It was 1977, and I was visiting Europe for the first time, spending most of a summer in Italy, Austria, and even driving across the Iron Curtain into Budapest for a day. I was in graduate school, spoke French and German badly, but had minored in European and Russian history, and had great respect for the Old World–no ugly American was I. On a train from Venice to Vienna, I struck up a conversation with a middle-aged Italian man, a schoolteacher whose English was much better than my fractured Italian, and he told me a story that changed my perspective forever.
He had been a child during World War II, but his most persistent memory was not of the war itself, but of the American soldiers who came to his village as the war wore down. These GIs were outsized warriors with big laughs, cowboys for whom no task was too daunting, and who always had chocolate bars for little boys. What had happened to that American way, that supremely self-confident attitude that all those soldiers had in abundance, this middle-aged man wondered, as I shrunk in my seat, knowing I could never measure up to his childhood vision of what a young American should be like.
But upon reflection, that can-do attitude, the propensity to take chances, and to do so with boundless optimism, is what has made Americans unique. Sure, we should pay more attention to history, and our lack of respect for tradition and “foreign ways” can make us shallow and insular and sometimes even dangerous to ourselves and others. Turning our back on the past and building something new, something untried, brought us through the country’s founding and its first couple of centuries. Immigrants like my father paid scant attention to the “old country” from which they came, since it was this new country that offered opportunities and freedom and hope that had faded like the institutions and buildings in those places.
That same can-do spirit, that optimism, the belief that you can make something new, is also a marker of the independent advisory profession.
The most confident, the “best” independent planners and advisors out there may be confident folks, but they’re not blusterers. They are people who gain satisfaction from serving their clients well, and don’t need to thump their chests afterward. If their main goal in life were to make money, they wouldn’t be a planner or providing investment advice to individuals. They are people who are as interested in what makes people tick as they are in what makes an investment worthwhile. They love running the numbers, but they also care deeply about other people, especially their clients.
For 25 years, Investment Advisor has played a small part in helping you, our readers, grow your practices, pick investments for your clients, understand your clients’ motivations, and compete with the big boys, all while zealously safeguarding your independence. The editors here have, in my experience, always guarded our own independence, since our credibility, as publisher Eric Haines likes to say, is the only thing we really have. (To back up that statement, and to Ric’s credit, he’s never once attempted to influence our coverage, which says as much about his ethics as it does about our editorial integrity).
In this, our 25th anniversary issue, rather than focusing on the magazine’s past accomplishments and the history of the profession (though we don’t ignore the past), we provide a 42-page special report on the future–what society will look like, what technologies we’ll need to know about, which business models are poised to prosper, even which investing vehicles lie on the near horizon. I think it’s a dynamite issue, but we’ll wait for your judgment on that, just as we always do. As always, too, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can continue to be the independent advisor’s partner moving into that brave new world of the future.