I’ve been in the business now for well over a decade and I can tell you that most brokers are kind of
It’s not necessarily their fault, this is a tough business and inside the jungle of most of the wirehouses it’s kill or be killed. Behind the scenes when clients aren’t looking, it’s full-on Lord of the Flies in most branches. And that kind of environment has a tendency to not bring out the best in people.
I have literally seen brokers purposely hide files of other brokers just so they can get some edge that month for the sales bonus. I’ve seen branch managers hand-picking the best clients of a newly departed broker to give to their kids’ godfather & best friend, “because I can — Deal with it.” And that’s the really tame stuff.
Most clients don’t notice the writing being scribbled under the faux gold-guilded wallpaper.
In a world where every broker is often forced to wear a suit, most try to stand out with a snazzy tie or bull/bear cufflinks. But that’s not enough… So the thundering herd spends significant time looking for an edge to garner attention from a potential client (aside from their awesome accessory choices).
Some would work on a catchy elevator pitch. “I make smart people successful” or “I help make people’s dreams a reality.” — Anything to make you double take at the cocktail party and ask us to explain more. Because let’s face it, “I’m a financial advisor” is the career-equivalent of “How YOU Doin’?”
(And yes, those quotes are real — you can vomit now…)
Other advisors channel their inner Warren Buffett with quotes about the tide pulling out, “That’s when you see who’s been swimming without pants.” Or act like they’re hanging with the Rothchilds, attempting to interject wealthy wisdom into a nightmare scenario market with that, Buy When There’s Blood In the Streets schtick. Anything to look & sound successful, even if by association.
I personally can’t tell you how many elevator rides I’ve taken listening to an advisor chaperoning their client to their office droning on about the amazing golf course they just played; Especially the Alpha Brokers. And clients lapped it up.
My manager used to tell us, “if you look successful, you’re 90% there. Go buy an expensive car right now, even if you can’t afford it — the debt will make you work harder, and the image will pay huge dividends.” Sadly, it was a prescription taken often, because occasionally he was right.
Most times, though, it ended very badly.
See, image is, in fact, a large part of the illusion you’ve been sold about Wall Street.
Oliver Stone lamented about his Wall Street masterpiece, ‘people weren’t supposed to worship Bud Fox & Gordon Gecko, they were supposed to be reviled.’
Yet a whole generation of brokers can (and do) quote most of the movie like it’s the Old Testament for their Bar Mitzvah; A coming of age ritual. Why? Because on Wall Street, the reward for the all of that powerful imagery equals huge piles of cash. It’s also somewhat telling that the awards given by the industry to their brokers are lucite.
We’ve all seen them, those lucite plaques in your broker’s office. All of the biggest brokers line them up on their bookcase behind their desk, strategically placed for you to stare at during your meeting. So shiny and sleek. They look so expensive, and fancy. (They’re plastic.) The impending reality of all of those awards being deposited in the nearest trashcan the minute the broker jumps firms escapes most people’s awareness.
And those completely disposable awards grew to carry so much weight in our office that our manager would make up awards to give to people so they could hang something in their office — like the classic the Branch Spirit award. Yep, everyone is desperate to stand out on Wall Street.
But how desperate?
Two years ago I found out. I received a phone call from Goldline Research. I’d been ‘hand-picked’ for an award among Wealth Managers. I was to be awarded the “Most Dependable Wealth Manager in the West” with a handful of others. It was my chance to “really shine among my peers.”
The award would be announced with a huge press release campaign, placed in Forbes magazine (so then I could say I was in Forbes Magazine) and my name would also be featured in a bunch of other “high visibility” publications. They’d send a snazzy picture of the award for me to post on my website. And because it was so prestigious, it would also raise my ranking in Google because of the link they’d also place on Goldline’s website.
The actual criteria for my selection wasn’t ever very clear to me (other than not being a felon), but for a simple $5000 listing fee, I would receive my award & the accompanying parade of press.
I laughed in their face (actually, I just laughed into the phone). I wasn’t that desperate & frankly I’d never heard of them. End of conversation.
But then, sure enough, about a month later I ran into an advisor of a mutual friend. The advisor had (for years) been going around our small town touting his PH.D. in ethics, about how it made him so much more attuned to the conflicts of interest inherent in the wirehouse way. I went to his site, and there it was.
Like I said, the jungle makes people do crazy things. And chances are you might know an award winner too…
Press release from Goldline Research:
(Name Redacted) Advisers, LLC has been selected by Goldline Research as one of the 10 Most Dependable™ Wealth Managers of the West. The list of the 10 Most Dependable Wealth Managers of the West is scheduled to be published in the March 24thissue of Forbes Magazine.
“We are pleased to have (redacted) Advisers on this list” said Ryan Kluft, Publisher of Goldline Research. He also said, “They exceeded all of our industry criteria and had outstanding client references.” Over 600 Wealth Managers were contacted regarding the list and the response was overwhelming.Goldline Research is a list research and publishing company specializing in investigating the credibility and performance of companies in a variety of professional services industries for selective inclusion in their published The Most Dependable™ lists. Goldline Research works closely with leading professionals in professional services industries to develop criterion for each industry, which forms the basis for its selection process. Goldline Research’s lists have appeared nationwide for over 4 years in a wide variety of print publications such as Southwest Airlines SPIRIT Magazine, Texas Monthly, San Diego Magazine, United Hemispheres Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, LA Magazine and Phoenix Magazine. In order to be selected to a Most Dependable™ list, firms must meet all of Goldline Research’s industry criteria, have no consumer complaints, lawsuits or disciplinary actions and provide client references that are checked and scored based on a proprietary scoring system.
Just think about all of the advisors riding high on the ‘dependable’ differentiator. I’ll save you some time– I Googled “Most Dependable Wealth Managers”.
Goldline never asked me about client referrals, maybe that was coming. They did ask me for $5000 dollars though. And here’s the real kicker– they don’t just cover Wealth Managers. They “rate” Insurance Brokers, Annuity Brokers, Mortgage Brokers, even Accounting professionals.
Can you imagine all of the great advice being slung around the country by the “Most Dependable” people in their industry? And clients don’t even know their professional is paying for it. The reality is whether lucite or dependable awards, the clients are probably paying for it too.
I could tell you more, but that’s all I have time for now — gotta run; There’s someone on my phone from “Who’s Who In America”, I just won an award.