By Nicholas W. Stuller
I have had many exciting and meaningful business conversations over my 30-year career. However, by far the conversation that means the most to me was a two-hour coffee meeting with a reader of my book. “This book changed my life. After 20 years with this financial advisor, I knew I had to make a change. Stuller’s book showed me the way”, was the testimonial quote Judy G., a retired individual investor later gave me. As complimentary as this endorsement was, what Judy shared with me that Saturday morning had more impact on me than any other conversation or interaction I have had in my career.
My hope in writing the book (THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOUR WALLET FREE, Secrets to Finding the Perfect Financial Advisor, Published by Post Hill Press in 2018), and of course my new investor-to-advisor matching platform, MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor.com, was that investors and consumer lives would be improved by finding the right financial advisor for them. What I did not anticipate was learning how deep and complex the uncertainly can be in some people when it comes to not having an advisor, or in Judy’s case, the wrong advisor.
Our meeting seemed to have been meant to be, starting with how we first connected given we were strangers prior. Judy got a copy of my book from a local library and noticed the dedication, which is to my wife and daughter, Kara and Tallulah. The two names together rang a bell and as it turned out Judy knew my mother- in law from church! Judy reached out and asked if we could meet.
I was quite flattered that a reader would want to meet and assumed it would be a 30-minute quick chat about advisors. When we met Judy was joined by her husband, and I noticed that she had a copy of my book, which had dozens of different colored post-it notes all through it.
We ordered our coffees, proceeded with some pleasantries and immediately I liked Judy and her husband. They were very humble, highly intelligent and educated and quite fun to be with. With two grown children they had retired several years prior and not surprisingly, were very concerned about their retirement finances.
Judy and her husband explained they had done well over the years and the advisor had done reasonably well for them. Before and during the relationship with this advisor they had experienced the gamut of one can experience when investing: they had big winners, some losers, a small ponzi scam, equities, fixed income and the like. They were fairly representative of many investors.
Over the next two hours Judy shared her investing story focusing on how they have used several advisors, but over the last 20 years one advisor in particular. What was so amazing to me and so educational were the layers and depth of thought they had put into trying to understand their advisor, the securities that were picked, the motivations and so many other nuances involving this long- term relationship. It was of course highly satisfying that Judy not only read my book in detail, but had post it notes all throughout and even had a notepad with dozens of additional questions for me. Judy shared that my book explained how advisors work, what questions to ask and how the industry functioned, and for the first time in a long time felt better about their financial future.
What made this meeting the most impactful of my career was learning about all the specific layers of thought and emotion that this investing couple went through in evaluating the ongoing relationship with their advisor. They are both a highly intellectual couple, but also highly moral and polite. They were conflicted because they noticed for example, more than a couple investments in their portfolio that were created by their advisors’ parent company yet felt bad about questioning the intent of their advisor, coupled with not understanding the inner workings of financial services.
I listened as Judy share perspectives and feelings that covered ethics, religion, conflicts of interest, relationships, stresses of the unknown, guilt of potentially firing the advisor, not getting straight answers, subtle sales tactics and so many more points of stress, negativity and confusion.
Soon after our meeting Judy and her husband did hire a new advisor and are very happy and importantly no longer have doubts or stress about their financial future.
I have never met anyone so deeply interested in understanding their financial advisor, and my sense is I probably will not meet too many others like Judy. However, nearly all investors will have at least a few of the feelings and needs that Judy had and I will surely work to incorporate these over time into my new matching platform to better help investors find the right advisor.
Nicholas W. Stuller is the Founder and CEO of MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors using personalized data, proprietary algorithms, and deep industry experience.