From the July 2011 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Something Stupid

More On Legal & Compliance

from The Advisor's Professional Library

As I basked in the lone ray of sunshine at my son’s recent lacrosse game, I saw John (name changed to protect the innocent). John is a district manager for one of the wirehouses. For the past few years, John’s life has been a meat grinder. Mergers, broker defections and bad morale have been his daily companions.

You see, a few years ago John was unfortunately promoted. With his promotion, he was also given a bonus…an extra two hours of commuting to an office in disarray (priceless). No wonder he just stared at me when I told him congratulations.

As time passed, whenever I’d see John, he’d fill me in on his latest broker trials and tribulations. Being a former military guy, he has a very colorful vocabulary, which always makes for good storytelling.

As many good storytellers do, he tends to get to the point quickly. While watching our boys playing he turned to me and said, “Hey Miller, tell your kid to do me a favor and quit shooting.”

One of our favorite themes to talk about is stupidity — more specifically, financial advisor stupidity. “It just goes to show, even an idiot can pass the Series 7 exam,” he’d tell me. “You passed the Series 7, right?” he asked, as if proving his point.
He went on to tell me about one of the reps in his office. Apparently the guy was a big producer and John knew the guy was thinking about moving to an independent B/D. John called him and said, “Listen, I want you to stay but if you’re not, please don’t do anything stupid. If you do, I’ll have come after you. I don’t want to. I have to. It’s my job. Don’t be stupid.”

“Let me guess,” I said, “He did something stupid?” John went on to tell me about a call he had just received from one of the guy’s clients. Apparently the client was complaining that the advisor had been to their house a few weeks earlier pressuring them to sign transfer papers for their account. Oops. “Now I’ve got to sue the guy for a half a million bucks for being stupid,” John lamented.

When I ran into him at yet another game, I knew something was wrong. He had a big smile on his face as he approached me. “Has there been a death in the family,” I asked? “Shut up. I feel great,” he said “I just fired a guy.”
Sensing I might be able to get a column out of this story, I prodded on, “He didn’t do something stupid, did he?” As the story and the profanity engulfed me, I couldn’t help but smile too.

I know many of you like to read this column to your kids at bedtime, so I’ll paraphrase the situation. One of the biggest producers in John’s office also happens to hold the title for being one of the most pompous as well. Word trickled down to John that the previous day, Mr. Pompous had called his female assistant a very female derogatory word.

The assistant was a terrorized wreck. Since there was no one around to pop this guy in the chops, the tension built. John just couldn’t believe the water cooler gossip. How could someone in this guy’s position treat anyone, let alone his assistant, like this?

So, John put down his diet coke and went right to the horse’s mouth. “Hey, I just heard you called your assistant (insert derogatory word here). You didn’t do that did you?” Knowing as a top producer, he could do no wrong, he told John, “Yeah, I did.”

After what I’m sure was an awkward, uncomfortable silence, John broke the ice, “Get your (derogatory word), and get the (derogatory word) out of here. You’re fired!”

I like to think he put the guy in a headlock and threw him out the front door, but I can’t substantiate that. Suffice it to say, it’s good to know that stupidity occasionally has its limits.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.