Several decades ago, a good friend of mine came down with a mysterious illness. It began as the flu, with brain-splitting headaches, dagger-like low-back pain, and scorchingly high fevers. Within several weeks, those symptoms got better, but chronic ailments persisted: lack of appetite, unusual bruising, no energy, nausea.
After being out of work for weeks, my friend decided to see an infectious-disease specialist. After an initial visit, the doctor said he had a hunch, but needed to do a full physical and lab workup before confirming a diagnosis. While my friend was at the front desk, the doctor sternly warned him not to miss the appointment. Reason? It was a big block of time he couldn’t fill at the last moment.
In that instant, he realized the doctor wasn’t in medicine to serve others; he was in it to serve himself financially.
As it happens, the doctor made the right diagnosis and with the right medications, my friend eventually recovered. But he never went back to that office or referred others to the doctor. He didn’t like his attitude … or his heart.
This is a common scenario in financial services. Advisors bring ulterior agendas to their initial prospect meetings. They push to close sales without really understanding a prospect’s needs. They allow their conflicts of interest to color their recommendations, giving rise to fiduciary and suitability concerns. In short, they’re self-centered rather than client-centered, a difference people are quick to notice.
Like my friend’s doctor, self-driven advisors may see a lot of prospects, convert a reasonable number into clients, and generate substantial first-year commissions. But scratch below the seemingly successful surface and you may find a practice with poor persistency (and weak trailing commissions), limited cross sales, and a lousy reputation in the community. They’re walking placards for the proposition that if you’re in this business for yourself, you may not be in it for long.