Fortune Magazine
Captain's Blog

Captain's Blog, stardate 2/14/07

New York is cold but Wall Street stays hot, AFLAC's got a ducky idea for executive pay, and a Zecco business model, all revealed by Fortune's Managing Editor Andy Serwer.

By Andy Serwer, Fortune managing editor

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- SMOKIN' ACES! Hey first of all, HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO Y'ALL! So, we are got ourselves a SLOG here in NYC today, let me tell you. Snow on the ground and some freezing rain in the membrane. None of that is freezing up the stock market, that's fer sure. Dow hit a new record on Wednesday, up to 12,759 on the interday, just missed a record close by about 8 points at day's end when the action ended at 12,741. The magic phrase today came from Ben (I know Maria, too!) Bernanke who today told Congress about "a gradual ebbing of core inflation." Smokin' (Aces!) That's all Wall Street needed to hear. I know I sound like a skippin' CD, but something's got to give here at some point. Risk premiums on bonds at record lows, kinda thing. At some point the pigeon's going to be drivin' the bus if you know what I mean...

AS THE DUCK QUACKS: Just spoke with AFLAC (Charts) CEO Dan Amos. His company announced today they are putting Dan's compensation (and other top officers') up to a shareholder vote, becoming the first major U.S. company to let shareholders vote on executive pay packages. "We had a shareholder proposal from Boston Common [Asset Management]. We studied the proposal, we saw some flaws in terms subjectivity. How do shareholders decide that the CEO is succeeding? [Probably stock price performance, Dan!] Before we said yes or no we went out and asked our shareholders about it generally and they said what's wrong with people voting up or down? So starting in 2009 - that's to give them three years of performance - our shareholders will vote yes or no on the compensation of the top five executives at AFLAC." My analysis: An interesting step! It won't be the last.

ZECCO FOLLOWUP: This from Sabin Speiser, director of Online Sales and Marketing at Zecco. "Deep Blue wants to know how we make money [with $0 commission stock trades.] We make money from three sources. First, the richest revenue streams in the brokerage business are outside commissions. If you look at E Trade's (Charts) last 10-K you'll see that almost 50% of their revenue comes from interest. Same for us. Secondly, we make money from premium services like options trades, which, while cheap, aren't free. Third, we add large new revenue streams from an integrated financial community website. Lastly, we impose a radically different cost structure on the whole apparatus." Interesting....Hey ML! What does Zecco mean in Chinese?

A GREAT TRIP TO CHICAGO: City of Big Shoulders indeed! Had a great time out there. Yes it was cold and snowing and the Bears lost, but you know what? That city rocks! People there just soldier (field) on. Awesome can-do attitude. Wonderful hosts. It's the heartland. It's where things get done! Hey to Merrillyn (catcha at Rancho Santa Fe!) and Lindley of Ariel Capital: they do chicken right there. And a great meal at NINE, speaking of food. Howdy to everyone at OMD and Starcom...And thanks to Jim, Meredith, Jason, Andrew, Nikki, Maggy, Margaret, and Laurie. You guys rock!

LOOSE CHANGE: This from Roberto: "Options re-pricing has been so pervasive that Intuit's (Charts) Quicken home finance software has an automatic function to adjust your balances if your options are re-priced....." Amazing, right?.......Hey, did you see that the Google (Charts) folks forgot to put the "l" in their logo today? I'll have what their smokin'...Did someone make a mistake and report that Dick Fuld of Lehman (Charts) was out? I don't think so.....Had great fun judging the National Magazine awards. Always great to see my main man, (Esquire Editor) David Granger et al.....Have you seen the Fortress (Charts) prospectus yet? Read it!.....Know any good artists who'll paint disgraced execs like Tyco's Dennis Koz? Or a hot ballet star? I know 'em all my friend!....This is a do-good/feel good website from Corey. Top of page