Having frolicked in the financial services playground for the past 20 years, every now and then I come across the ambitious young buck who knows just enough about financial advisors that he actually believes he can become a great one. I can recognize the look in his eyes because he used to be me.
Usually, Mr. Buck has had some type of close, professional contact with advisors. Perhaps he is a wholesaler or a broker-dealer home-office employee. As I probe to find out what makes him think he can be a financial advisor, I get this response, which rarely varies: “If that bozo can do it — and make that much money — then so can I!”
More often than not, such bouts of delirium generally occur after Mr. Buck has had some dealing with an advisor where he was more knowledgeable than the rep. The logic goes something like, “This dude doesn’t even know what I know, and he’s making a ton more money than me and going on all those great trips! I can do that!”
I’ve taken it upon myself to be the needle in the balloon of life, popping any hopes or dreams these poor, misguided bucks may have.
First, I always ask, “What makes you think you’d be a good financial advisor?” One starry-eyed young buck I met, Buck One, mentioned that most of the reps he talked to knew nothing about the Correlation of Assets or the Efficient Frontier. Then, while he was still looking smug, I asked, “How are you going to get your clients?”
Here’s where the trouble really began. “Ummmmm . . . Well, I would probably . . . I know a guy . . . maybe I’ll buy a book . . .” Blah, blah, blah.
Another dreamer I came across, Buck Two, thought he could build a better mousetrap. His idea was to focus on the psychological aspects of investing. B2 asserted that by catering to clients’ emotional and psychological needs, the commissions would soon be flowing like a river.
Again, it was my turn to be the dark cloud on a sunny day. “How are you going to get your clients?” The response was the same (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Ummmmm . . . Well, I would probably . . . I know a guy . . . maybe I’ll buy a book . . .” Blah, blah, blah. I pointed out to Buck Two that most older men I know have a hard enough time talking about their feelings with their spouses, let alone a pimply faced Opie Taylor look-a-like.
Do I really enjoy being the voice of reason and smashing these youngsters’ dreams and ambitions? Of course I do. A guy’s got to have some hobbies!
But seriously, if a few of my well-placed sarcasms are enough to derail someone’s dream, perhaps the commitment to be a success just isn’t there. From the outside, being a financial advisor does appear to be a great gig. What you can’t see (from the outside) are the years of agony and turmoil that most advisors put in before they have “the life.” If you don’t believe me, go ahead and ask any advisor’s first spouse.
My favorite part of dream-bashing is when I turn out to be dead wrong. As a wholesaler about 10 years ago, I came across a rep who was bringing a couple of fawns, whom he hoped to turn into young bucks, into his practice. To make a long story short, the fawns are now running the show and are well on their way to becoming top producers for their firm. When I ran into them recently at a conference, they were quick to throw some of my 10-year-old pearls of wisdom back in my face. (I get a lot of that.)
Quickly sidestepping my plate of crow, I pointed out that I was honored my words were used as motivation for their success. On the drive home, I wondered if maybe I could start a motivation/coaching business. I’ve heard that business coaches make a lot of money. Surely underperforming advisors — or those aspiring to be underperforming advisors — would shell out plenty of cash for my great advice.
I recently had the chance to speak with one very well-known business coach. After talking with him for about a half-hour, I decided, “If that bozo can do it, then so can I!”
Once a mildly amusing comedian and a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer, Bill Miller now works as an industry wholesaler; reach him at email@example.com.