In my work for Advice Chaser, a professional referral service, I sometimes have the opportunity to speak directly with investors who are looking for a financial advisor. I spoke with a man the other day who wanted to know what I thought of Ken Fisher and whether I had experienced Ken’s brand of behavior while operating in the finance industry.
We had a good laugh about the egos of small men with big heads and then we got back to discussing what was relevant to this man’s life – his financial future.
When it came out that Ken Fisher used crude language to describe bringing on new clients, I doubt many high asset investors were surprised. No one who has a large account and has been courted by multiple investment advisors is going to feel shocked by being compared to a woman at a singles bar – least of all the women among us. We know it’s a meat market and we’re on display.
Fisher’s response to negative media coverage has been to make this about #metoo and whether or not he hates women. He might be right. He claims to have already replaced the assets that were lost to outrage. Most of the losses the firm experienced were from government plans.
Aside from the wisdom or foolishness of Fisher’s original comments and his continued efforts to mitigate their effects, this issue and how it’s discussed should be a wake up call for financial advisors. The industry is changing. The appetites of clients have shifted in the last 10 years, and that shift should be viewed as a sea change, not an aberration.
Clients are less willing than ever to be treated as commodities. They know that advisors want their business and most investors would rather not be solely responsible for every financial decision in their lives. It makes sense to them to hire out some of the heavy lifting to an expert, but they retain a sense of personal and moral accountability for their finances.
The days of winning business by sheer force of institutional intimidation are fading. The elders of Generation X are less than 10 years from eligibility for Social Security and some of them are dealing with their parents’ end of life preparations or helping their parents navigate health care and downsizing. They do not feel the same way about large institutions that Baby Boomers did. Millennials are in the accumulation stage of their careers, but the eldest of them are getting their kids prepped for the ACT and thinking seriously about college spending.
The cynicism of these generations is off the charts. They’re not impressed by your suit or your Mercedes, and if you’re still talking about picking up chicks in bars, they’re not likely to waste their time on you.
That cynicism isn’t necessarily going to hurt an advisor’s business, though. Current investors understand that financial professionals have mortgages too, and they’re happy to compensate fairly for good service. It makes sense to younger investors to pay a fair price for a service they understand but don’t feel like shouldering alone.
These investors are fine with knowing that advisors want their business and are willing to work for it, but they’re not interested in being played or picked up.
So what makes your practice special? What are you offering that stands out? Tell investors. Be honest, do good work, and watch your business thrive.