Young Advisor sends me his thoughts

By Young Advisor
What’s the point any more?…
I’m a young advisor with only 4 years experience in the financial industry. But I must say that I’m losing interest and confidence in this business. It all started for me with Freedom 55. I left that stink hole and was hired by TD Waterhouse. I parted from Waterhouse and began working at the bank. What do they all have in common? SALES! And this, in my opinion, is a BIG problem in this industry.
Freedom 55 was a huge eye opener for me. I developed an interest in finance and met someone there, for what I thought was information only, and next thing you know this guy is offering me a job. As long as you’re a good talker, they’ll hire anyone off the street…literally.
I must emphasize that I had absolutely no background in finance…and I mean NOTHING!! They offered me courses, fully paid (LLQP and IFIC), which encouraged my decision. After six weeks of intense studying, I was finally appointed the honorable title of “Financial Advisor or Planner or London Life’s Monkey Boy”…whatever works, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was just legally able to sell investment products. And if you need to pay the bills, it becomes a challenge to put the client’s interest first.
TD Waterhouse was a much better experience. If you really want to learn about the stock market, a discount brokerage is the way to go. I learnt so much there and met many intelligent people who were passionate about the market. But once again, the company had mandatory sales goals, which they constantly pushed on you. The fact that it was a call centre wasn’t too appealing for me, either. I got my experience, completed my Canadian Securities Course exam and needed to move on.
“In banks we trust.” These guys are all about sales. Even the tellers are out to get you. Nobody had much knowledge of investments or the markets. Because I came from Waterhouse, they looked at me as though I was a god. They pay you peanuts and set high sales goals for your absolute pleasure.
They put fake dollar values on the products they sell. Lending was the highest paying product, such as mortgages or home equity lines of credit. Every sales person would brag about the size of credit they sold, which in turn gave them huge “fake” sales dollars towards their goal (while earning the same peanut salary, go figure).
Every action was for their benefit. There is no compensation for doing what’s in the best interest of the client. Just escorting them to the safety deposit box was a waste of time. And there is constant annoying pressure from management to make those sales.
By the way, all the investment decisions are based on what the computer says. And the computer is not taking into account our current economic crisis.
Don’t get me wrong, I have met some great advisors. I just think they’re harder to find. As long as commissions and sales goals are in the picture, the industry becomes confused about ethical practice. And in return, trust is more difficult to establish. I can’t even find much reason for myself to keep going. I’ve lost the passion.
So here I am today, I left the bank and I’m trying it out on my own. It’s difficult to begin a new book of business. Especially with a young face like mine. And I couldn’t charge a “fee for service” with my limited years of experience. But I genuinely enjoy educating my clients without the pressure of sales.
I’ve always felt awkward about chasing clients for their money. I can’t seem to accept it. I fully understand the importance of sales in any successful business, but I think managing people’s money is a very sensitive subject. There’s a big difference between selling a person shoes and selling the idea for them to give you all their life savings.
I truly love this business; I just don’t feel comfortable in it. I even started the PFP course with the intention to get my CFP. I just don’t see the point any more.

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10 Responses to Young Advisor sends me his thoughts

  1. Anonymous says:

    I really appreciate your letter. My experience with one of TD's competitor's has left me scratching my head and wondering from, “How could my understanding of what was said during our two interviews be so different from my advisor's? to “What really is going on here?” So thanks for shedding some light on this issue.
    There have been some tragic stories as a result of all this. I was told today of a 79 year old who lost everything during this debacle and I'm sure this story is multiplied many times.
    I hope as a result of all this mess, there will be a lot of media as well as government attention focussed on actual practices within the bank investment culture. After all, the government has lost a lot of its tax base and increased pressures from now impoverished seniors who otherwise would have been able to manage their own care.
    Good luck to you. I really hope your integrity will pay off in the end. Hang in. You are needed.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I found that letter most intriguing because I am trying to get my career in finance off the ground. I have completed the CSC and CPH. I have been told to get a job with one of the big banks and go from there (any feed back would be appreciated). I would eventually like to be CFP. I love the markets and find them fascinating and by reading Ms Park's book, I am even more intrigued. The letter that has been written paints a really bleak picture. However, I must say that my previous background was in the airline industry and I must say that that industry was a non satisfying experience. My point is that I am sure there are many industries which are not all they are cracked up to be. But it is up to the individual to determine what they want to take away from it. I still feel there are many successful and good people within all of these industries and it is important for us to recognize the good(ie. Ms. Park) from the self-serving. I wish this gentleman all the best of luck and I hope I have a better experience in my financial career.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your candor. As I client, I found that I've had to educate myself to guard against practices/recommendations by my investment advisor that does not necessarily serve my interest. 2 books I found very enlightening are Ms. Park's “Juggling Dynamite” and John C. Bogel's “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing”. Clients should take some responsibility in this situation as well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    People need to learn how to manage their own money and not rely on anyone else. Managing money isn't rocket science.
    Hiring any advisor in a big mistake in my opinion.

