Do you want the “BEST” Investment/Financial Advisor, OR the best salesperson? What is YOUR idea of “best”?
If you were to walk into the office of one of the Investment firms in that ‘expensive’ office building, in the expensive part of downtown, and asked the receptionist to speak with their ‘BEST Financial Advisor’ they would probably ask how much money you had in order to ‘size you up’, and if you ‘pass the test’, they would call the advisor in the firm that sells the most product.
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the definition of “BEST” is:
- better than all others in quality or value
- most skillful, talented, highest rated performance
- most productive of good : offering or producing the greatest advantage, utility, or satisfaction
When a person wants to find the “best” Financial or Investment advisor, what is it they are truly looking for? Is it the Advisor that ‘SELLS’ the most product? If you were the sales manager of the firm that employs that advisor, your answer would be yes. BUT IS IT YOUR ANSWER as a prospective client? Do you want a salesman or a true advisor? It is YOUR savings, and life finances at stake, that ‘sales manager’ isn’t going to be around when you retire…unless of course your grandson wins the lottery.
Isn’t your idea of “best Financial and Investment Advisor”, the advisor who has a broad and successful background in TRUE investment/portfolio analysis and trend forecasting? An added background in Global Markets, Engineering and efficiency structures may be to your benefit, as well. In addition, it should be an Advisor that can plainly and accurately advise you on a broad array of life change events without a fee at every turn? Maybe you’re a business owner wanting to sell your business? Or you have a great product idea and want some free advice on how to start the product. Perhaps you just lost your job, or have changed jobs and don’t want to keep your 401K assets at your previous employer? Maybe you want to buy a foreclosed or short sale property? Maybe your child is planning on entering college, and you haven’t saved a penny. Divorce? There are many life situations that call for advice. GOOD ADVICE that can save you thousands of dollars.
Saving money is much better than the return on an investment, especially if you’re in a high tax bracket. What if you had your money at a firm that prohibited its advisors from giving advice on anything but the investments they sold? Let’s say you want to buy a rental property. Many firms prohibit their advisors from advising in matters outside of the firm’s scope. So if you found an experienced advisor in real estate matters, and they showed you how to buy foreclosed or ‘short sale’ properties, thus saving you THOUSANDS, would you consider them to be a better advisor than the “SALES” advisor at the big firm who is prohibited from dealing in such matters?
Psychology plays a big part in the mistakes people make in choosing a FA. The psychological element of ‘vanity’ is a more precise term. If you choose the advisor based on the size of the firm they are affiliated with ‘because it is impressive to others’, what are you expecting to be different than choosing a FA at a small firm, provided the same SIPC, SEC, State Securities Division, and FINRA safeguards for both FA’s is in effect? Are your accounts any safer by choosing a large firm? No, small firms are bound by the same regulatory requirements as large firms. What if the large firm implements large production requirements from their sales advisors’s? Large commission streams are needed to maintain the large overhead needed to support their size? Is the FA’s job at stake should their production fall below a certain level? Would this cause the FA to possibly manage your account differently? So you should ask yourself, “Is my intention to do business with a large firm based in Vanity, or logic”?
One way that vanity presents itself is from the friend that refers their Financial Advisor to you. Are they trying to feel important by a-Stating they have a Financial Advisor. B-The firm the advisor is with? Does your friend really utilize methods for review of their statements and services to determine the basis of why they are referring this person to you? I’m going to say bluntly, “probably not”. Here’s an exercise to implement the next time a friend refers a Financial Advisor to you, just ask them what makes them so good? Then study their reply as if your retirement depended on the answer.
Another example of vanity is choosing a Financial Advisor with the most clients. Is the Financial Advisor with the most clients the best? One of the Hallmark regulations that govern a Financial Advisor is FINRA rule 2090, The “Know your client rule”. This has been the number one violation and complaint lodged by clients for many years. How does a Financial Advisor with over 300 clients hope to know each client? True, they can know their income, employment, marital status, number of kids as they read over their file as they meet with you initially, but people’s lives change. If the Advisor, who is supposed to abide by Rule 2090 has too many clients, how can they keep up with these life changes for every client? Let’s say you go to a Financial Advisor with 500 plus clients and ask them if they manage all their client accounts personally, and they reply with, “no, I have assistants that manage most of them, I just manage the millionaires”, doesn’t this statement make the idea of seeking out the Advisor with the most clients irrelevant? I refer to this type of firm as being a “Figure Head Firm”. When you retire will the “Figure Head” be around?
Experience is the key in finding expertise in many disciplines, and Financial Advising/Planning is no different. I’m not talking about combined investment firm experience either which is a common marketing trick. This combined number of years is irrelevant. If a firm has 100 advisors all having 1 year of experience are you impressed if that firm touts “100 years’ experience”? Are you going to choose that firm?
Annuities have their place, but according to the SEC they are seeing them to be overly utilized at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons. There are way too many Financial Advisors selling way too many annuities with only commissions in mind. If you are being sold an annuity, you should seek a second, third, fourth opinion. Many Financial Advisors like annuities for the big commissions, and their ability to say the “GUARANTEED” word. This guarantee is not from the government like the FDIC, even if you buy the annuity from your neighbor’s kid that works at your bank. These salespeople usually work for large firms and banks that mandate outlandish sales production requirements to keep their jobs. So to meet the quotas handed down by these big bureaucratic, publicly traded firms, one has to sell annuities to meet these outlandish quotas. Customer traffic into the bank branches has greatly declined, thus reducing the prospects for the investment salespeople. Just about every Regional Manager I had when I worked as a multi branch Financial Advisor told me to sell more annuities. An irony to this is that many of these firms had to be bailed out a few years ago for not keeping their own finances in order. Would you take your car to a mechanic that couldn’t keep their own car running?
“just because something is legal, doesn’t make it moral to do”
There are many boring terms and topics thrown around in the Financial and Investment Advisory industries. I got sick of seeing things implemented just because those things were legal. One of the most important things to consider in choosing a salesperson instead of an analyst is; If your investments lose 20% the remaining balance will need to earn 40% just to break even, NOT to mention the time it will take! What changes would your Advisor make to your account during and after a downturn. Most sales advisors don’t do anything. They just ride out the storm, ready to tell you “not to worry”. And with the right LIFE advice, you can save thousands of dollars by avoiding some of the standard pitfalls others fall into. There’s no substitute for EXPERIENCE and ANALYTICS!
Wouldn’t it be great to find an advisor with 25 years’ experience in analytics, who provided all of the previously mentioned, ‘life change’ guidance for free to clients, and their families, and whose investment advising fees were designed to be half of the industry standard? WE are out there. Don’t be lazy, diligently look for us. Implement the things you think are valid in this article. I would be honored to have helped you find the person you choose!
Steve J. Casull
CEO & Founder
Casull Financial Advisory, LLC