According to classic mythology, the phoenix was a bird with beautiful gold and red tail feathers. Near the end of its 600- to 800-year lifespan, it built a nest of cinnamon twigs. Then it set the twigs on fire, reducing itself and its nest to ashes. But soon it began a new cycle of life, death and rebirth.
In musing about recent events, I’ve been struck by the parallels between the phoenix myth and our own industry’s history. Our business built a sweet nest with trillions of dollars of assets. The nest generated wealth for its leaders, a livelihood for its financial advisors and great value for its clients. But something–greed, incompetence and lack of oversight–ignited a fire, transforming sweet success into bitter ashes.
Now, the mythical phoenix never questioned its fate. Each time it died, it rose again without rancor or doubt. But the same can’t be said of those who work in financial services. Many are haunted by visions of that burning nest. And rather than preparing to rise again, they remain earthbound. And some clients may be grounded as well, paralyzed by fear and mistrust.