This month China will host a historic Olympic Games in Beijing. When I think of the Olympics, three major themes come to mind: Excellence, Competition, and Unity.
These same attributes the athletes bring to the Games are both contained and needed in our industry — almost a “catch 22″ but one with great promise. And so it is in the spirit of this great sporting event that I write about the state of financial services today.
Of course, excellence is expected in any profession. I think it is especially highlighted in our industry where we deal with people’s assets, emotions and loved ones. Add to this the heightened supervision we are under (and media scrutiny) and you have an entire profession in the spotlight and forced to perform at a high level all of the time.
I tend to think that, just like the finest athletes that make it to the Games, the advisors in our profession have exhibited excellence. Of course, there are always the renegade advisors who can spoil it for the vast majority of us who do exhibit those traits that make one an Excellent advisor, namely honesty, integrity, patience and operating with a high degree of competency.
Competition, of course, is the prevailing them of the Games. The competition exhibited at the Olympics is intense — all played out in the context of “friendly” and “professional.” As the boomers are coming on the scene more and more and with the stakes as high as they ever have been, I sense that the competition in our business has accelerated lately. My hope is that such competition remains clean and ultimately benefits the consumer by presenting them with the highest level of advice and service. My fear is that such competition will drive some advisors, in need of making a living, to do and say things that may not be truthful.
As the old saying goes, “Competition brings out the best in us” — but I think the exact opposite can be true as well. Unity is seen throughout the Olympics, most visibly in the opening ceremonies, as the athletes of each country unite behind a common goal of achieving greatness and gold. It is this incredible show of unity that our industry desperately needs to repel the many attacks we face from multiple sources.
Whether it’s the media, the regulators or the lawyers, our industry is being pushed to the limits. In order to maintain our stature as the beacon and voice of providing ordinary Americans with meaningful and constructive advice, I emphatically say that all aspects of our industry, from insurance to annuities to securities, need to unite behind the singular goal of doing what’s best for our clients in the most flexible and transparent manner.
If we allow ourselves to be fragmented, I think all parties will suffer, including product manufact-urers, advisors and consumers. As an industry, like the athletes do, we need to rally behind our cause and not let outside forces destroy us from within.
As an avid sports fan, I couldn’t help but draw on the “sports” analogy for this month’s theme. The Olympics truly inspire me. Financial services not only inspires me but also motivates me and brings out the passion that makes me love what I do and deliver the best for my clients. Just like athletes desire to make their country’s proud, so should all of us strive to make our client’s proud.