Open Twitter, LinkedIn and just about any other social media platform and you will see all kinds of posts, blogs, podcasts and videos of topics within the financial industry from advisers arguing about how to charge clients, how to "properly" manage money, and many other topics. There are a lot of positive things happening there and as an adviser you can get quality information from a lot of sources that can help you in your business, so i'm guilty of being an avid browser, but one thing has started to really permeate throughout most of the content, at least from my perspective and that is that advisers have forgotten about their clients.
The industry is changing rapidly and there are many things that could make it better and more efficient for really everyone involved and those are good things. There are a lot of really amazing people trying to fix a whole mess of problems and really starting to get some traction. However, there are a number of really "loud" advisers, at least from my perspective, who are taking a lot of time to really promote themselves and their "brands" essentially. Not that self promotion is a bad thing. We all do it to some extent, but self promotion disguised as client advocacy feels very disingenuous and unfortunately, i just see too much of it. Enough that it makes me feel very uncomfortable with some of the direction our industry seems to be headed. Advisers who latch onto an agenda and really spend massive amounts of time on social media attacking other advisers who might have a different opinion or think differently about a situation, really in my mind are only trying to create separation from other advisors for some kind of competitive edge. They aren't really interested in what the client wants or thinks because the client is missing from the discussion. They seem to just be pushing their agenda so that they are noticed in a sea of other advisors.
Commoditization is also very real and it's happening within the financial industry. Many processes and products are becoming simplified down to almost nothing. While simplification is our mantra, it's not quite what i believe is happening. There's not a better place to see this than the actual process of managing a clients money. There is a large push behind simply "indexing", which doesn't really take a ton of effort. An adviser simply creates a generic allocation for their client (which the client could do themselves), gives them some pointers, bills the clients for their time and moves on down the road. In some cases, the adviser has just been removed completely from the equation and the client uses an online investment firm such as Betterment, Robinhood, etc and simply chooses one of their managed platforms and never actually talks to an adviser. For some clients, this is actually a decent route for them as they may be more inclined to handle things themselves, but what i fear in the process of our industry changing isn't that it's changing at all, rather it is that the client is actually what is being commoditized.
Much of the change in our industry "feels" like it's simply a way to avoid the client, rather than help the client. Advisors are spending less and less time actually with their clients, less interaction, more distant and digitized, more webinars and most of the conversation continues to be dominated on how an adviser can grow their business and spend less time on any aspect of it. I just can't imagine a world like this for my clients.
Examples of Clients I Have Worked With
Two weeks ago i spent 4 days in Texas visiting some of my favorite people in the world.: 2,000 miles, 3 hotels, and 5 restaurants later i have memories that I'll never forget.
I sat across from a couple at a nice steakhouse who hasn't been married too long, enjoying their life and really just trying to figure it all out for the first time. I drove 8 hours to see them. When we left, we tried the summon feature on my Tesla and had it drive itself from it's parking space to where we were standing to pick me up. I'd never done it and it was kind of incredible, but i got to experience that with them for the first time in a parking lot of a steakhouse in the city they live.. I hope they always remember it, as i will.
I sat across from a couple who was celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary and was leaving town the next day to spend the weekend together and celebrate how much they love each other even after 20 years. The husband is a Texas Longhorns fan, which is always good conversation as my alma mater is the University of Oklahoma. #Boomer
I also sat across from a client who lost her husband of 53 years this time last year. It's really been a whirl wind for her. She's doing ok because she's a successful working woman and stays pretty busy, but I can tell it's hard on her. It's helped that she can spend some time going to estate sales with her sister. But nevertheless, we shared a great conversation and i made sure that before i left she knew she could count on me for anything.
These are just a few of the meetings in a 4 day trek across the state of Texas, but I come back from these trips just absolutely thankful that i get to do this for a living. I get to make friends with hundreds of folks that trust me with one of the most personal aspects of their lives and i get to sit in their homes, their favorite restaurant or in our office and listen to them tell me the stories that make up their lives, whether that be amazing times or devastating times. I know all of their names by heart, and all of their stories without having to so much as look at a note to remind me and i just couldn't imagine doing this business any other way.
Throughout all of the change in our industry, the constant self promotion, and the arguing over what the best way to handle this situation or that situation, we need to take a step back and always remember, regardless of what you believe, who you vote for, what you think should happen in our industry, these are human beings that have entrusted us to guide them through their lives and they are all that matter.
Thanks for reading...