From the August 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

A Family Affair

A documentary shows the painful process a family-owned bank goes through following the financial crisis

News doesn't slow down much in the summer, especially with a new president and the start of a hotly debated regulatory regime for advisors. I took a break from work and the unusual heat in the San Francisco Bay Area recently to go see the movie, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” The movie's title is a play on the “too big to fail” theme of the financial crisis.

The documentary tells the story of the Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York's Chinatown district. They were accused of fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and were the only U.S. bank that faced criminal charges based on mortgage-related matters from the mid-2000s.

You could call the movie “Compliance on Steroids.” The film shows the painful process the family goes through. Lots of the bank's top executives and family members are trained attorneys, one of whom was even working for Vance as he filed the charges against the institution.

The Sung family fights back. After five years and some $10 million in expenses on the legal battle, (spoiler alert) Abacus finds justice.

The movie shows what it's like to run a financial services business, and it highlights in agonizing detail what today's legal and regulatory climate is like for the small guys. I highly recommend seeing it.

Speaking of tough family situations, grief expert Amy Florian describes what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has learned (and written about) after her husband died suddenly while they were on vacation. Florian skillfully explains how advisors also can learn from Sandberg's experience with grief in order to work more empathetically and effectively with clients.

To boost their relations with both clients and prospects, as well as their overall results, advisors can turn to a variety of new high-tech tools and strategies, writes Jane Wollman Rusoff in this month's feature story on marketing.

“The future is already happening around us. But advisors shouldn't be scared by the way technology is enhancing the client experience,” said Marie Swift, head of Impact Communications.

Our third feature looks at what advisors think of exchange-traded funds and how they are using these products. In the piece, freelancer Ginger Szala also discusses why advisors prefer certain types of ETFs and what their concerns are with the popular investments.

Meanwhile, Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell shares her thoughts on the latest political maneuvers that affect the Department of Labor fiduciary rule in both “Washington Watch” and “The Playing Field.” Insurance Editor Allison Bell gives us her take on moves on Capitol Hill to pass health care legislation.

In both Bob Clark's “Clark at Large” column and my “Broker-Dealer Beat” column, industry researchers break down the areas where advisors and firms are succeeding and where they are falling short. For instance, J.D. Powers’ latest poll finds that advisors’ satisfaction with their broker-dealers keeps declining. Plus, the drop is sharpest among the highest producers for a variety of reasons.

Advisors of all levels, as well as broker-dealer staff and even those working for industry publications, need to refresh their batteries and regroup at some point in the summer. We hope all of you get a chance to do that soon.

My vacation to Japan is still several weeks away, so I’m doing the best I can to keep focused and motivated. With both of my sons working right now, I don't have anyone being lazy on the couch to complain about. It's a cruel summer indeed.

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