With the U.S. Department of Labor’s rule still fresh in our minds, it’s hard to think much beyond the changes our industry will face in the next 12 to 18 months. But, if we step back and look at the bigger picture, we have more important challenges ahead. We might be afraid of change, but I’m more worried about what will happen if we if don’t.
In the United States today, we have only one financial professional for every 1,000 citizens. And, we have the largest generations of Americans leaving the workforce for retirement, relying on the assets they’ve have saved for the rest of their lives. No way can a single professional provide the necessary advice to 1,000 people, especially with a low-interest environment, unstable global economy and the most complex tax coded in history. We must develop a better system to recruit, invest in, and train new professionals in our industry.
Technology can do great things for our industry, but it can also do some damage if we aren’t careful. In his book, “End of Jobs,” Taylor Pearson discusses how just a little over a decade ago, Loudcloud, an early cloud hosting service, hosted applications for $150,000 a month. Today, those same hosting services cost $1,500 a month.1
With today’s appeal of the robo-advisor, I expect the same revenue compression over the next decade in our industry. Our current climate is to look for the least expensive way to provide a service instead of providing a service with the most value. Asset allocation can be found everywhere; however, managing the sequence of returns makes all the difference in whether a client runs out of money. We must redefine ourselves from asset managers to client-focused advisors – and customize it with scale.
Pearson also points out that the American population faces a major shift in income generation – and he’s not referencing the loss of earned income by voluntary retirement. Instead, more Americans will turn to entrepreneurial opportunities in the future. Because between 1948 and 2000, jobs grew 1.7 times faster than our population – since the turn of the century, however, our population has grown 2.4 times faster than jobs.
Without the retirement plans of “normal” employment, we must help our clients find vehicles to meet long-term savings demands and educate them on the impact of self-employment versus paid wages. Our clients started the mind shift, so our industry must adapt to keep up.
It’s been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: We have to do a better job working on our business instead of in our business. It’s is time for us to make a fundamental shift, which requires thought and decisions on how we will capture market share in a largely homogenous product set.
I challenge everyone to critically think about their business first thing, every day. In his book, “Triggers,” Marshall Goldsmith discusses a 2011 study that followed 1,100 decisions of an Israeli parole board. Seventy percent of the prisoners were granted parole when they appeared before the board in the morning, while only 10 percent received parole when they appeared in the afternoon. By human nature, we get fatigued and worn down by making decisions throughout the day, and we default to status quo. My suspicion is that financial professionals end up with the status quo simply because we don’t pay attention to our business until after we are too tired to think about our future.
We face a multitude of challenges in the next 12-18 months. All the while, the American population moves toward the need for more advice, more education, and a renewed industry full of fresh ideas and deeper client relationships – all energized by new technologies. We need to take time to think about how we exceed customer expectations – not by rates of return, but by experience.
Cost-conscious prospects looking for more advice create opportunities for the right business model. Have you spent enough time on your business so you can focus on its biggest assets – your clients?
“End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without 9-to-5,” by Taylor Pearson: http://www.amazon.com/End-Jobs-Meaning-9-5-ebook/dp/B010L8SYRG
“Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts – Becoming The Person You Want To Be,” by Marshall Goldsmith: http://www.amazon.com/Triggers-Creating-Behavior-Lasts-Becoming-Person/dp/0804141231
Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets.
You may or may not be familiar with the story of the boll weevil, but I’ve been thinking about it the last few weeks during the recent market volatility. The story is a great reminder of why we need to consider alternative products outside of our normal assets-under-management mindset. Change is always feared, but many times, it results in greater success.
The boll weevil is a beetle that migrated to the United States from Mexico in the late 19th century and devastated the cotton crops in the South. Farmers nearly went bankrupt due to the infestation, so many began to grow peanuts instead. Most cotton farmers resisted the change, however, saying peanuts wouldn’t grow and no one would buy them. As it turns out, peanuts were not only resistant to the boll weevil, but they were also extremely profitable. In fact, the peanut farmers made enough money in three months to equal an entire year’s work in cotton.
Eventually, the boll weevil was nearly eradicated in the south and cotton farming resumed. However, those who seized the opportunity to grow peanuts became far more prosperous than those who never diversified. In fact, the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama, erected a boll weevil monument to show their appreciation for the insect and its profound influence on the area’s agriculture and economy.
Take a hint from the peanut farmers. With the recent market volatility, we must look to alternatives to meet client needs. Our clients continue to fear running out of money during retirement, yet we continue to throw out the same solutions to old problems. Like many farmers in the south found, a forced change creates opportunity and profits. Annuities and life insurance provide an opportunity to leverage tools for safety, protection and tax-advantaged growth. Many advisors don’t like having a conversation about these products, but it’s time to change.
The Bottom Line: The boll weevil taught a southern town the value of change. Adversity forces us to look at alternatives that many times work in our favor.
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