Have you seen the new Bank of America/Merrill and UBS Wealth Management ads? They’ve painted a lovely picture of themselves as people you can trust to talk about financial life management, helping consumers understand financial trade-offs and the general business of specific financial advice.
Wait! Aren’t these the same firms that have been steadily paying fines for fraud, bonus settlement schemes and victimizing millions of homeowners? Aren’t they the guys who have been fined billions for helping clients evade taxes and creating an alternative trading system that screwed investors to a never-before-seen magnitude?
Now, they’ve decided to take their show to consumers to show them how to manage their financial life? When I saw the first commercial, I thought I must be hallucinating! They actually believe that consumers will be so easily fooled. They believe their customers will listen with rapt attention to their questionably trained advisors who reap commission from their “advice” (and who, by the way, do not adhere to the Fiduciary Standard requiring them to act in the clients’ best interest). Surely no one will fall for that? Will they?
But there they are—star-studded television ads, slickly written by pros that know all the “right” words to silkily woo the unsuspecting consumer. These messages are seeping into your system. They are setting the stage to draw your attention to these massive firms and squeeze out whatever more they can from unsuspecting consumers.
We read or watch the news. We see the fines and penalties imposed on these companies for grievous misdeeds foisted upon investors and consumers. Isn’t it the ultimate chutzpah for these firms to now portray themselves as the appropriate place for consumers to seek real, meaningful and objective advice?
I am not saying these firms are incapable—I’m saying approach anything they originate with extreme caution and skepticism. Why trust your life-shaping decisions with firms that have no culture or experience in acting in your best interest? Remember the old parable about the Scorpion and the Frog? (Click Here) Don’t be the frog.
Appropriate Financial Planning is all about relationships, caring, expertise, time, patience, understanding, analysis, discussion and education—all wrapped in a neat bow guided by the highest standard of care for the clients’ success and well-being.
The big financial institutions can show you pictures of happy families and advisors being invited to graduation parties and long walks on the beach. But it’s all fiction. Just like their puny defenses before the billions in penalties awarded to victims, the Judicial Systems and the SEC. The wise consumer follows the adage “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Don’t fall for their pretty pictures.
Your financial and life success should not be left up to chance. Or up to a salesman in a fancy suit in a fancy office that produces lots of fancy commercials. No, you want an advisor with the skills, experience, culture, reputation, training, certifications and proven commitment to help people successfully. If you can’t find it in those tall steel towers, do some research and look for advisors who walk their talk, who have clear unblemished records, proven experience and a deep driving passion to help their clients succeed.
Make sure their responsibility—in writing—is to you and you alone. Make sure that they live and uphold the fiduciary standard. There is simply no substitute for the comfort you get when you are dealing with ethical, straightforward and experienced planners.
Final word to the wise: stay away from sweet-talking scorpions.