I read this article in the WSJ recently about a ninety something year old former physician and what it was like to make house calls; how much the patients appreciated his being there at 3:00 in the morning. And how grateful he was for their appreciation.
It reminded me of what the advisory business was like when I first got into the business in 1980. There were no signatures required of a client to open a new account. Litigation almost never happened. Brokers were known as a “customers man”; fiduciary responsibility didn’t require legislation, it was assumed.
“Customer’s men” didn’t drive Bentleys. You could earn a very nice living, but you’d probably never be rich. Wall Street firms were flatter; there was less management. Many firms were still partnerships; my guess is that we would never have had experiences the CLO’s that brought the world financial system to its knees had partners had their own capital at risk.
But the 1980’s changed everything. Financial engineering replaced structural and mechanical engineering. All Wall Street feasted. Firm’s appealed to clients’ greed to entice their participation in the same investment vehicles originally meant for institutions, at much higher fees, which assured their failure.
An honest customer’s man doesn’t need a compliance department. He doesn’t even need to know the law. He needs only two traits…..empathy and common sense. I’ve been in this business for almost thirty five years now; through at least four major bear markets. But my U4 is clean of even a complaint. Although my experience and knowledge of financial markets probably far surpass that of 99% of the advisors out there, this is the thing of which I am most proud.
Things have changed. I’d sure like to talk to you.