When I began my career about 35 years ago, a contractor friend of mine gave me some very good advice that I instituted early on in my office, and it was this: If you want to develop trust, start by being trustworthy in the small things.
He used the example of the use of postage stamps in his office setting. He set aside postage stamps that were purchased with personal dollars in one envelope and set aside those stamps purchased with corporate dollars in a separate envelope. Why is this important?
For him, the reason he implemented this simple policy was because he believed strongly, as I do today, if one is careful to act with integrity in expenses as small as a postage stamp, when it comes to larger items, one will do the same.
Recently, I opened up the local Virginian Pilot newspaper and was drawn to a headline about a local financial advisor who was found guilty of embezzlement of client funds.
The name rang a bell, and upon closer look at the article I realized that about 25 years ago, that same man and I had shared the role of guest speakers at a finance class at a local university.
Later we had lunch together and I remember feeling uncomfortable with his obvious attempt to impress those around him with his financial vocabulary and acronyms the average layperson simply did not understand.
This had been the second time in my career that I had witnessed the effect of a misguided individual taking advantage of others.
The first time was early in my career – I had been approached by a local real estate attorney. He attempted to pressure me on more than one occasion to consider recommending to my clients to invest in a couple of real estate deals that, as he put it, “could not miss.”
I had this same sense with him that those who attempt to impress usually lack the substance to do so. It was a few years later that he too was indicted for misuse of clients’ funds.
Today, more than ever, I believe the importance of integrity and trust is paramount in any relationship. Trust is defined by Merriam Webster as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
In the past, to find a mechanic or plumber or any other type of professional, we relied upon and trusted the recommendation of a friend. Today, in the world of Google, we pick a plumber or landscaper that shows up the highest in our search results, trusting that the algorithms and analytics have done the work for us.
Likewise, while serving on our local hospital authority, I learned that more and more millennials are looking to the web when selecting a doctor for medical treatment.
When it comes to engaging a financial advisor with your hard-earned money, it is paramount that you locate someone who can be trusted. Sure, you can ask for a recommendation from a friend or perform a Google search, but it is also important that you personally interview them.
Just last week, we had a new couple in our office who had requested to interview our firm. They were retiring and seeking professional advice to invest and draw down their life savings.
During the interview, they had numerous questions they had prepared for us to answer. Examples of questions they asked were: how long have you been in business, do you have a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation, and are you a fiduciary? I welcomed these questions and was impressed with how they had prepared for this very important process.
Perhaps a friend had recommended us to them, or maybe they simply put “financial advisor” in their search engine and we popped up, but the important thing was that they knew they needed to meet us and determine if we were trustworthy and the right fit for them.
If you are beginning the process of selecting a trusted advisor, ask for a copy of the annual report they file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), often referred to as the ADV.
You may even want to go to the SEC website or the Certified Financial Planner Board’s website to research if the interviewee has had any complaints filed with these professional associations. Ask them about other members on their team and how they will complement the services that will be provided.
I regularly encourage those who are interviewing our firm for the first time to meet with other Certified Financial Planner Professionals before making their final advisor selection. As you go through this process, there will be one planning firm that stands out and simply feels right.
Remember, credentials are important, and experience counts a great deal when it comes to engaging a trusted advisor. But you should still ask the hard questions, talk to friends, and go to the regulatory websites. You most likely will be working with this firm for years to come, so don’t hold back on your questions or the number of firms you interview.
All questions are important and acceptable when choosing a trusted financial advisor. You may even want to ask them if they separate their personal stamps and office stamps.
If you’re looking for someone you can trust to help guide your financial flight path and help you make a plan for retirement, we would love to be one of the firms you interview and consider. Please reach out to Tull Financial Group today to set up a meeting to talk to us and see if we’re the right fit for your future.