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13 Misconceptions the Public Has About Advisors

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Being a financial advisor is a hard job. It’s always been that way. In addition to needing to find and retain clients, you don’t know what the stock market will do next. If that isn’t enough, the general public has plenty of misconceptions about financial advisors.

1. You really can trade for free. They probably believe “free shipping” is really free too. It’s built into the price. In the case of stock trading, this might be the execution price.

Issue: They don’t see the value of paying more to place a trade versus doing it on their own for “free.” Some firms make their own market in stocks. Delayed price quotes on public sites may also play a role.

2. Yours is not a real profession. They consider “financial advisor” as “securities salesperson.”

Issue: They think there’s no training involved. They need to understand it’s a licensed, regulated industry. Training often takes years. Many newer advisors are brought into established teams. The industry has professional certifications indicating expertise in specific areas.

3. Anyone can do what you do. Newspapers used to run articles about “dartboard portfolios” implying a randomly selected group of stocks could outperform the market. When the market does well, we remember “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Many people think buying and selling stocks, ETFs and funds is easy.

Issue: When clients don’t know the work you do for them behind the scenes, they assume the small piece they see is the entire relationship. You need to tell them what you do on their behalf.

4. You are a robo-advisor with a pulse. The combination of robo-advisors and ETFs is compelling. It addresses asset allocation and rebalancing. The fact your own firm might offer it as a low-cost option on a “do it yourself” platform doesn’t help.

Issue: It’s hard to put a value on hand-holding. Over the years, people who invest on their own have tended to buy high and sell low, not the other way around. You can find statistics to make the case.

5. Lowest price wins. They think your business is commoditized. There’s little value added, so you buy financial advice the same way you would shop for a TV.

Issue: They don’t see the value you add. A long-term financial advisory relationship is more a journey, less a series of transactions.

6. All fees go into your pocket. A prospect or client might assume it’s a zero-sum game regarding commissions. They pay, you pocket. They don’t understand you only get a portion and the firm gets the rest. There’s lots of overhead connected to working in a tall building with your logo on the top.

Issue: Your client might discuss discounting. While you are agreeable, they need to know at some point the firm says: “At this level, we are done sharing. Anything else comes entirely from your piece of the pie.” In an aggressive discounting situation, you might be working almost for free. (Most clients wouldn’t want that to happen.)

7. The firm pays for everything they see. You have an assistant. Lots of computers. A private office. A wall-mounted TV. Back-office support. If they are a salaried employee, they might assume you are too.

Issue: You might pay a portion of your assistant’s compensation. This might be grossed up to cover benefits. You may have invested in your own technology. You may have other expenses to cover. They need to understand you invest in your business.

8. It’s an adversarial role. They might view advisors the way people once saw used-car dealers — as someone who wants to cheat you so they can make a living. The discussion of the fiduciary versus suitability standard adds fuel to the fire.

Issue: They think you want to “make money off them” and you “put your own interests first.” For a long-term relationship to succeed, advisors put themselves on the same side of the table as their client. Asset-based pricing has helped in this area.

9. Your job is to keep them from losing money. They believe market timing works. They think an advisor should get people out before dips and back in before surges.

Issue: No one can predict the future. An advisor’s job is to help clients keep an eye on a long-term target, make wise investments and stay the course through rough seas. They should be adding money when the temptation is to take money out.

10. You know what will happen next. Some people think you can logically time the market because you know when the market will plunge or soar ahead of time. They see people on the financial news channels who claim they “saw it coming.”

Issue: Some feel the reason they lost money is because you were busy getting bigger clients out. They never got the word. Although corporate earnings is a major market driver, emotional reactions often play a part in market swings. Can anyone predict hurricanes, political U-turns or world events?

11. Inside information. Well, the way you can both predict and time the market is because of your access to inside information! Isn’t that what stockbrokers do in the movies? They act on tips before something becomes general knowledge. Don’t all you guys know each other? Isn’t this what you talk about at your clubs, over brandy and cigars?

Issue: Hollywood has a lot to answer for regarding inside information and stock tips. It portrays financial advisors as corrupt or greedy. In reality, so much public information, opinions and data are available on the internet, it’s almost impossible to sort through it all. Meanwhile, the SEC has become pretty good at examining trading patterns before and after major news about a company is released. Even if they didn’t, your firm’s compliance department would jump on you. Real life is not like the movies.

12. You have thousands of clients. Because so much can be automated and tracked through CRM software, people might think you have more clients than you could count. You only know a few. The rest are names on a page who rarely get contacted.

Issue: There’s no personal service. You really don’t care about me. They need to know when the industry segmented their client base years ago, many advisors went from having many clients to a few, perhaps less than 100 in some cases. They know them personally, inside and out.

13. What happens to me if you retire? Many people might detest their job. They are waiting for the day when they can walk away. Many advisors love what they do, earn a good living and feel an obligation to their clients. Semi-retirement is more likely than retirement.

Issue: People are worried they will be left in the lurch if the person who understands them leaves. They need to understand you plan to be around for the long term, there’s a team in place or you and the firm have developed a succession plan.

It’s easy for the public to get “the wrong end of the stick” when it comes to advisors. TV and movies play a part. You need to understand and address their concerns.

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Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.


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