Remember Narcissus? He was the beautiful youth in Greek mythology who refused all offers of love. As punishment for his indifference, he was made to fall in love with his own image, eventually pining away and turning into a flower.
Does the financial services business have too many narcissists — advisors who are too busy contemplating their own “beauty” to care much about anyone or anything else? I believe it does. Here are some telltale symptoms.
Being blinded by one’s goals – Many advisors get distracted by money, toys, and the latest hot product or selling system. As a result, they lose sight of the fundamental value they could bring to their clients over the long term.
Viewing the world only through the blinders of personal experience – Some advisors seem incapable of seeing life through another’s eyes, of empathizing with others. This encourages bending or even breaking the rules. If you’re not convinced, just read the advisor sanctions on the FINRA Web site.
Striving to produce short-term rather than long-term results – Many advisors lack the patience to wait for good things to unfold over time. They’ve forgotten that good things come to those who wait.
Believing the world revolves around them – For these advisors, clients represent the future value of a series of payments. In Finance 101 terms, they’re viewed as annuities, not human beings. No client wants to be viewed as a revenue stream.
Doing a lot more talking than listening — Too many advisors begin a client relationship with answers rather than questions. Assuming a client needs product X without doing comprehensive fact-finding is unconscionable.
Having weak ethical values — Certain advisors put expedience ahead of integrity in their business practices. Anything is acceptable, they believe, as long as it feathers their nest — now.
What happens to a business of narcissists? Does it produce satisfied customers and growing revenues over time? Does it deliver true long-term value to customers rather than flash-in-the-pan thrills? Does it expect a commitment to ethics instead of lips service to compliance? Does it make for a better society?
On all counts, the answer is “no.” So if you find your eyes gravitating to the mirror more frequently these days, here’s what to do:
- Start viewing yourself as a servant. You exist to help your clients, not vice versa.
- Don’t make recommendations based on what you stand to earn. Focus exclusively on what’s best for the client.
- Force yourself to walk in your clients’ shoes. Think about what it would be like to own their problems — and what it would take to solve them.
- Practice full disclosure. What you think you might lose by disclosing, you’ll gain in trust.
- Get comfortable with the idea that the world does not exist to make you happy.
Advisors who stop admiring themselves quite so much will become better advisors — and better human beings. I also suspect they’ll work less, but make a lot more money. Now that’s something to love.
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