Instant Gratification, Steak Knives and why I’d rather be a sage than a wolf.

I haven’t seen the film “The Wolf of Wall Street”

I haven’t read the book, on which the film is based.

and

I don’t profess to know loads about the author of the book and the main protagonist of the movie, Jordan Belfort.

However there is one thing I do know…

The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t and will never be a role model of mine.

There’s a bunch of reasons why not….

Firstly the way Belfort initially made his money was massively wrong, not only legally but morally.

Secondly the fact that Belfort and his like get shown as a prominent ‘face of finance’ without mentioning the thousands who work with helping their clients with their financial decisions for the right reasons.

and

Thirdly (and I’m not sure if we need another reason apart from the ones we’ve already mentioned) whilst he is no role model of mine he does seem to be aiming to become a role model to some.

You see, although Jordan is the ‘wolf of wall street’ no longer he is now a prominent motivational speaker who reportedly earns tens of thousands of dollars per speech whilst travelling the world.

Now, I’ve got no problems with someone making a decent living.

I’ve also got someone doing this by making a positive change in other peoples lives and I’m a firm believer that someone who’s made some massive ethical and legal, erm, misdemeanors having a second chance (he now talks about ethics and fairness far more than I suspect he did back in his boiler room days)

However whilst Jordan himself might be a changed man, I worry that the people who come to see him want something completely different from his presentation…

They want to know how to change their lives in one particular way very very quickly.

I had an indication of this when I met up with an very old acquaintance recently.

We were talking about what he’d been up to (I hadn’t seen him in a few years) and we first talked about the fact that he went to work in financial services environment abroad for a little while.

I asked him why he’d want to work in a country where financial services was still unregulated and therefore the environment was a little bit ‘wild west’ (and not only due to the fact that both contained a lot of sand!)

His reply was interesting….”When I went for the job, the interviewer told me that I had the potential to pay my mortgage off within a few months!”

I felt a temptation to (but avoided) smashing my head off the table instead masking my frustration with a thin smile.

My acquaintance continued to tell me what he’d been up to…

I asked him what plans he had for the future he told me that since he’d been back from his jaunt abroad he’d been thinking about this but ‘hadn’t got round’ to writing his medium or long term goals or plans either personally or business related.

“Ok” I said “How long have you been back?”

“18 months”

Again, connecting my head with the table seemed even more attractive but I again managed to avoid it however my smile on this occasion was slightly more strained.

We then talked about the fact that he was doing a lot of ‘self development’.

“Ok” I thought “Things are looking up. He obviously wants to look at what he’s doing and how he can improve himself to live a better, more fulfilling, more satisfying, more meaningful and more generous life. I continuously try to do that too!”

However when he started talking about the ‘self development’ he was doing it wasn’t about him.

It wasn’t about how to communicate more clearly, or maintain better relationships, or to be happy, or to run better businesses.

It was all about how he could ‘sell more stuff’ and this included listening to the likes of Jordan Belfort (who talks about ‘straight line persuasion’ techniques – whatever that means!)

Now, whilst making more money and learning how to communicate and persuade more effectively (in my opinion) aren’t bad aspirations to have, the issue I had with all my acquaintances actions from his move to work in financial services in foreign lands, to his lack of plan, to the time and money he’d spent trying not to develop as a human but just as a more effective ‘seller of stuff’ was they were all about one thing…

Instant Gratification.

Interestingly the financial planning and advisory profession has changed massively and is continuing to change.

However when I first came into our profession one of the first things I was told in a new job (many years ago for a large financial institution) was that “you’re only as good as your last months production”.

Interestingly all the actions they took as a business looked towards encouraging actions which only focused on the delivery of ‘numbers’. From the “Glengarry Glen Ross” style ‘sale board’  and incentives (although I never won a Cadillac Eldorado or a set of steak knives!) to how we were all remunerated to who got spoken about in the highest regard.

However looking back I realise two things.

At that stage many financial planning and advisory firms work in this way (I’m not sure how many still do!) and a lot of the measures in place were about attaining relatively instant gratification i.e. trying to make as much money as quickly as possible without any measured regard for much else.

Now, and with me being the ultimate judge, I don’t base how good we’re doing solely (or even majorly) on income production levels.

I base it on a bunch of different factors including whether how we improve our systems and processes. Whether we’re making a positive change to our clients (and for the teams within our business) lives, or whether we’re open to new ideas which not only make sense commercially but also provide us with potentially more time to do stuff we love.

Therefore whilst measuring both recurring and new business fee income month by month is important we try to measure our success by other means too.

I might be wrong however I reckon that trying to build a long term reputation, making strategic instead of knee jerk decisions and building legacy are way more important than another few quid in the bank.

and

I thought that much of our profession thought in the same way. 

However every now and again I get the impression that there might be (quite a few) people who still work as financial advisers and planners as ‘policy floggers’ with their vision stretching only as far as the end of their nose.

In contrast I believe that to build a true profession we can be massively proud of we all collectively need to understand that the service we deliver isn’t about positive change for us (it’s about positive change for our clients), it isn’t a ‘quick win’ business (but a business where we deliver a service designed to help people over many years) and it’s a business where move of us need to have the longer term vision of some like Warren Buffet (and ignore the short term approach of someone like Jordan Belfort).

After all….

I’d rather be like the “Sage of Omaha” than the “Wolf of Wall street” 

So, these are my thoughts on this subject however I’m interested in yours…

Has financial services in the UK transitioned fully from a product based model to a consultancy based ongoing service model?

If not, how much of the advisory population still continue to work in the traditional way?

Do you think the way many financial planners and advisers worked in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s meant that we now have a legacy of mistrust of many financial professionals in the 21st century?

and

Do you actually think I’m wrong. Is the sales based transaction led approach a better way to work with clients than the service lead approach we now take? If so, why?

As ever I look forward to hearing your thoughts.