cuts in National Institutes of Health funding has made it harder for idea people: "They're not getting to the next stage of private funding."

Closer to town

NextDocs, the pharmaceutical clinical-testing compliance software company founded by Microsoft veteran Zikria Syed nine years ago, is moving. The company is leaving its offices at Brandywine Real Estate Trust's 500 N. Gulph Rd., King of Prussia, and moving its 85 headquarters workers to 30,000 square feet at Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corp. upmarket Six Tower Bridge in Conshohocken, according to CBRE broker Scott Miller, who represented NextDocs.

"NextDocs chose the property due to its centralized location" closer to Philadelphia and the "live-work-play lifestyle," according to Miller.

Like other landlords, Brandywine is weighing upgrades to its suburban properties as regional vacancies rise.

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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