  5. Anonymous says:

    A lot of people are really good at managing their own money with regard to budgeting, insurance,not owning debt etc but feel they lack expertise or interest in the markets. They hire financial advisors because they are under the impression a financial advisor actually knows more. The emperor has no clothes but that is not common knowledge yet. I hope it becomes so. That being said, I expect there are a few good people in that field. What about Ms. Venable?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The paper asset game is coming to an end.
    When you own land, a nice home, gold, silver, guns, food, water, you don't need an advisor.
    Once you get beyond your own needs, you can own good cash flowing real estate.
    Why invest in stocks or bonds (IOU's) when you have to put your trust into other people making good on promises that they are unlikely to keep.
    Stocks and bonds are just one big con job and everyone is slowly coming to that realization.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I invested money with mutual funds for year’s they never made me any money and lost huge in downturns. I now manage my own money and doing a lot better, thought still losing money in this bear market but made money in the bull market. Should have followed your advice to get out.
    The main things sales based advisor scare you with is inflation saying if you don’t invest money with us inflation will wipe you out, when they can wipe you out way faster with fee’s and bad decisions.
    What do you think of Canadian Banks? I see that they keep raising equity and not lending. Similar to the U.S banks a year ago. The real estate market in Canada is tipping over; if that intensity’s and the banks start to falter do you think the government will start buying pref shares similar to the U.S and wipe out shareholders?
    I know the government keeps saying the banks are strong, they also said we won’t go into a deficit but we did. They said they won’t tax income trusts but they did.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think all banks including Canadian will be less profitable over the next few years than they were during the credit bubble. A delevering, sluggish economy will be harder for them to lever. But I do think the big 6 will survive. We have a much less segmented banking system than the US and our banks have less risk in many ways. With prices down substantially the Canadian financials will likely follow their usual sector turn and lead the turn back up into the next expansion. So far at least, I do not see their solvency as the issue.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Young Advisor,
    Thanks for your candor. Unfortunately, the investment industry, especially if left to the devices of large firms, is firstly focused on sales – i.e. separating clients from their money by the way of fees. It's a sales industry that masquerades as a consulting industry. Imagine if accounting, law or medicine operated with the low level of accountability and educational bar that the investment industry does? How long would that last? Unfortunately, this is the industries history and it's taking a while to change (but it will change). To be fair to these salesy firms and advisors though, many truly think that they're doing a decent job for their clients. They simply don't have the knowledge base to know their strategies (high fees, low sophistication) are actually wealth destroying, rather than enhancing. Their education is so low, and they are trained predominantly by firms that are heavily biased in their investment management views (long only and always in equities), that they don't know what they don't know. And since no one has a vested interest in educating them (fund companies, PPN providers, “estate specialists, etc.) that these high fee index-like products are almost guaranteed to underperform, or that they don't need to leverage every person they meet to help them “save tax” (does that bring back memories of F55!?), they go about thinking they are adding value (high commissions also tend to damper the motivation to learn them to learn more on their own).
    However, it doesn’t have t be this way. There are more and more advisors that are elevating themselves to be true professionals in the investment management and wealth management businesses. My suggestion to you would be to find a position as an associate to an advisor (or within a team or practice) that you respect as a professional. It will take a little time to find these firms or advisors; but if you can in with them as an associate, you'll have a chance to learn what it is to be a true professional investment (wealth management) advisor and I think you'll rediscover the satisfaction this industry can provide (and have the pride of being good at what you do).
    You have the qualities that successful advisors are looking for in an associate: a passion for the industry, an ethical foundation that drives you to want to add value for the client, and a willingness to learn. Those qualities will allow you , within the right practice or firm, to excel over time…without the need to prostitute yourself to get new clients.
    Hope this helps and all the best.
    P.S. For disclosure, I am a partner in a fee-based wealth management practice in Ontario.

  10. Anonymous says:

    From Young Advisor,
    Thank you for your comment. I've been preaching this stuff for a while now, and I'm glad to see those who feel the same.
    I appreciate the suggestion.
    Where abouts is your firm in Ontario? How long have you been in the industry?

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