This issue marks the 20th year of our annual Advisor Hall of Fame. A lot of very distinguished financial advisors have passed through these pages. In reading their profiles, they always seem deserving of the honor.
While we may be touched by their stories, it is perhaps even more valuable to learn from them. I believe that there is something unique going on with Hall of Fame advisors that is epitomized in a quote from one of this year’s winners, Freeman Welch of Wells Fargo Advisors in Long Beach, Calif. Says Welch: “When my phone rings, I know it’s someone I like and someone who likes me. I trust them and they trust me. Maybe I have all their assets and maybe I don’t — but it’s a great relationship.”
Our Merrill Lynch honoree, Jeff Erdman, echoes the same idea: “All of those families are incredibly important to me. One of them is my sixth grade teacher. I’d never give them away. I want to make sure they’re totally taken care of. We don’t tell someone you’re too small for us or we’re too important for you.”
What all our honorees exude and all top advisors share is the notion that there are ties that bind advisor and client, that the relationship exists on a profound level that goes beyond purely self-interest. This should actually surprise us — it is not conventional business thinking.
The sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies wrote, about a century ago, about two levels of human association, which he termed “Gemeinschaft” (community) and “Gesellschaft” (society). A true community — a family, for example — exists where a common sense of responsibility has a stronger pull on its members than self-interest. In contrast, a society engenders far less loyalty; for example, people come to their jobs more out of self-interest than shared values.