“‘Come to me when you’re all done,’ I tell them. ‘When you’ve already seen everything else fail and everyone you’ve given your money to lets you down. When you’ve figured it out, then! Then you come to me.’ I have learned to be explicit up front about what I will accept and what I will not from a client relationship. If I choose to take on a new client, that client must meet my criteria – namely, they are someone I can actually help. If they are coming to me too early and they haven’t been through enough yet, I tell them so. Sometimes they get mad, sometimes defensive. I simply hand them a copy of my book and tell them to get in touch down the road. I tell prospective clients up front, ‘If you sit down in my office and start asking me about moving averages or deltas, I’m telling you right now, I’m going to smile and politely decline to work with you. Because that means you haven’t figured it out yet.’ I don’t feel bad about these meetings, even when they end abruptly. People deserve honesty and this is as much for their benefit as it is for mine.”
Ric Edelman, who runs one of the largest registered investment advisor firms in the country, takes a hard line with clients looking to chase higher returns.
“We have a strict policy with clients,” said Edelman, chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services. “If they come to us with investment ideas and expect us to act on them, the relationship is over. I’m not Burger King,” he added. “If you become a client, you don’t get it your way.”
Edelman suggested that advisors who cater to clients’ gut feelings about the market are doing them no favors.
“It’s not serving the client’s best interests [and] will result in higher turnover, higher costs, greater risks and, ultimately, lower returns,” he said. “I change allocations for clients because of a change in their financial circumstances—not because of what’s happening in the market.”
“We don’t even look at the market. I couldn’t tell you where the Nasdaq or the Dow Jones closed today to save my life. All short-term market information is useless.”
“I’ll be honest, the only reason we’re doing any of this planning and asset management shit is so we can write the insurance ticket. A $3 million guy is going to generate X amount of commissions and fees each year and that’s great, but they’re never satisfied with the portfolio. It’s always ‘Grass is Greener’ every time we have a meeting or some market is rallying. ‘Why don’t we own more of this or that?’ But if we can write the $2 million life policy or do a health plan and 401(k) for his company, it’s all worth it. I’m just kidding, you know that right?”
“Our value proposition? Good question. I’ve spent ten years trading the markets, I have a level of expertise that my clients don’t have in identifying outperforming stocks based on a combination of technical, fundamental and quantitative factors. Our performance fees are subject to a high water mark so the client doesn’t pay them until we’re over the hurdle. I give my clients my cellphone number, they can call me anytime, as long as I’m not in the middle of a trade.”
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
– Ian MacLaren