For over 20 years, FirsTrust has been serving the best interests
of our clients, by CHOICE, not by mandate.
Two words of wisdom from our Founder: "Be skeptical"
After 30 years in this business, that's the most valuable piece of advice I can give you.
There are many well-intended financial advisors out there, but I believe many of them are making too much money to complain about the taste of the company Kool-Aid. Pull back the curtain to see the true inner-workings of the financial service industry, and you might become as cynical as I am. And then you might ask me why I’m still in it.
This quick story may help explain:
It's 1980-something; I’m standing in a cruise ship Casino among a crowd of passengers who appear hypnotized by a large number-wheel, spinning on the Casino wall. The wheel contains the numbers 1 through 100, and the objective is to correctly pick which number would be at the top of the wheel once it stops. An attendant in a tuxedo spins the wheel - a few gamblers place their bets – but the majority of the crowd just stands there, gazing at the wheel, each holding a little yellow pencil and a white note card that says "Number Tracker" across the top in bright red letters.
Each time the wheel stops on a number, the spectators bow their heads and begin scribbling on their Number Tracker cards. My curiosity grows, and I finally have to ask why:
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said to one of the gamblers, “May I ask what everyone’s doing?” He reluctantly revealed his Number Tracker card and said, “We're tracking numbers."
As I studied his card, I saw that he had been marking an X across the numbers that had won in recent spins. “Number 34 just came up on the last spin," he said, "so I know that I should not bet on it right now.”
“Why not?” I asked.
The elderly man raised his eyebrows and glared at me over his reading glasses. “Odds are against it", he said. "How likely is it that 34 will come up again on the very next spin?”
I quickly answered, “One in a hundred”.
He looked to the ceiling and calmed himself with a deep breath. "Now look," he said, "since number 34 just won, the chances of it winning again anytime soon are pretty remote - so I crossed it off my card. Understand?"
"Actually," I replied, "every time the wheel spins, each number has a one-in-a-hundred chance of winning - it doesn't matter which number won last time."
The old man threw his hands in the air and sarcastically barked, “Oh, I see; you’ve got it all figured out, and the rest of us are just a bunch of dummies, huh?”
He returned to his task as I stood there with one of those "Are you serious?" looks on my face.
And then it suddenly occurred to me: Who gave all those elderly people the little yellow pencils and the "Number Tracker" cards?
That’s right - the casino did. They know that humans tend to validate risk through irrational behaviors, so the house promotes it. They capitalize on it. And they even distribute the tools for people to do it with.
Is this illegal? No. But that doesn't make it right!
The same shameless profiteering has become a cornerstone of the Wall Street culture, and the once respected brokerage firm has become a mere product distributor at the expense of well-intended advisors and innocent investors.
So even when it seems like everybody else is doing it too, be smarter. Even when your portfolio is going up and everything seems fine, read the fine print. Ask tough questions. And seek objective guidance from an independent expert with no dog in the fight.
Why am I still in this business if I so despise its traditional culture? Because this is where we can make a BIG difference.
No - it's not okay to promote consumer confusion and then profit from their lack of understanding - and our firm won't let it happen to our clients.
I guarantee it.
Michael T. Koenig
FirsTrust founder & CEO