When Lewis Schiff presented the preliminary findings from his research at the Investment Advisor/Moss Adams Advisor Summit in November 2007, there was an immediate reaction from the audience. It was not a positive reaction. In murmurs and then in questions directed to Schiff during the Q&A portion of his program, a number of advisors in attendance took umbrage at Schiff’s suggestion that the most successful advisors were Machiavellian workaholics who were not interested in working with “good” people but overwhelmingly said their most common negotiating approach as “do whatever you need to do to win.” Of course, he was not suggesting or recommending any specific approach; as a serious researcher, he was merely pointing out what the data showed.
There were two major findings that Schiff said many advisors found to be “uncomfortable.” First is the number of hours worked: MCM advisors said they toiled an average of 62 hours per week compared to 37.5 hours reported by “aspiring” advisors–those who have yet to achieve MCM advisor status. But Schiff points out another finding that sheds light on the hours-worked issue: “MCM advisors use coaches; they’re trying to make their time worked more efficient. The second uncomfortable finding is the strong “enlightened self interest,” evinced by the MCM advisor, who constantly “puts himself in the flow of money.” Recall another characteristic of the MCM advisor, counsels Schiff: “they chose to be advisors because it is a financially rewarding profession.” They appear to be “fairly intense; they own up to being Machiavellian,” but he reminds us that in the end there are only three ways to become wealthy as an advisor.