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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

What Would Bezos Do?

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Meeting with those who lead the Broker-Dealers of the Year is both an awesome and daunting experience. It’s a chance to really dig into today’s industry trends. But it also reveals a host of topics that warrant lots of further exploration and more space than we can provide in a single issue.

Where to begin? That was the main challenge the editorial team faced as we went through the transcription of a full-day session of interviews and exchanges.

Thankfully, the four executives who joined us in Chicago recently engaged in lots of back and forth, which made for a very lively and educational conversation throughout our day together. They also were good sports about responding to our trial “lightning round” of questions.

Best of all, the four BD leaders didn’t shy away from the tough questions, such as how to attract younger clients and young talent. Like the broader wealth industry, the search is on for ways to innovate and demonstrate that the business is fresh — and isn’t just made up of those who resemble “your parents’ advisor.”

As Cambridge Investment Research CEO Amy Webber explained: “We need to listen. It’s about listening. The answers are out there, or at least the beginnings of them.”

Webber shared that she spoke with an intern after they had listened to an advisor panel; most of the panel members were around 60 years old. “The young lady crossed her arms, looked at me and said, ‘I will never do business with any of those people, because they don’t understand us.’”

The executive then related this “wow” moment back to the question of how to respond. “We have to listen to the market. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos always listened to what he was being told by the market,” she said.

That’s what popular author Simon Sinek spoke about on stage this summer at Pershing’s INSITE conference, when he was interviewed by our columnist Mark Tibergien, head of Pershing Advisory Solutions. Advisors can build success with clients of all ages by looking at what firms like Southwest Airlines and Ritz-Carlton do — namely, treat clients well.

Sinek, for instance, says he met and chose not to work with several advisors who failed to ask him “about who I am and about my mentality [about money]. Talk to me differently and in metaphors, not a spreadsheet,” he explained. “Now I have an accountant who talks in pictures and metaphors. He listens.”

Now is the time to listen, Tibergien says, especially when it comes to young advisors and staff. “The financial services industry is struggling to be relevant to recent graduates, career changers and people returning to the workforce after raising kids. The gap is most acute among women and people of color who are seeking other professions or other types of companies,” he said in this month’s Formulas for Success column, “When People Come Last.”

“Many young advisors, operations and service people bemoan the lack of opportunity for personal and professional growth. We all know, when you stop growing you start dying — as a business and as an employee,” Tibergien explained.

As he sees it, the industry’s leaders — and advisors — should make a commitment to their employees that is “as great as [their] commitment to clients.” This approach fosters an environment of cooperation, education, inspiration and fulfillment, which are the very things many of today’s younger, diverse individuals are looking for in the workplace.

It certainly seems to have led to enthusiastic loyalty and a five-star client experience at Southwest Airlines. I’ll never forget the airline ticket agent who helped me with a luggage issue after my father had died. What made the difference? Listening.


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