For over 24 years I worked in the financial services industry as a financial advisor. I started with a very large brokerage firm, then with a large bank and finally I ran my own practice. Back in 2017 I was feeling burned out and was losing passion for what I was doing so I sold my practice.
During my time as an advisor I was privy to how firms operated, how other advisors ran their businesses and the overall “workings” of the industry itself. When I opened my own firm, I knew how I wanted to design it. I took what I saw over the years and used it as a guide to know how to provide my clients with truly personalized solutions. I did this by being able to offer multiple investment opportunities. Nothing cookie cutter about my client portfolios. There of course is a financial cost to running a holistic firm, but I rested well when I put my head on the pillow every night.
While there is not just one right way to run a firm, there are some things that have really bugged me over my career.
Here is a list:
There are quite a few financial advisors that I have no idea how they continue to keep a job in this industry. They rack up customer complaints one after another but yet firms will still hire them. Why? Some firms are all about profits. Depending on the license an advisor holds, they may only be required to do what is suitable for the client, not what is in the client’s best interest. The industry is currently trying to get a handle on this. This is where the term fiduciary is important. A fiduciary is required to do what is in the best interest of the client. In other words, the client’s interest is put before the interests of the advisor.
Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, not all annuities are crap. Annuities have really changed over time and are beginning to fit better into plans. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really shitty one’s out there. However, there are also really shitty stocks, bonds and mutual funds as well. My problem is with how annuities are sold. I know of some advisors that sell annuities as 90% of their business. Now you can’t tell me that 9 out of 10 people walking in the door are annuity prospects. It’s absurd. I’ve done a lot of second opinion reviews for people in my time as an advisor. More times than not the meetings were me explaining the annuity product they had. This circles me right back to my problem with annuity sales, if the advisor can’t easily explain it to a client and how and why it is a good fit, they shouldn’t be selling them.
It’s quite interesting to see the dollars that flow behind the scenes.It’s not uncommon for a mutual fund/annuity/alternative investment company to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to a brokerage firm so the product can show up on the firms recommended list.It’s a pay to play scheme that puts a lot of money in brokerage firm’s pockets.
In my opinion, investment fees are still too high. Most firms have adopted a model of charging a flat fee on assets. For example, it’s not uncommon to pay between 1%-2% if you have less than $1,000,000 invested. Let’s say you’re paying 1% on a million dollars invested. That means you’re paying $10,000 a year in fees. Are you get $10,000 worth of value? Maybe or maybe not. A number of firms have developed investment models in which the advisor sits down with you and uses a risk profile to figure out which model your money should go in. Once you’re invested, let’s say in model #7, often times the advisor is hands off. The money is being managed at some corporate office and all the advisor does is meet with you once or twice a year (if you’re lucky) and pockets a portion of the $10,000 you paid them.
Those items are just a few things about this industry that bother me. Now don’t think I’m just poo-poo’ing all over my former career and advisors in general. Having an advisor to guide and help you understand investments has enormous value. There are some absolutely fantastic financial advisors out there that really have your best interest at heart.
This industry treated me very well and I’m thankful for what it provided me.
In the end, every industry has its positives and negatives. The things that bother you in your career might be totally different than what your co-worker might point out. All we can do is make the best of it, make changes when we can, and keep on trucking.
Live free my friends