By now, most people recognize that over the past several decades there has been a marked shift in the financial industry. These changes have not been limited to the names of the industry’s leading firms, the structure of products, the number of disclosures to be made, or how fees are charged. There have also been significant shifts in psychology – specifically how financial firms and industry professionals perceive their relationships with clients.
Recently – especially within the last several years – we’ve been hearing more and more stories about advisors pushing unsuitable investments on clients, or becoming indignant at the loss of all or even part of an account. In sum, advisors seem far less focused on their clients’ needs. It is as if these service professionals have forgotten that they work for their clients – not the other way around.
It’s no secret that the culture of large wire houses and Wall Street firms has been undergoing a similar shift over an even longer timeframe. By now, it seems Wall Street banks have almost zero interest in serving their clients, let alone making money for those they serve. Instead, the name of the game is to move as much money as possible from their clients’ pockets to their own before clients wise up.
Then, when things go bust, they fleece taxpayers to refill their coffers and start all over again, having never missed a bonus check in the meantime.
Investors need to be mindful of these attitudes in finance. No, advisors won’t always make money for clients; but there are bigger issues to consider. One is whether an advisor properly understands his or her relationship with a client: that he is an employee who can be fired at will. And he should be fired if a client ever becomes concerned about either of two things:
There are some managers today, although they are becoming a smaller and smaller minority, who manage their own money the same way they do their clients – who eat their own cooking, so to speak. This is a great benefit for most clients, who can rest easy knowing that their advisor is in the same boat. If they’re losing money, so is their advisor; if clients are having sleepless nights, likely their financial advisor is as well.
An even more important concern, though, is that a financial advisor never forgets whose money he or she is managing. Clients select advisors to provide services (e.g. managing money, helping a client with problems they have, assisting with account administration, moving money across generations), and advisors are compensated for services rendered. In the event a client ever decides to make a change which leaves no room for an advisor in their new financial plans, the advisor should be willing to do everything they can to make a client’s move away from their firm as easy as the move into it. During these transitions, and advisor should hope that (1) the client finds a satisfying relationship which helps them achieve their financial objectives and (2) the client is better off for having been with that advisor.