My son, Jackson, is almost six, and we are starting to have conversations about what Daddy does for work. Since he is also at the age where we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about good guys versus bad guys—particularly in the context of Star Wars—this also tends to bleed over into other areas. So, of course, it got me thinking about where we, as an industry, stand.
First, we have to admit that now is not the best time to be a financial person, at least when it comes to the public’s perception. Wall Street bankers, high-frequency traders, hedge fund and private equity guys—well, they need some sort of a PR fix, to put it mildly. Second, we have to admit that there are bad guys in our field—as there are in any industry or profession.
Given those caveats, though, I think that the people I work with—not just at Commonwealth, but in the financial advisory and money management community at large—are the good guys (“guys” meaning both men and women). And so here’s why Daddy is a good guy, in a context six-year-olds can understand.
Good guys help people. Financial advisors help people avoid poverty, send their kids to college, achieve their goals, and retire comfortably. That really is what we do. All of the investing, market analysis, and so forth are a means to that end. I remember talking years ago with an advisor about what made his job worthwhile. He said he couldn’t think of anything better than sending clients off on their dream trip to start their retirement. I have heard similar statements many times over the years.
Good guys are honest. The best advisors, and managers, understand and share the limits of what they can and can’t do. We are largely—although unfortunately not entirely—past the days of Ponzi schemes and unrealistic promises, and advisors are realistic about what we can do. By helping clients set realistic expectations and hold to their plans, we also help clients be honest with themselves.
Good guys are responsible. Part of responsibility is diligence, and part is accountability. Few industries are as accountable as ours, with monthly and quarterly statements, complete with independent benchmarks. Few industries present the same opportunities for diligence—for really doing the hard work necessary and working to make sure that clients are served. I can’t speak for every analyst or advisor, but the ones I know are doing their job.
Good guys plan for the future. An essential part of taking care of people is planning for the uncertain future, which is at the heart of what we do. ’Nuff said.
I could go on for some time, but I’ve given you the highlights. My mother was a social worker, and I can certainly see many common characteristics between her friends and the Commonwealth advisors and employees I know. Trying to do the right thing and to better people’s lives are the core of these professions. Personally, I am proud to be associated both with my profession and with Commonwealth and its people, and I know many other companies can say the same. We do good work, and we are the good guys.