Friday, November 13, 2015

The Financial Adviser's Standard Deception

I used to be a financial adviser a decade ago. I had no success at a wealth management firm from 2005-2006. I told dozens of prospects exactly what I would do and made good on my word. No one cared. I learned why after interacting with some of the humans who did succeed. Financial advisers and their sales managers have a large bag of tricks they deploy against clients.

One corporate trainer I encountered early in my financial career built his entire training script around pushing people's emotional buttons. Humans make decisions around greed and fear. Emotional impulses trigger rash, irresponsible decisions and lots of financial advisers count on that to make money. Cajoling a client into discussing their hopes and dreams reveals a host of emotional buttons the adviser will push. Like in sales jobs anywhere, a cynical understanding of human weakness pays off. The difference in financial sales is that pushing a short-term emotional button can harm a client's long-term financial worth if they're pushed into an expensive or unsuitable product.

Insincere commitment is another standard financial adviser trait. The best actors can portray sincerity. Sociopaths are also convincing when they say something knowingly false. Financial sales jobs attract large numbers of actors and sociopaths because they can be persuasive all day without troubling their souls. Detecting fake sincerity is difficult. Poker players and law enforcement officers are among the few professions who develop skills in reading people. Maybe fraud investigators for insurance companies can figure out liars. It takes time and practice to read someone's body language and facial expressions for the "tells" of insincerity.

I had no bag of tricks as a financial adviser. I relied upon my intellect and integrity, and I told my bosses that's exactly what I thought was most valuable about myself. My bosses laughed at me. They bragged that painting a dreamy picture in a client's imagination was more important than giving them what they said they wanted. In a bizarre way, their insights into human nature had some merit. Most humans prefer self-deception and will paradoxically respect those who deceive them. I refused to deceive my contacts and that's one big reason why they refused to entrust me with their wealth. The human race will need a strong evolutionary leap to validate my business approach.

Nota bene: I am not a financial adviser, and I have not been one since I left UBS in December 2006. Alfidi Capital is not a financial advisory firm or brokerage of any kind. Readers will only find the truth here, not advice or deception.