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The Client Conundrum: Turning Away Dr. No

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From an advisor’s perspective, one challenge in working with doctors (as with other clients who share similar characteristics) is to decide whether to work with a physician whose attitudes or behaviors you disagree with.

“I screen out the difficult ones right from the beginning,” said Setu Mazumdar, an MD and CFP. “I don’t want to work with clients who are not serious.” A while ago, he was contacted by a physician who had a $2 million investment portfolio and was looking for someone who could consistently beat the market. “That type of client is going to be a problem down the road, so I didn’t take him on.”

He offered another example: “If I get a call from a physician who makes $500,000 a year and he tells me he’s saving less than $75,000 a year, I’ll exclude him. A physician who can’t save 15% a year is going to be working till he has one foot in the grave.” Mazumdar now has 60 clients, almost all of them doctors.

Barry Kaplan, a DDS and CFP, is another advisor who sees a lot of physicians who want to become clients. “But doctors who think they know everything are the guys I don’t want,” he said. “I want the guys who come in and say, ‘I tried this and realized that I don’t know what I’m doing. I need some help.’ Or they say, ‘I have no clue. You’re fee-only, so I know you’re not out there churning. Please help me; you’re what I want.’”

Sometimes a prospect will say, “I want you to pilot, and you tell me everything you’re doing.” That’s fine, too. “The client has a perfect right to know everything that’s going on,” Kaplan explained. “I just don’t want him driving.” He now works with a number of physicians, most of whom he characterizes as model clients.